Emerging Tech

IT consultants: A waste of money?


A recent posting on ZDNet warns that organizations risk wasting vast sums of money on external consultants in scenarios where management is lax. Wastage also comes when consultants are used in scenarios where the job at hand could be done just as effectively in-house.

This warning comes hot on the heels of a U.K. government report last week that reveals public sector wastage exceeding £500 million ($1 billion) a year when it comes to unnecessary, as well as poor utilization, of consultants.

In silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel last week, the issue was split when the question was posed about whether external consultants deliver value for money. The answer appears to be both "yes" and "no" - the main caveat being that consultants need to be tightly managed to get the most value out of them.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO of Sodexho UK nipped one of the main issues involved:

"Though consultants can sometimes truly be 'partners' their primary motivation is revenue for their company not yours."

Paul Halay, IT director at the University of Aberdeen says:

"To permit the consultant to scope the project is to abdicate managerial responsibility."

You can read more here:

Are consultants a waste of money? (ZDNet)

Are consultants a waste of money? (Silicon.com)

Speaking of management of consultants, I wrote a piece about managing vendors recently - specifically on what not to do when it comes to managing vendors when doing a procurement.

Anyway, it's time for the polls again. As usual - since the world is not monochrome; you get two "yes" choices and two "no" choices.

What do you think? Perhaps some IT consultants, or vendors involved in some role with consulting, would care to comment. Alternatively, if you have experience working with such vendors, feel free to give your two cents, as well.

Join the discussion.

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

104 comments
dean.owen
dean.owen

As an IT consultant, I'm inclined to say no! But in reality, sometimes they are. It really depends on the circumstances. Hiring a consultant with unique expertise not found in-house is good. When the president hires a consultant after a round of golf - that's bad. Hiring a consultant who delivers what they promise is good. Hiring a consultant because your manpower budget is exhausted but you have dollars else where that you can use to bring on a warm body is bad. Quite often senior management falls victim to the 'prophet' or 'white knight' syndrome. They don't listen to their internal people, but will pay big money to be told the same things by a stranger. Dean

Riverwind
Riverwind

I would rather to say that is a need for hiring consultants / outsiders. Firstly we do beleive the consultants should be expertised in specific fields. And in bad words, we don't want to take the reposibilities for sensible and risky jobs internally.

lhanson
lhanson

OK. I'm not going to try to convince anyone of anything. You 'company' people can be jerks if you want. That's your prerogative. I've had the same from Government. I recently turned down the job of Mid-Atlantic Practice Manager for Oracle Consulting because of their reputation for prolonging an engagement and perpetuating problems. I went with a very small company who has a stellar reputation. In fact, our clients come to us to ask for a truly unbiased opinion on other projects and vendors. We do have to be very careful about not slamming anyone. We do not build applications, only database infrastructures. We solve a problem and move on to find another. It's called business. The bottom line is that we don't have to create problems. The world is full of mismanaged IT systems, out of date technology and poorly defined requirements and scope. Internal IT departments usually don't have the expertise to innovate and implement new technologies. They are usually barely treading water to keep the old systems up and running.

gnauschutz
gnauschutz

I agree with another writer from London where he said ?If you get a good Consultant who has substantial experience and expertise you will get excellent value for money.? Consultants and contractors are dependent upon their record for delivery and productivity, many times often over full time staff who are happy to accept the pay check. Their reputation and next contract is dependent upon this. Many consultants and contractors work longer hours and directly invest in themselves (education, further training, etc.), thereby providing direct value to their clients. They also bring vast experience working amongst various clients that can be of benefit. They may be focussed on revenue and sustainability of a revenue pipeline, but isn?t that what most permanent employees are also after, i.e. to be recognised and well remunerated. Just to reiterate, their revenue pipeline is built upon their track record.

fredy.castro
fredy.castro

You shouldn't ask if your consultant is good or bad, you must ask you - What is the value add I need?. The truly consultant value is solutions to your needs, if your consultant doesn't have this value you are wasting your money.

jacksonzimmerman
jacksonzimmerman

Consultants have to prove themselves with results, or they can't expect to get paid. IT employees, wether cubicle dwellers or office holders are allowed to hide under the general slack of employee status. Who is going to get the work done better and faster- the consultant who is paid only when delivering or the employee who gets paid even without results, but just for showing up? i think it's like the old adage about teachers, where those who can't do, teach. In IT, those who can do, consult, those who can't do, look for jobs as employees in IT departments.

kwong2
kwong2

depends on the consultant, depends on the management..

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

LOL That sums it up for me!

nick
nick

Some consultancy projects must add value and some managers and organisations must, once in a while, be delighted with the service they get from their consultants. Might it be a good idea to share our experiences of what works and why in successful consultancy projects? Then we are all likely to have more good experiences. We could even think about how to build on these experiences to make them even more rewarding. This approach is an example of "Appreciative Inquiry" see http://ai.cwru.edu which is a new and very powerful way to energise change. I am an organisation development consultant, not an IT consultant, but Mary White and I have recently done some interviews to discover the root causes of the success of technology projects. All the root causes are about management and communication - none are technical! Best wishes Nick Web: http://www.nickheap.co.uk

