Choosing a Consultant

Hiring an outside consultant is a common practice in many businesses. The need to do this is often due to the need for a particular skill or function that is not present or available in the organization but not one that the organization is prepared to add as a permanent employee. Another reason for hiring an outside consultant is the need to have an impartial voice weigh in on an important matter.

The selection of the consultant is as important as hiring an employee and should not be taken lightly. Accepting “brand names” as a qualification is short cut method used by many that too often lead to undesirable outcomes. This path is often used by senior executives as a “safe choice” alternative in supposedly hiring the best.

Keys to making a good consultant selection and successfully completing an engagement begin with project definition and should include:

<ul > <li >Have a good definition of the task or problem for the consultant to work on.<li >Define what type of consultant activity – analysis, training, coaching, design, development – is needed to perform the assigned task.<li >Identify who the consultant will work with and who will be responsible for their work product.

  • Have a good definition of what the completed work product should look like.

Once the project definition is complete then it is time to consider the consultant to do the job:

<ul > <li >Do they have the requisite experience to do the job?

  • Perform your due diligence and talk to previous customers and understand what experience they had with the consultant and if your project is smiler to what the consultant worked on.
      <li >Were the contract terms honored?

<li >Was the project finished on time? <li >Was the project completed within budget? <li >Were the recommendations useful?<li >Were they open and flexible to ideas and input from the project team?

  • Did they work well with others?

<li >Did they discuss or reveal information from work performed at competing organizations?

  • Involve a number of people from the project team that the consultant will be working with to make sure sufficient chemistry exists for a successful working relationship.

<li >Determine how much of a “learning curve” the consultant will incur during the project and whop pays for it.<li >Have the consultant present how they work with customers, provide a record of work performed and work remaining, problem resolution, ability to contain cost within budget or advise if work parameters change and affect cost

  • Evaluate key performance factors: communication style, ability to work with others, work habits, ability to meet deadlines.

<li >If appropriate, have the consultant candidate submit a proposal on how they would structure and perform the engagement.<li >Have the consultant candidate critique the project definition to reveal their ability to understand the work requested and to make recommendations on any changes in order to make the project more successful.

  • Discuss the terms of payment and make sure that they are included in the contract.
  • Will the consultant sign a confidentiality agreement to protect your proprietary information.

<li >Resolve who owns the work product.

A successful consultant engagement is important for all parties. Consultants provide expertise and experience to undertake projects that you might be unable to do otherwise with in-house people. They provide the capability you need when you need it. Plan your use of this resource carefully, do your due diligence, understand how they will impact your organization and how to put what they do to work in a timely and effective manner to maximize your return on investment.

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