IT consultants are many things - experts in their field, champion of the workaround, and, generally, the "people persons" of the tech field. But they're not magicians who, with the wave of a smartphone, can solve any dilemma you throw at them. Here are six ways to get more value from your company's next IT consulting relationship:
- Spell out your needs. Define your desired outcome in as much detail as possible up front, so that both you and the consultant know what's expected of each party. To do so, create a project scope document that clearly delineates the job's purpose, timeframe, resources, personnel, reporting requirements, critical success factors, and conflict resolution methods.
- Appoint an internal contact. Assign someone within your organization as the internal project manager as early in the process as possible. He or she will be the go-to person for the consultant and, therefore, needs to have a thorough knowledge of the job's requirements and be able to fairly assess the consultant's performance.
- Put in some prep time. Before the consultant arrives, prepare his or her workstation, ensuring that any equipment you're providing works and allows appropriate access to the required systems - including email. Don't forget to set up the phone, too, and add the consultant to your company phone list. Also, alert your staff that you have engaged a consultant and, to alleviate potential concerns, explain why.
- Roll out the welcome wagon. Try to arrange an orientation on the Friday before the start date (assuming it's a Monday). That way, you can give the consultant the project scope document as well as a written company overview (perhaps your employee procedures manual) that includes policies, safety protocols, office hours, and tips on company culture to review over the weekend.
- Keep in touch. Conduct regular project status meetings with the consultant to assess progress and provide feedback. Notify the consultant or the internal project manager immediately if you suspect the job is off track.
- Conclude courteously. If you need to end the consulting engagement earlier than expected (for reasons other than poor performance) or extend it beyond the agreed-upon timeframe, give as much notice as possible. Act toward a good consultant as you would any valued vendor with whom you'd like to work again. After all, establishing a positive relationship with someone who knows your business could provide even greater return on investment in the future.