Kozimoto
Kozimoto

Let's face it. Consultants are hired because in-house resources aren't up to speed or are already overloaded with work. Consultants are just like any specialty tool you might purchase to get a specific job done. If the tool is used properly, you get your bang for the buck, and the job is done professionally, in less time. You're actually pleased you spent the extra loot, right? Used inappropriately, or not at all because you don't understand how to use the tool, then you get what you pay for and left whistling at the receipt. I've worked as a consultant for over 17 years for companies like Boeing, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Intel, etc., and have usually been offered an extension to the contract barring any budgetary constraints. Why? Obviously because I must have been doing something right, and the hiring manager felt I was adding value to the project I've been assigned to. Meeting expectations basically and worth every dime. On the other hand, I have been on assignment where I've had to wait over 30 days for network access. I'm sure none of my consultant peers have run into this, but I've actually worked for managers who don't manage squat, and have no clear direction for the team, or a clue how to help the consultant be successful because of their own lack of technical expertise to guide them. Who's wasting the money then? The highly paid consultant??? If you feel you've wasted money on a consultant, then you really have no one to blame but yourself if the consultant is worth their salt. I suggest you beef up your interview process to include some testing to confirm the technical skill set of the person you are trying to find and eventually offer the position to. Brainbench.com is ISO certified if you're interested. Along with that, please have a clearly defined list of to do's and discuss timelines with the consultant for estimates for completion so your expectations are reasonably set. Nothing from the hip after the fact unless discussed and agreed upon with the consultant... Also, if you plan on hiring a contractor, get things done up front so this person can come in and actually be productive the first day by providing access and permissions to the systems you want them working on and the resources they will need access to so they can be productive. Maybe even introduce them at the next team meeting? Been there done that. No intros, just get to work... Next, provide them with a list of contacts, documentation, procedures, and resource locations on the network, etc., on their first day, in writing so they don't have to keep asking. Don't just throw them in a cube and expect them to hit the ground running... Most companies have plenty of red-tape for just about everything a contractor will touch or need access to. Get it done up front and have everything documented for the consultant. A nice time-saving tool for your new full-time hires as well... In a nutshell, hiring a contractor "should" be a partnership, and a successful partnership requires planning, communication, agreed expectations and goals, plus measurable results communicated back to the contractor so they know they are on track. Most contractors have an advanced skill set (they've worked hard to acquire) in a specific area or areas that must be of interest to you. The rate they command and you're willingness to purchase their skills underline this fact, so don't complain when he/she brings their time sheet to you unless you've done your part too. I believe consultants are filling very important and specific need in the IT industry. We are the ones who take the time to learn the new technologies. Provide you with the know how to deploy and implement those technologies fast! Without consultants most companies would not be where they are today. We're the knowledgeable, we're the few, we're the unsung heros of the IT industry... Just my 2 cents worth. Well, maybe 2.01001010101 :) R.K.

GreyTech
GreyTech

Too often, the title of "Consultant" is used when what was needed was "Contractor" so the customer spec'd the wrong resource or the supplier provided the wrong expertise.

ez_whit
ez_whit

No, I am a consultant. I am underpaid,under utilized and generallly avoided by permanent staff members who perceive me as a threat to their "secure" job..."copier paper fill-er-upper".

docbrown
docbrown

After reading the article, I was a bit confused about the allusion that IT consultants only provide their expertise to benefit themselves. While this may be true with some, IT consultants in general have but one agenda; to provide IT management and technical support to an organization that recognizes the need for enhancements or corrections in their existing IT infrastructures. That recognition in itself clearly defines one reason why most outsourcing to an IT consultant occurs, not because of a lack of technical expertise within the organization, otherwise the consultants expertise would not be required in the first place. while it is incumbent on members at the strategic planning level to look within the organization for technical guidance when developing IT projects to meet long-range goals, the planners must take into consideration the nature of traditional IT personnels' behavior as they fit on the leadership grid; IT specialists/generalists tend to work autonomously and are not usually open to direct leadership styles. When combining this observation with the inherent nature of strategic leadership desire to "push down" directives sets the stage for the perfect storm of goal failure, creeating more resistance to the proposed IT change implementations than the original situation. In situations such as this, organizational leadership turn to outside IT consulting firms, if only to play the role as a negotiating and communications conduit between the IT staff and corporate strategists. IT consultants like myself are usually limited by the function of our title; to observe, offer workable alternatives,and of course, provide recommendations that are compatible with the organization's IT goals and objectives. As an IT/IM Specialist/Project Manager with over thirty years of experience in the field, I am not insensitive to the impact of bringing outside IT SME's into the organization, but experience has also taught me that these consultants bring to these organizations a blast of fresh air to otherwise stagnating IT projects.

paulmah
paulmah

What do you think? Perhaps some IT consultants, or vendors with involved in some role in consulting would care to comment. Alternatively, if you have experience working with such vendors, do feel free to give your two cents too.

mamato
mamato

Riverwind, Consultants can be valuable if they have true knowledge and internal staff is limited. Unfortunately I have seen that consultants are used by some unethical elected officials as a method of payback or way to fund their elections.

bpate
bpate

I have done both consulting and been an in-house employee. The biggest problem I have seen with being a consultant is lack of direction. If you as a company don't know what direction you want to go how do you expect the consultant to do that for you? You should sit down with due diligence and map out what you need the consultant to accomplish. Then create a "Scope of Work" with clearly defined deliverables. I run a small part time communcations consulting business and I always give my clients more for their money. However I also force them to create a "Scope of Work" with clearly defined objectives I am expected to accomplish. This way when they get my Status Reports and my invoices they don't feel they are in the dark about what they are paying for.

docbrown
docbrown

I couldn't agree with you more, RK. I major difference between outside IT consulting and internal IT performing implementation and such is the fact that we consultants MUST stay on the bleeding edge of information technologies, maintain qualification memberships in a variety of industry-approved associations, and at the same time, be able to flex according to the requirements of strategic communications within the targeted firm. Any of us who have made that leap from IT operations to the consultant level were participants in this resistance to change. I am an aspiring IT/IM consultant, and after two years in that capacity, I have yet to have a client express any dissatisfaction in the recommendations I presented to them. There is no doubt in my mind that IT consultants are a valuable asset to any organization large or small in need of funtionality and clarity. As for being an unsung hero, as a veteran of several wars in the US Army, I'm used to it. ...don't eat yellow e-mail!

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

and are paid an hourly rate based on some agreed upon contract, either directly or through an agency. I used to be a 1099 contractor and yes, was called a "consultant" by the client I was performing the work for, but as long as they were paying me, I couldn't care less if they referred to me as "Homey the clown".

IT PM
IT PM

The main reason to bring in a consultant in my mind is to jump start and educate your permanent staff on a specific technology. All too often the consultants come in and were oversold in terms of their knowledge. If I am paying the high fees, I do not expect to pay for education time for the consultant.

