I began my career in the management consulting field. After consulting for six years, I moved into "industry" in the consumer goods space and have spent six years focused on developing relevant industry business-process and technology solutions. In that time I hired consultants to complete numerous projects - here are a couple of thoughts on working with the right partner and when its time to change. Right Consultant - Right Place - Right Time: First and foremost, has the consulting firm staffed the project correctly? Did they follow through on commitments made during the proposal and evaluation process in staffing the "promised" subject-matter-experts on the project? Many firms are unable to truly commit skill-specific resources during the proposal process as they are staffed on other engagements. The consulting firm must staff appropriate resources to get the work done within the client-defined timeline and budget. Staffing is absolutely critical in successful consulting engagements. The firm must also ensure that the right relationship managers are on the project to ensure consistency in communication with the client as well as position add-on work as appropriate. This is at times an investment on the part of the consulting organization but reaps dividends when a client is satisfied and wishes to continue work with the firm.
Managing Expectations: Many times, consultants fail to manage client expectations related to timeline, deliverables, budget gaps, etc. and these become large issues when they are finally elevated to a client. If the consulting group is not managing expectations, this would be a sign that the wrong consulting partner is on-board. This is basic blocking-and-tackling and many firms fail in this space.
Joint Ownership and Accountability: Inevitably, issues arise on projects, activities take longer than expected, funding does not arrive on time, and the list goes on. In a true partnership, the consulting group and client must each take on joint ownership of deliverables as well as the supporting processes enabling delivery of services. At the same time, when things do not go "as planned" on a consulting project, it is up to the consulting firm to hold themselves accountable for the work and do what it takes to resolve the situation. Many times, consulting firms are so laser focused on rates and billing and forget about the value they are delivering to the client (or have committed to deliver).
Challenge Consulting Teams to Over-Deliver I recently had a consulting team present mid-point project findings and stated they were going to focus on fleshing out the opportunities defined in greater detail over the remaining weeks of the engagement. My question to them was "why spend any more time fleshing out recommendations vs. moving forward implementing recommendations that could be completed in the remaining weeks?" This simple question closed out "phase 1", set a deliverable as complete and accelerated the work that truly involves change. Without this mid-point review and asking deeper questions, we would be wasting thousands of dollars to add more words and bullets to PowerPoint slides vs moving forward with what we know and taking action.
Partner With Firms Looking for a Long-Term Relationship vs. the Quick Dollar I regularly receive calls from software, hardware and consulting vendors that have a) not done their homework on me, our company, our industry or the challenges we face regularly with customers, b) expect that me and/or my team will meet with them because they cold-called me, and c) expect that over the phone, I am going to share with them the issues I am working with daily in the business so that they can pitch their wares. I find the same situation at times via networking events. Many of these firms are looking for a "quick hit" vs. a long-term partnership. Be wary.