In response to the recent meltdown of Enron, many consultancies are trying to reassure potential clients that they can be objective and independent. Others are taking a hard look at their ethical guidelines to see if they can improve them.
In light of all this, we wanted to gauge the importance of ethics in consulting firms today, so we did two things:
- Posted a Consultant Ethics survey to measure our members' attitudes (We’ll post the results later this month.)
- Requested that members send in their ethics or conduct codes
We received about a dozen e-mails from consultants who either sounded off on our inquiry or offered their firms’ codes of ethics as a guideline for other members. You can download the members' codes of conduct and see how your ethics practices compare to others in the industry.
Member responses: Ethics and conduct codes
TechRepublic member Subramani Ramakrishnan submitted the "Code of Ethics and Principles" used at his firm. Ramakrishnan is a second-year student in Software Enterprise Management at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India, and a consultant with IBM Global Services India. He said he has never been asked by a client to break his firm's code.
TechRepublic member Darren Chick, a Managing Partner at DM Concepts, Inc. in Philadelphia, submitted his firm's code of conduct. The code is "a basis for a solid communication process," Chick said. In addition to the conduct code, Chick included his firm's list of "minimum expectations" for consultants.
Chick, who has been an IT professional since 1990, said the most common ethical dilemma consultants face is the temptation to perform work they know is not in the best interest of the client. Consultants can earn their clients’ trust and give them confidence that they're "getting what they are paying for" by providing services that will serve clients in the long-term, not just inexpensive, fast fixes to short-term problems, Chick said.
"As professional consultants, we're paid for our opinions. That is, we're paid for our experience and what we know," he said. "In completing a project that fails to adhere to a client's long-term interest, are we in breach of our code? Absolutely."
Chick's conduct code includes directives that may seem unrelated to ethical behavior, like logging time daily and submitting a forecasted schedule for the coming week. However, he said those things are important because schedules and deliverables are a consultant's only accountable elements.
"By publishing—and follow-up reporting—a schedule, we ensure that clients are getting what they paid for: professional support of an initiative that is clear, consistent, and above board at all times," he said.