Logos-Systems
Logos-Systems

Well if you have sloppy and lazy management and/or if the requirements are moving target or they are like an out of focus picture. They it is quite possible that a consultant would be a waste of money. Of course a little in-house cleaning to remove the dead-wood would be a good first step before finding a consultant. Of course corporation hire consultant for one of three reasons: 1. They don't have the expertise in house; 2. Its a dirty job that Nobody Will Do!; 3. They need extra manpower to meet the schedule, assuming you still believe in the mythical man-month.

muti_ahmad
muti_ahmad

IT IS REALY SAVE OF MONEY SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS EXPERIENCE BEING SOLD AND EXPERINCE IS INVALUAPLE

afranquesa
afranquesa

could be... The last customer I'm working for is really someone that appreciates our job, but his driver to ask for a consultant was that processes and management were weak and they expect us to correct it... they may need us, but we do need them if we want really to success from end to end

wrlang
wrlang

Like some are saying, the buck always stops at the manager of the project where the consultants are used. If a manager knows what they want to accomplish and takes the time to actually manage the project, the right consultant will get them what they want. If your consultant doesn?t hit the ground running, then you either have the wrong consultant or a poorly defined project. It only takes a few days to figure out which and it?s the project manager?s responsibility to handle it. Both sides need to protect themselves with regular meetings and good project documentation. Yes, just like an employee, a consultant will sit there on the clock waiting for a poor project manager to get them what they need to continue. Why should anyone give up pay because of a poorly managed project? People looking for a nice work environment where they can make friends and get to know people shouldn?t be consultants. Consultants are expected to work every second they are on the clock or make up the time on their own clock, just like employees. Both employees and consultants are always expected to find problems and propose solutions. Just because a consultant finds a problem doesn?t mean that a manager needs to use a consultant to fix it. Finger pointing is a useless waste of time and energy. All the problems discussed are easily fixed with the right approach and experience.

nyong88
nyong88

I am amazed by the replies to this thread. It has touched a nerve in the consultant, contractor and salaried employee. I have had the opportunity to be all three. I much prefer the consultant role. However, to answer the question of whether IT Consultants are money wasters; no, we're not. Do we have to be politically astute? You bet. Do we have to be current on both new and obscure technologies? Absolutely. Do we know from the beginning that we may be treated like crap or salaried employees may be jealous because we got the assignment THEY wanted? Of course - this is to be expected as a consultant. However, we get compensated to take the heat. Secure in our skills and the billable hours makes this career the best thing since the microwave. If you don't like the people, the assignment or the politics go back and become a salaried employee. That way, you can b*itch and moan and say that your life will end. However, if you are truly a consultant, you'll decide which clients you wish to develop a business relationship and which ones you'd rather leave for someone else. In the end, you as the consultant decides whether you accept that assignment. More money doesn't necessarily mean more problems.

sgt_shultz
sgt_shultz

i just writing to congratulate you all for staying on topic. no sex talk. good job.

mike.evans
mike.evans

I've run a global consulting practice for a number of years and I am afraid to say, that if you are using consultants to fill gaps and NOT provide value... as a customer you are really just asking to waste money. Real consultants are those that want to make a difference and add value. Its consulting businesses that bring the business of consulting down to bad practices, i.e. encouraging longer term engagements where it is hours billed and not value provided. Simple advice, make sure there is good business case for engaging consulting businesses and not just need for IT consultants.

TMalandro
TMalandro

As a 27+ yr consultant I take grave offensive to this article. Consultants are not a waste of money and nor do they need to be Monitored or babysat to perform their responsibilities. The reason that companies have problems with consultants they hire is because they do not know how to interview and ask the correct questions to find qualified self-starters to get the work done effectively. What they end up with are what many qualified consultants refer to as "third party employees". A real consultant does not need supervised. A third party employees does. Areal consultant can successfully complete any task the client sets forth and will provide their own learning and trainging to accomplish it. A third party employees can not. Notice that I stated can not and didn't use will not. Consultants are not the same as groups of personnel from a software house, or a vendor and generally come on-site to a client alone, not in groups. So please do not refer to companies who provide pre-developed software and services as consultants because they are not.

NetizenX
NetizenX

Frankly, permanent staff, contractors, and consultants all have their place in IT operations. This article title is BS. If your an IT manager and determine that there need a consultant it's for a reason. Most likely because you lack the internal skill-set to complete a project on time. Otherwise you would train your staff, which takes time, not including the lack of experience. For a new technology deployment you will probably need the consultant to periodically return until internal staff develop enough experience, or you hire a contractor for a period of time. This article could easily be retitled to "IT staff: A waste of money" or "IT managers: A waste or money". I've seen good and bad staff at all levels, both internal and external. If your an IT Manager, I assume it's your responsibility to "manage", regardless of who the staff are, do it or step down. Better yet, become a Leader not a "Manager". Check out the differences if you don't know what they are.

chris.blyseth
chris.blyseth

I think it would help the discussion if we are more intentional with certain terms. I have formed a clear distinction between these two terms. You can check the dictionary as well to see the difference between contractor and consultant. Neither is better than the other, they are just different. In general, I use contractors to fulfill a finite technical resource need. Generally this is a very skilled professional person with skills I don't have on my team or maybe I just don't have enough. My definition of contractor is very limited to the specific skill I need. Likewise, because the scope of business impact is limited, so is the hourly rate. I don't generally expect knowledge transfer or any additional added-value. The expectations are made crystal clear up front and the management is tight. Consultants also provide work on a contract basis, however the type of work generally has a broader business impact and thus commands higher rates. I have used consultants to supplement thought leadership. This has been very helpful in weeding out the hype in certain areas. It has also been helpful in developing solid business cases for IT changes. Knowledge transfer is the fundamental basis for what a consultant does. However, consultants still need to be engaged based on a clear contract with well-defined objectives (this is often harder based on the less concrete concepts involved). It is also harder to identify quality consultants. They still need to be managed carefully. Getting back to the question of waste, the answer is a firm "no". Consultants and contracts have vital roles in a post-corporate world. Companies can no longer afford to maintain standing armies of IT pros. We will see a continued move in this direction as projects are staffed dynamically and IT operational functions are sourced by "IT utilities". However, be warned: What will make or break your success is not just how well you perform your specialty. You will be judged also on your ability to work as a functional part of a living team. That might mean bending a bit here and there from the rigid structures of the past. At the same time don't give yourself away. Last word: The future is based on the concept of mutually beneficial relationships. For consultants/contractors: Do your work well, always maintain the highest integrity, and always look for those opportunities to make your client a repeat customer. For businesses: Do your part to respect that fact that contractors/consultants are people and deserve the basics of clear expectations and ongoing management/feedback. If you want to get the top talent for your next make/break business initiative, you'd better be treating them right this time around.

