How to Get Your Money’s Worth from a Consultant

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Young pretty businesswoman attaching tin phone to earI’ve been with MainSpring for about two years now and frequently meet with a variety of staff at nonprofits, associations and small businesses in the metro area. I’ve met some amazing people, but I’ve also seen some getting duped by vendors and firms left and right...

...And it’s because they allow consultants to deliver solutions that miss their business goals.
These business leaders fail to identify a qualified consultant or develop a long-term support piece that keeps consultants and firms accountable for the efficacy of the solution.

What is a MainSpring professional service consultant?

MainSpringers with the title professional services consultant are our IT project managers. They have a wide range of certifications and skills. Their job is to engage clients within their areas of expertise. They also provide reach-back services to the ProSuite Support Centre and the virtual chief information officers (vCIOs).

For the sake of this article, I will continue to use the word consultant, but it can include any vendor or developer you engage with.

Get the most out of your consultants

Consultants usually have limited time when working on projects for your organization, which means that you need to know how to get the best value for your money. Here are some suggestions that will help you get the most out of your engagement with a consultant:

It happens in every business. What you tell one person may not transfer to the consultant doing the work. You see it as sloppy consulting, but the reality is, it happens more often than not. It’s likely your consultant was given some marching orders from someone you already talked to, but you know how the old “telephone” kids’ game goes…the message gets distorted as the degrees of separation increase.

Take a moment to go over the basic goals with your consultant. Conversely, your consultant should ask for this anyway, if, for anything, as a sanity check. By giving your consultant more information, you are equipping them to better deliver a solution matching your business goals. If you’re already a ProSuite client, don’t worry because your vCIO is already doing this for you.

Point blank, ask your consultant what their areas of strength are. It’ll lead to better results. At MainSpring, we receive projects that other firms and consultants have mismanaged. This is likely the scenario for any vendor you hire as well. When our engineers step in to right the path of the project, it becomes apparent that the other firm or consultant didn’t really understand what they were doing. To avoid this, ask your consultant:

    • Do you have experience in my industry?
    • Have you delivered a solution like this before?
    • How successful was your last client’s solution?

If your consultant can’t look you in the eye and confidently state the success criteria, then you know you’re being taken for a ride. At MainSpring, your consultant is assigned based on their experience within your industry, as well as their demonstrated experience in delivering a specific solution.

I see this one a lot with web development. When a company decides to overhaul their website and chooses a consultant to build the initial site, they often forget to confirm the consultant’s willingness to help with adding features down the road.

Some developers will not state upfront that they won’t help to add features or make changes after delivery. So, it is important to ask if the consultant will continue to provide support services for the solution, as well as add features down the road when business needs change. A simple statement like “I’ll show you how to maintain the content” dodges the question and is absolutely not sufficient.

For ProSuite customers, MainSpring consultants provide documentation to the ProSuite Support Centre for the ongoing support of your solution, and ProSuite vCIOs guide you through the best technical approach to your changing business needs.

Consultant relationships are an excellent way to get resources with specific expertise. But make sure you know what to ask and expect from the relationship so you can make your consultant engagement successful and efficient.