Many companies go to the market and get three or four quotations before selecting a consultant for a project, however often this is for commercial reasons – to get the best price.
Fewer companies consider other attributes of the consultant before the project starts. The client-consultant relationship is a collaboration to achieve a common goal.
Here are some thoughts on the qualities that are conducive to a successful consultancy relationship.
People who are passionate about a subject, like a good consultant, can often speak quickly and use ‘jargon’ that the client isn’t familiar with.
It’s important for consultants to have good communication skills, explaining what they mean without coming across in a patronising way. Equally, as a client it’s important to speak up when the consultant isn’t being clear.
This is a general rule for life, but particularly in this case consultants should be honest about their experience and qualifications.
Good consultants have a lot to share and they will have a network of other consultants with slightly different skills or experience that may be useful to the client.
Is the consultant willing to share their knowledge in a way that educates the client?
Some consultants may be reluctant to provide the tools and documentation you require for fear of losing future work. This gives them more control, however it can cause continuity and governance issues for the client.
Clear and Measurable Objectives
To ensure the client gets value from the consultant, both parties should be clear on what they expect to achieve.
While this is usually documented in the quote or proposal, it wouldn’t be unusual for the scope to creep in to other areas – particularly once the first project is complete and you move to a support phase.
Project & Time Management Skills
If you know what you expect to achieve, the next step is achieving it.
Good consultants find a balance between respecting the organisation’s day-to-day business activities and maintaining the momentum of the project to keep to deadlines.
Often more important things come up for the client and this is where a good consultant can apply project skills to re-schedule deadlines and inform other’s who may be affected.
Fit with the Organisation’s Culture
Organisation’s vary in many ways. Some are formal institutions that require particular dress codes and conduct. Others are start-ups that focus on productivity in a relaxed environment.
It’s important to find a consultant who accepts your organisational culture and can adapt to work within it.
“Meetings on bean-bags? Sure.
All Agenda items submitted in writing by 3pm? That’s ok too.”
No-one is perfect and no-one knows everything.
It’s important that a consultant can self evaluate and identify improvements that can help the client’s project.
Equally, there should be no shame in a consultant clarifying a point. We can’t retain every piece of information and it is easy to verify things.
Using a consultant is similar to hiring an employee in many ways. It is important to find the right fit for your organisation but this can be difficult before you start working with them.
An initial face-to-face meeting before starting work is often the most effective way to reduce the risk of choosing the wrong one.
It could be said that all of the above can be incorporated in to one idea: Collaboration.