Beoweolf
Beoweolf

The big problem with both consultants and contractors is failure to have a plan in place detailing what they are to do or having allocated facilities/ID's/procedures and reporting protocols to allow them to do their duties. The problem with internal staff handling these projects in-house, is the legacy of "Lean and Mean" management. If you have IT staff on a short leash, there is no time for them to properly plan or accommodate short (or long term) projects comfortably while still offering/maintaining required SLA response to routine tasks/duties. Head counts, for the most part, normally run far under what is needed to handle peak regular duties. Then add in late, family emergencies, vacations and lack of training; most staff are working, studying on their own time, just to keep their head above water. Given the cross-discipline hiring requirements that many employers are imposing in an effort to not have good web staff, good IT staff and good network staff - its inevitable that the depth of knowledge maintained by harried IT staff is consistently at a much lower rate than is needed to plan, implement architect new installations and/or complex upgrades. You need consultants to step in and fill the void. It is always a shock to see a company that refuses to properly reward loyal staff - yet can find the money to hire in contractors or consultants (who often generate a total cost that exceeds that of the entire in-house staff for the year). Sure, I'm aware of juggling "Budget" money vs. "Project" money; but, honestly, it comes from the same bucket in the end. These actions are short sighted and leave in=house staff bewildered and bitter. They resent not being given the tools, recognitions and opportunity to grow in the job. If you don't continue to grow in you skill set - eventually you get left behind. I see many IT staff works that leave out of boredom rather than any overt complaint against the company. Then 3, 6 months, maybe a year later - they are hired back, as contractors for the same jobs (this time with suitable job definitions) they were begging to be allowed to do before they left for greener pastures.

dporter
dporter

Being an IT consultant for over 15 years. There have been times when I have clients who have wasted millions on projects that they were ill prepared for both from and IT staff and management position. So they spend money on consultants (experts) to get it done or repair the damage. I have also had clients that tried to implement systems in house and then I had to go back a fix thier problems after a foul-up, which by bring in a consulant during the planning would have prevent the issues. The problem is that there is a lack of IT skill sets in the industry overall, you have managers who do not know thier staff's abilities. You have IT shops which are streached way to thin and are burning and churning IT people left and right. There are many firms out that that want to get in on a project and never leave. A true consultant firm will want to be a trusted advisor, working on those projects that are a fit for both parties, not setting up shop on your home turf. If that is the case go hire someone directly. The key to using consultants is simple, know why you need them, and use them correctly per the Statement of Work. To many times I have customers trying to get something for nothing when I am on site, and I let them know they are payng for my time one way or another.

dporter
dporter

Being an IT consultant for over 15 years. There have been times when I have clients who have wasted millions on projects that they were ill prepared for both from and IT staff and management position. So they spend money on consultants (experts) to get it done or repair the damage. I have also had clients that tried to implement systems in house and then I had to go back a fix thier problems after a foul-up, which by bring in a consulant during the planning would have prevent the issues. The problem is that there is a lack of IT skill sets in the industry overall, you have managers who do not know thier staff's abilities. You have IT shops which are streached way to thin and are burning and churning IT people left and right. There are many firms out that that want to get in on a project and never leave. A true consultant firm will want to be a trusted advisor, working on those projects that are a fit for both parties, not setting up shop on your home turf. If that is the case go hire someone directly. The key to using consultants is simple, know why you need them, and use them correctly per the Statement of Work. To many times I have customers trying to get something for nothing when I am on site, and I let them know they are payng for my time one way or another.

kjt
kjt

I do not believe companies of any kind really need an outside consultant of any kind. Facts are facts, consultants fill voids. These voids exist for two key reasons. One, corporate laziness. If a company's staff were not so lazy at times, there would be not reason to bring in outside help. Two, if a company did not tolerate incompetence among the rank and file, as well as the managerial ranks, there would be no reason to bring in outside talent/consultants. And lastly, the almost singular reason such voids exist and always will exist, people do not bother to learn their systems. Because of that, IT Consultants exist and will continue to exist for a very long time. But, I sincerely do not believe companies should need consultants of any stripe. The solution can be done in-house, almost all of the time, if people bothered to do their job and do it well. So, in that sense, no IT Consultants are not necessary a waste of money.

bonkk
bonkk

As the salaries of CEO's, Directors and higher management go up and up while the salaries of the workers remain stagnant, the point where consultants are a waste of money has come. If there isn't the talent in-house to work on a project, then of course, hire the consultant and terminate the manager. Management needs to be more efficient.

j-mart
j-mart

But not every one who does is up to it. This goes for industries other than IT as well. If you require a "consultant" the most important thing is to get the right one for the task at hand

jlytle
jlytle

Value is brought when the company knows what they want, even if they don't know the outcome. Before you hire an employee a job spec should be completed, the same goes for a consultant. What do you want out of the person? If you don?t know, who is not providing value at that point? Then you find the consultant with the right knowledge, just as you would with an employee. Consultants should be hired for two reasons: augmentation of staffing to fill a void while the company/manager figures out if it is a short-term issue or not and then acts appropriately and secondly the company needs an expertise it does not have in house for new products or service. For the later, the right outcome would be that the consultant comes in a leads the project or works closely with an internal project lead, and trains the existing staff as he/she delivers on the project. If anyone hires a consultant and allows them not to train the staff as a rule, who is at fault? I have been a CTO, COO, and VP of Technology for companies, and yes I did not want to bring in consultants at the drop of a hat, but I did when the scenario was correct and a deliverable was defined. I am a consultant now, and I make sure that there are deliverables on projects so that my client and I are on the same page. If you don?t have deliverables and a hand off in technology from the consultant to the company, is it the consultant responsibility or issue? And yes a consultant is the best sales person for their company, and should plug their company. But if they don?t do a good job, or spend too much time selling, then your job is to find another consultant. Well that's my two cents

megabaum
megabaum

IT consultants a waise? hmmm let me think? no way. Consultants are used in many fashions to achieve business goals. For example. A manager brings in a consultant for a specific project, one that he doesn't want to impose his team, highly political, with demanding hours - I've been on projects just for that reason. Consultants are also brought in to 'supplement' staff, meaning they are just there to assist with the work load, until FTEs are hired. In other cases they are brought in, because the company does not specialize in certain areas, ... bring someone in that does. Consultants are very usefull :)and contribute in many ways. They are the ones who stay late, who do not complain to HR, do not gripe about the stressful culture or politics... they giv the employees a 'shot in the arm' just because they bring new insights. Just the life a consultant and good managers know how to best utlitze these resources. A waist ... ? If utlized for the right purposes, no. Cheers. MK.

