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How To Work With A Consultant

The most important thing to remember is that hiring a consultant is an investment, not a cost, and should produce a return on that investment. Keep that in mind and the rest is easy (well, easier anyway).

Pre-hire

If hiring a consultant is an investment, what sort of return should you expect. Well, that depends on why you’re bringing in an outside consultant and the nature of the work. And that leads into the second most important thing to remember; hire a consultant for specific things, don’t hire a consultant if you don’t have specific requirements, set objectives, or defined outcomes. If you only have vague ideas on what you want a consultant to do, you’re in trouble. Of course, there may be times when you hire a consultant to help you develop specific requirements for a not yet defined project. In that case, the objectives for this particular consultant would center around developing the defined objectives and outcomes of the greater project. That’s fairly common, especially for an undertaking that is something new for your organization or is much larger or more complex than you’re used to developing.

There are any number of things you might hire a consultant for. The difference between hiring a consultant and outsourcing work to a “regular” vendor is generally in terms of scope. A consultant is generally hired for specific projects that are well defined, which includes a defined time frame, whereas a vendor is usually more of a long-term relationship involving regular deliveries of products or services, or multiple projects over an open-ended time period. Consultants are hired for their specialized skills and expertise, to bring in an outside perspective not tied to internal culture and politics, for a fresh, creative perspective to a particular issue, to free up internal resources for special projects, and to educate and train the internal workforce, which can include executive management all the way down to the lowest tier workers. help desk

You might hire consultants for everything from developing marketing campaigns, conducting research and development activities, technology recommendations and implementation, process improvement, financial recommendations, executive coaching, management systems development, implementation, and training, and anything in between. The specific requirements for a consultant will be different depending on what you’re bringing them in to help you with. If you hire a consultant to provide recommendations for a technological solution to a particular issue, the requirements you develop for the consultant will include, of course, a final recommendation. But you don’t want to just leave it at that, that’s too open ended by itself. You probably want to include other requirements, like documented and substantiated backup for why the particular solution was recommended. You might want the requirements to include the documented methodology that was used to review the options and determine the recommendation. Put some thought and effort into defining your requirements for the consultant. You’re spending money for results, and you want those results to be valid.

Interviewing Potential Consultants

Potential consultants for each project may be someone you’ve worked with before, they may be someone you’re familiar with, but haven’t worked with, they may have been recommended to you, or they may be someone totally new and unfamiliar to you. No matter which category they might fall into, potential consultants should be interviewed prior to being awarded a contract. Even if you’ve worked with someone before, each project is unique and you want to ensure the best fit of consultant with the project. Even if the project is the same, or very similar, to one the consultant has already worked with you on, if any time has elapsed since the completion of the project, things have changed, so interview them anyway.

At this stage, you’ve probably already determined whether the potential consultants have the skills and expertise needed to complete the project. You’re interested in their fit with the project, their work philosophy, and their methodologies. Since you’ve defined the requirements and the expected outcomes, you looking at how the consultant is going to go about achieving them. You don’t want to define how they go about doing their work, but you want to make sure that they will mesh with your internal organization, when required, so that the goals will be achieved within the time frame you’ve outlined.

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