Working with an IT Consulting Firm-Starting Strong

20130912-151537.jpgWhen starting a consulting engagement, clear expectations, lines of responsibility, and a transparent communication plan increase the odds of success.

The “blocking and tackling” questions for both sides include:

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  • What are the business needs driving this project?
  • What’s the timeframe?
  • Who will help on the project on both sides of the project (i.e., skills and experience)?
  • What other solutions have worked or failed in the past?
  • If the project is in-flight, what’s the current status?

Beyond the above, a solid consulting firm delivers results which add up to more than the initial requests. Without being self-serving, I’ve noticed when we finish a project the client ends up with improved testing plans, a better approaches to Agile, or automated deployment and testing environments (none of which were in-scope at the start but the result of working with a seasoned consulting team).

Working with an IT Consulting Firm-Selecting the Right Partner

A, B, C, D, E, MR & PR | date created: 2006:08:23

This is the first in a series of posts on effectively selecting, working with, and wrapping up an engagement with an IT consulting firm. While I’ll reference Intertech in some examples, this is not an advertisement… I promise.

When selecting a partner, use the following questions and ideas to choose the best fit:

How long has the firm been around? Look for a long-term proven track record demonstrated by high customer satisfaction and repeat clients.

How does the firm hire? A stringent hiring process ensures better talent.  We have eight discrete steps in our interview process and hire one out of 20 candidates who apply for a position.

How does the firm ensure expertise? Look for consultants with a long work history, re-engagement with clients over time, and formal training and certifications.

Proof of expertise. If the group has expertise in the area(s) where you need help, do they blog, offer whitepapers, webinars, or have other public proof of their expertise?

How will the firm leave your team?  Your internal team, through training, mentoring, and improved processes and procedures should be technically stronger at the end of the engagement than at the start.

How quickly can they spin up on your business domain? It’s common that the firm will not know your internal systems and domain (because they’re outside consultants).  So, ask for examples of how they’ve worked with similar organizations.

Is the consultant or team working on your project full-time employees, sub-contractors, or a mix? Full-time employees who’ve been with the consulting firm for a while will be more consistent and representative of what the firm’s delivered in the past.  In larger project teams, it’s common that the team will be a mix with the leadership and key technical positions provided by the firm’s full-time staff.

Meet the specific consultants for your engagement. Avoid bait-and-switch.  Don’t get sold by a senior consultant only to have the work done by a junior consultant.

Remember you’re paying for work from the neck up. Cheap is good if you’re looking for someone to rake your lawn.  Research shows us in software development the productivity of a top performer is 10X more productive than a bottom performer.

Up next… how to setup an engagement for success