TCDood
TCDood

Our small company (65 Employees, 20M Gross Revenue) uses I.T. consultants, and reduces our need to hire more I.T. personnel. In order to train in-house, training dollars and trial&Error may be needed. Consultants get the job done, and then you send them on your way. I agree, some core competence is necessary to do our jobs daily, but on older Databases, and or specialized hardware, consultants can save $$ over having someone train, or become "SELF-EDUCATED"

dsusysmgr
dsusysmgr

To be Clear, I am a consultant. I think consultants are appropriate when a project requires skills not present on staff, and not required on a regular and continuing basis. The other situation is when there is too much work to be done, even with reasonable overtime by the available staff. But of course, staff and consultants must be accountable. Management always has an obligation to supervise consultants and employees.

Rosa1Mundi
Rosa1Mundi

An old law of consulting, the Fifty Mile Rule, states that if a consultant from 50 miles away (ie, outside the organisation) says something it will be taken on board by management, even though it is something the organisation's staff have been pointing out for ages. Sometimes consultants can be really useful in getting key information across to management when internal staff efforts to do this have failed.

jfederline
jfederline

I've been both. I've also been an internal corporate individual contributor and management, and I've managed consultants alongside corporate hires. What's the difference? A contractor is a remedy for skillsets or resources that are not available in-house, when you need them - a commodity. A consultant also comes to the table with a specific skillset but typically also a degree of experience - and provides a temporary partnership at a strategic point-in-time - 10% of "consultants" actually fit this bill. Money can be wasted on a contractor if the work to be done is not validated as required work and it is not able to be done with in-house staff. (Manager's responsibility) Money can be wasted on a consultant if the resources they bring to the partnership do not have their consumption and utilization by the company planned for. (Manager's responsibility) Assuming that a broker of either consultant or contractor has scruples, the blame for wasting money on either largely falls on the corporate hiring manager. We won't even get into how much money is wasted in fully loaded FTE costs on internal resources. All I will say is that I routinely see consultants and contractors outperform internal staff 200%-400% in the area of productivity. If a typical salary is $50K, and the consultant bills at a rate equivalent to $200K (use your own numbers if you wish), I believe any honest "consultant" worth a damn is worth that money.

Michael.Dratwa
Michael.Dratwa

I have worked in the DP field for more than 30 yrs and have seen companies waste a lot of money on consultants. In-house people seemed to be thought of as someone who does not understand the problem. If they understood the problem, why did they not fix it or point it out to management. Management will take the word of anyone outside of the company and think that their solution will fix all of the problems found (and usually suggest their expensive software/hardware products). There were times that management decided that the consultant solution was not the way to go but the money was already spent and times that another consultant was brought in. I have only seen once that a consultant's plan had paid off but it was modified by in-house people to make it work (it was close to the plan created by the in-house staff but was not accepted by management).

jheath
jheath

You need to have a "philosophy" for using consultants. We generally use them only under the following circumstances: to teach or shepherd us through new technology; to provide "hands" when have the skills but not the manpower; or to handle "throwaway skills" work, i.e., work that requires skills we don't need in-house on an ongoing basis.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

My last employer is learning just how expensive 'cheap labor' can be.' Any more "cost-savings" of that nature and they'll be bankrupt I do take some pleasure in watching the companies complain about the monster they created. The proper role for a consultant is a hired EXPERT in a given field. If you are paying an AGENCY less than 150/hr or an individual less than 80/hr you are not getting an expert. If you want temporary help, stop complaining about a lack of expertese

asuarez
asuarez

We used to get a consultant to do specific projects, like set up an in house web site, or do some DBA stuff. We have had the pleasure of working with really good ones and some not so good ones. Some of them can be expensive; we generally got what we paid for.

chris.blyseth
chris.blyseth

The problem of wasted time or money comes down to management and/or leadership issues. It has nothing to do with whether the worker is an employee or a consultant. The reason consultants get a bad rap is because the cost is so evident when an invoice needs to be paid. When employees are not well managed it does not get the same attention since employees are often considered "free" and the cost is buried in consolidated monthly expenses. This is the opinion of a manager who has allowed slack management practices to bite him in the budget.

GreyTech
GreyTech

The question is a bit like saying can a man be a nurse or can a woman drive a bus. It does nothing to define the conditions that a consultant might be a waste of time, whether the consultant is being used to fill a skill shortage short term or for a one off project, whether the consultant is being called in to help identify a potential problem or as is often the case a body from a large firm supplying what are little more than contractors to pad the numbers on a late running project. Some consultants like myself specialize in a particular market niche, mine is small companies without IT departments, to fill a short term need. These are a useful resource for a company that has no permanent requirement for that expertise and so can be excellent value for money.

drmainframe
drmainframe

It's difficult to generalize when it really depends on a number of factors: corporate culture, hiring manager's expertise, consultant's level of expertise, expectation of each other. I've seen and experienced both cases when hiring consultants for a project worked smoothly, effectively and efficiently. In some projects, we were able to deliver early due to the hiring of outside expertise. On the other hand, I've seen the opposite when an incompetent manager hired an unqualified consultant to do a job which was beyond their levels of training. The project was cancelled after wasting of 9 months of resources! There are lots of company politics involved. Sometimes a company is required to spend the allocated budget before a fiscal year end. They would hire consultants to spend the existing budget. Another factor is that companies which hired consultants might be on a permenant hiring-freeze (head count) but the projects need to be delivered. My conclusion is that it depends on your perspective, situation and some luck! It's difficult to generalize. Consultants exist to meet a market demand.

bob
bob

I have ~ 25 years of experience in the IT business. I've used consultants from time to time, as have my peers. Only once was the consultant worth the fee that was paid. Most spend little time working with your specific requirements and in the end produce little or no action, and a basically generic report. They bill for every second they work for you. I've even been billed for asking them for a bill. Almost always they are a gross waste of time an money.

ahiles
ahiles

I'm a consultant. Yes, consultants can be a waste of time - if the client doesn't know what they want, doesn't provide a clear scope and brief, and doesn't act on recommendations. What do you want? The big name to impress stakeholders, or the niche consultant who actually understand the issues and can respond to them? Guru, honest evaluation and recommendations, yes man or simply extra resource? Clients who have analyzed their requirements, employed the right type of consultant and act on the recommendations gain value. Those who don't. don't.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I've worked as a consultant. The expectation is always that you must hit the ground running, come in the door better than most employees and be working every second you are on the premises. You are treated like meat, you usually have a different colored ID badge, and restricted access. One project I was on was delayed for two hours because we had another consultant visiting from another site who did not have access to our building. We had to wait until full time employee manager got out of a meeting to sign him in. The environment, and the way you're treated as a consultant BREEDS a more mercenary attitude. Of COURSE you are going to be looking after #1 all the time because: 1)You can be fired at any time without notice. 2)If you're not W-2, you will not be able to collect unemployment insurance. 3)Your skillsets tend to rot because you're not going to be working on new technologies, only ones you are 'expert' in. 4)You have to plan to be unemployed 6 mos out of the year. (might not happen, but you need to plan) 5)You get little or no respect, go in turn you're not inclined to give much.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Next thing you know, you'll tell me that people don't always obey the speed limit

carlsf
carlsf

What the consultant is being contracted to do... And what steps and checks were done on the contractors... If this was to implement leading edge technology then providing the contractor could provide proof oh their competance then ok. If this was to prop an ineffective/poor manager or IT department then they have a problem, the contactor will never be a satisfactory/good result. The reason the manger/IT department will always be in the way, and the contractor will NOT be able to put into place the correct tools and items. STEPS; Check the contractor for certificate's/compentance and having completed simalar work before. Be sure of what you want completed there can be no half done work or steps. Get out of the contractors way and let him/her do the job. On completion ensure that all is wqoprking to specifications and hold final payment until sure it is working correctly. If this means paying for the components but holding back a % of the labour portion then so be it. ENSURE that the contractor knows this before starting the job. Carl

GreyTech
GreyTech

What is high to one company is a jump start to more profit for another. I would consider the customer had got a poor deal if he did not at least save my fee through the input of my expertise into his company and more properly gain much more over the longer term. That gain of course might be difficult to measure later but it might be the difference of being in business and going bust. I like many consultants spend nearly half of my own time and little or no customer time learning. I agree with you that the customer is not paying for me to learn.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

...are strikingly similar. IN THAT: 1) You get ONLY what you pay for. 2) There is no loyalty, nor should it be expetcted. 3) Expect anything other than the use of the body, and you will be gravely disappointed. 4) The clock is always ticking. 5) The more money you offer, the more you get... 6) When the job is done, everyone goes their seperate ways. 7) You're always looking for the next job. 8) You treat your regular customers better. 9) A little extra gets a little extra....

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

DOWNSIZING... Many corporations do not see the value of IT. They see IT departments as doing one thing SPENDING MONEY. Because of this, IT depts are always the first to be cut, often far too deeply to be effective from that point on. Now, when IT depts are cut, who are the first to go? The skilled folks earning the big bucks. Who are left? The 'yes men' who are better at butt-kissing than at doing the work. When management finally realizes that nothing is getting done, they panic and throw bodies (consultants) at the problem.

maxcobmara
maxcobmara

True, thats why I usually meet the IT dept, buy them lunch and register all their existing grouses. Usually IT IS up to scratch but are so demotivated they have stopped caring. Consultant (good ones at least) should leave a company better off than before they arrived. Its good for business too. Nowadays I hardly do much technical work, I feel more like a psychiatrist fixing the relationship between IT & Management

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

and have devised shortcuts and efficient ways of delivering on what needs to be delivered. Consultants have to accomplish a lot within a given timeframe because their contracts aren't indefinite. As a former contractor, I had no choice but to devise my own tools and methods to automate my tasks as much as possible because it allowed me to produce more in less time. The clients were obviously impressed and blown away by this and immediately saw the value in why they contracted me in the first place. Had their internal staff been capable of such productivity and efficiency, which is rare among salaried employees who take on a more laid back and easygoing attitude, I wouldn't be having this conversation now.

docbrown
docbrown

Isn't a major reason for hiring outside IT consultants is to provide recommendations and solutions because the IT staff must stay focused on continuity of operations. To me, it's not a matter of skillset but of time.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

to work on multiple projects with different clients. As an employee, there is usually an implied understanding that one won't moonlight and conduct other side business that may impact his/her ability to fully commit to the job at hand. As an independent contractor, nobody can dictate to you who you can work for and how many projects you can take on unless you stupidly sign a contract stating so. The only downside of being an independent contractor is the risk of being unemployed and not being able to collect unemployment insurance because one is basically self employed. The rewards outweigh the risks, but one has to keep on their toes to look for a new gig before the current contract expires.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Consultants are hired because they possess a skill that inhouse employees lack, or because they have more experience than inhouse employees. Now, if you want me to teach you what I know, you will have to fork over more cash to do it. As far as I'm concerned, consultants are hired to complete a project or a set of tasks, not conduct daily IT seminars on what they've gained in the 15+ years worth of experience. If training your employees isn't explicitly written in the contract, I don't have to teach you or your employees jack sh*t. That's capitalism, and if you don't like it, move to Cuba.

noop
noop

I worked as a IT consultant for several years. Post hoc, a very big part of work to be accomplished was to compensate for and cope with bad due dilligence and bad management. According to my experience, those who entrusted me, in most cases did not really know, what they needed. Nor did they know how to manage uncertainity or knowledge, that they did not have. In consequence the project's change-management overhelmed in about one half of all cases. Because of this, in my opinion, it belongs to the responsibility of a consultant, to consult, teach and control his customers before he complies to a job. But ... this needs a lot of experience, practice, lbnl. money, and especially social skills, that cannot be easily offered/expected by young guys coming from the university. Finally it seems me often a mixture of failures: people, that do not understand, what is to be done, entrust people, that cannot control for those outer factors.

RealAusTech
RealAusTech

I've seen both sides of the story with consultants. But my experience suggests that it is much more the REASONS behind a consultant being used are much more important than the fact that they are used. The first time that I came across a consultant, was on a software engineering project that I started on not long after graduation. The business Owner/Manager that wanted the software was a friend of the boss of the business that I had just started with. They had put out for formal tenders to do the job, but they all came in much over the price that they wanted to pay. Get the picture so far. One day, my boss and the other owner happened to meet, and got talking. When the owner told his tale of woe, the boss said, "give us the details, and how much you can spare for it, and I'll get my team to do it for you." A few days later all the documentation that was available arrived in the mail, was given to the head project manager, who was told, you've got 6 months, get going. The project manager spent 2 days going over the information, and told the boss that we need at least 2 more software engineers experienced in Java, and a third person who can write help documentation, it's going to cost this much over the budget that you have given us. Well the boss completely blew his stack, said, "That's what I've been given for a budget, and you will bring it in for that amount." And so, for the next 3 months the boss completely ignored the project, even though the manager tried to see him every week, until one day he just walked in to see how it was going, and was appalled to discover that there was no way to complete in time or on budget, because it just was not feasible. He ended up having a temper tantrum in the middle of the room, which resulted in 3 programmers just walking out, stating that their resignations would be in the mail. The boss then rushed out shouting "I'll get a consultant in to sort you lot out", to phone a mate who did consulting, who was asked to come round and get my team back on track and finish this program for his friend. Two days later the consultant walked in, and starting making inquiries as to the problem, and when he was told it was the boss doing a favor for an old friend, he said "I can't tell him that, is there anything else that I can do?" Someone said that you can take over the project, but its not going to be finished on time or on budget, and don't expect the boss to give you any thanks for completing it. So thats what happened, and the next week I left, the project manager stayed on for about 2 weeks to give the consultant a hand in getting up to speed on the project, and I heard that 2 other staff members (they weren't programmers) left a couple of weeks after the manager. Eventually the job was finished, about 4 months late, and almost double the budget. The boss had another rant about the incompetence of people, said that he would never use a consultant again, and thats what happened because the business when bust soon after, because someone in accounting had seen the writing on the wall, and was stealing funds, before the crash. Last I heard, the boss went bankrupt, so that was the end of him too. The thing that annoyed almost everyone in the team was that the job should never have been accepted the way it was, and for such a ridiculous budget and time frame. It just couldn't be done. The consultant was quite good, and was able to work with almost everyone, but he wound up on the wrong end of it too, just to satisfy the whim of the boss. I've seen a few consultants since then, and most of them strike me as being OK, but you get the odd bad one, and they don't last long and thats about it. For those that are interested, I wasn't working in Network Administration at the time. Edit: clarification.

schimeck
schimeck

I'm not sure I should be joining this discussion, since I'm an IT consultant and therefore subject to a certain amount of bias. However, in reading a number of the posts, a few observations spring to mind: 1.There is a difference between a contractor and a consultant. The former is someone who augments roles already being performed in the hiring organization; the latter tends to be (or should be) someone who is hired because he/she has expertise not currently available within the organization. Concerns about ?managing? consultants frequently arise because what was needed was a contractor and what was hired was a consultant (or vice versa). 2.The moaning and groaning about the amount of money made by consultants is a joke, considering that the complainers are likely getting paid for posting to this discussion. I'm not suggesting that all consultants are worth what they're paid ? I'm saying that everyone's worth to an organization is open to debate. If the all of the in-house staff was worth its salt, management might not be looking for consulting assistance. If all managers were up to snuff, maybe they would realize that their in-house staff could do the job and no consulting assistance was required. I'd like to know how many of the people who complain about over-priced consultants work for free! 3.Consultants are at their best when they are allowed to act like consultants ? in other words, to bring their expertise and experience to bear on a client's problems. When the client assumes that he knows the problem and the solution, he doesn't need a consultant ? he needs a contractor. I'm a firm believer in the old adage ?when training a dog, it helps to know more than the dog?. When clueless managers hire a consultant and then proceed to micromanage him because they know better than the consultant, who can be surprised when the consultant simply racks up as many billable hours as possible before leaving the situation? Good consultants are worth every penny when they are hired to perform tasks appropriate for their skills. Making that connection is the responsibility of client management. There's an old (and not very complimentary) definition of a consultant ? someone you hire to tell you what time it is...and he uses your watch! The person doing the hiring is responsible for the value derived from the consultant. I've worked on the other side of the fence too. I've been victimized by inappropriately-hired consultants and, on the other hand, I've learned a tremendous amount from top-notch consultants. Usually, my experience was determined by the quality of the hiring decision by internal management.

ChipN
ChipN

Companies that really understand what they need, where the gaps are in expertise and experience (they are different, and you really need both), and what they want to accomplish can do great things with consultants. These companies usually have very specific requirements, have detailed project plans to determine if they are making progress, and are not afraid to kick someone out if they are not delivering. I love these environments because it is very clear what needs to be done in order to be successful. It is also easier to find the right resource (consultant or contractor) for each role. These are the companies that maximize every dollar spent - consulting or otherwise, to ensure that the technical projects are in alignment with business goals, and that the resulting deliverables provide real value to the business. They see the value of consultants, use them for what they need and only as long as they need, and then do the rest of the work themselves. Everybody wins. I've been consulting (technical & management consulting) and managing consulting groups for 15 years now. Prior to becoming a consultant I had negative feelings about them (see link below to article that expands on this), but later I learned that most of the "consultants" I had met were really contractors who were outside their area of expertise. http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-6331-5059462.html?tag=search Companies that don't know what they want or need, fail to find the correct resources (consultant or employee), or fail to manage those resources usually fail to some degree. That's too bad, but it is a pattern that is repeated far to often in business.

plstroud
plstroud

We (IT contractors) are much like whores -to the highest bidder with no particular like of one 'john' over another. Some of us make sure the 'john' gets what they want at the negotiated price and others are just ripoff artists who are going to get the money, do as little as possible and then run. I like to keep the client happy. The last contract job I was on lasted 2 weeks short of 10 years (I must be doing something right). I'm hoping my new 'john' (believe me - I don't really think of the company in those terms! :) will last as long ...

william.bondy
william.bondy

Let?s Face it, Consultants are out to get your money, that is what they need to do to grow there company. I was a Consultant for about 6 years, I never went into a clients place just to solve the problem at hand I went to find the next problem to keep them paying. I now work for a very large Oil Company, the way I see it is, you have hired a I.T person the only service contract you need is for Photocopiers other than that the local help should be looking after everything else. I feel the only time you need a consultant is if you only have 15 computer or under (other people may have other numbers just my opinion). I.T people are very resourceful, have one on your staff and he should be able to save you money, I'm at 350K this year any unfortunately my salary is a little short of that. I have always claimed that I can save my salary and my staff every year in recordable savings. Because I am an I.T/I.S person working for my company it is important to see my companies succeed!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I can understand how your view has been soured, but before I started my own business, I was a 1099 consultant and I did not bill for every second I was onsite. I produced results and the client saw it. I recommended new products and technologies, and was even offered a permanent position by them, but I turned it down because it didn't meet my salary requirements. Yes, many consultants are worth crap and not worth the rates they bill, usually the ones dumped into companies by H1B mills, but there are many consultants out there who are worth the rates they charge.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I think the analogy best describes part of the bad-rap consultants get. I have NEVER been brought into a project that was well funded, scoped, resourced and managed. EVERY last time I was called in on a project one or more or ALL applied. 1)Scope creep had taken the project to wild proportions, management in a panic had hired warm bodies to get it under control. As it was panic-hiring, close controls were not maintained. 2)An initially undersourced project approaches a hard-deadline. Team is now in panick mode, again 'warm bodies' are hired without particular concern for expertese, full-time staff has been restricted from working overtime, and project is now 2 months (or more) behind schedule.... 3)RIFs have drained the company of expertese in a field where they had great talent. Systems have usually been fragged by remaining staff lacking the expertise to support some complex system. 4)A low-priority project has suddenly become attached to a big name in the company, now it MUST succeed. The problem is that until this point, the project has been using borrowed resources instead of dedicated resources and inconsistancies reside throughout the project. Sloppy work is now high visibility. 5)A badly managed project is dumped on someone with more funding at an attempt at a polical assassination. Deliberate sabatage is prevelant. and of course, the consultants not only serve as warm bodies to throw at the problem, but also a convenient scapegoat should an already doomed project fail miserably.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

Richard_RPU has it 100% correct. I have been working as an IT contractor/consultant for going on 9 years. I have worked for large corporations, small companies, the military, and the federal government. The ONLY time I wasn't treated like a subhuman temp worker was when I worked for Oliver Creative, a small web design & advertising company -- and I think part of the reason for that is because I helped them out of a tight spot, and that they were paying me double what their in-house developers got paid. All five of Richard-RPU's observations are dead-on, in my experience.

Tig2
Tig2

Not every company. I work for a non-profit. We are very concerned about every dollar we spend so are committed to spending wisely. But as an element of that goal, IT is considered to be a profit center with the ability to enable business to be profitable. This means that we have real good reasons for doing all that we do. I would suggest that, while your experience is valid, toning your invective might be a good plan. Yes, we understand that venting is a good thing. But this board is a very public one and many people read it. And yes, I probably should have posted this to your Wipro rant. Regardless, I understand completely what you are saying. I have been hit with it myself. But you can't say "ALL" when "ALL" aren't the the problem but some- even many- are. I hear and understand your random comment about system outages. But I have to tell you, not real acceptable here. This isn't a locker room discussion, it is a technology forum for IT professionals. I would suggest that venting at that kind of level really should be done in a private discussion with someone like minded. I am just as PO'd by the title of this discussion as you are. I suggest that some discretion is in order. You bring good observations to the table. Let's find a way to turn down the fury and really bring those observations into the light. Darn- the dryer just finished. Have to fold clothes now. Be well.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

If we're not related, we should be. I knew people who used to crash the systems deliberately from time to time. I thought them to be highly unethical, now I'm not so sure. I was working as a FTE for this company, and there systems were buggy as all get out. Ghosts, slowdowns, processes mysteriously stopping and hanging and systems so arcane that they were actually paying for data from other companies because they could not reference their own data. Well, I was a real Wunderkind and got everything humming, performed a few miracle-hacks, and got things to the point where our turnover logs were usually blank... You know what's coming, right? You guessed it...... "Why are we paying for this guy? Nothing is ever going on in that department, cut him" When I work as a consultant, I am strictly mercenary now.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Which is why I now own my own company and don't slave for some ungrateful corporate jackass like I used to. IT will always be seen as a cost center in every corporation, unless IT itself is the corporation, such as in an ISP or telecomm carrier. IT is a necessary evil because everything is done digitally these days and less on paper. Like I said before in another thread...try pulling the plug on the router connecting the LAN to the internet and see how quickly people scream and bitch about not being able to do their jobs. Oh, so now IT is hailed as a hero because we enable them to do their jobs and without us, they'd be teleported back to the 1930s' style of doing business. Perhaps a few "accidental" system outages are in need to prove my point.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Standard H1B mill behavior. 1)Bid out a contract 2)Send your best and brightest out to a site. 3)Work like gangbusters. 4)Secure more contracts 5)Inform client that one of your best and brightest had a death in the family back home(or some other emergency that requires him to leave project). 6)Replace with a 10/hr noob who may actually have touched a computer once. 7)repeat steps 5 and six until all Best and brigthest are out of client site, and replaced with noobs 8)repeat steps 1 through 7

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

who are advertised to companies as being "expert professionals", yet have just barely broken into the IT field with little to no knowledge or experience. Yes, we were all beginners and amateurs earlier on in our careers, but what these H1B mills are doing is selling these consultants as "experts" and making the entire consulting side of IT look like a bunch of thieves and con artists. I recall how during the 1990s' that consultants and contractors were hailed like Gods because they were worth their salt in expertise and experience, but within the past decade or so, the cheap foreign outsourced labor has turned the IT market into a pile of dogsh*t, just like anything else they touch that turns to dogsh*t, including servers that they have no business being within 1000 ft of.

gs.400
gs.400

Amen Jack, well said. The problem is not everybody is a true consultant, if you get what I mean. Alot of imposters out there even full time ones too

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

With that I mean that contractors are limited to billing for 40hrs per week, but are flooded with so much work, that they need to pull about 60hrs to get it done, yet they are not getting paid. Sorry, the game is "no pay...no play". Another stupid thing I've seen are contractors having to waste their time on those silly sexual harassment seminars and other nonsense for employees. Hey IT managers...get it through your thick skulls that contractors are NOT employees, and should not be treated as such. Do not expect contractors to work overtime without getting paid and do not subject contractors to the same HR nonsense that employees are subjected to. Yes, contractors will comply with your non-disclosure and other legal crap, but understand that contractors have no affiliation with your firm and play by a different set of rules.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Working FT, I'll teach you anything. If you're hiring me as a consultant, you get my skill not my brains.

hillman.d
hillman.d

Consulting requires wisdom and experience. I used to be an IT consultant for the government right out of college. Before that I had worked in a lot of crappy tech support jobs that taught me how to handle myself. The project that I was entrusted with failed, not because I didn't have experience, it failed because management was bad. I had to start my own company and I was never paid for an invoice on time. Not only that, I was never provided specs or diagrams for anything. I had to find and document everything myself. It didn't help that people who had this information in their heads were never around. Through all this, management was expecting me to tell them not only where all the databases were located, but how to plan, design and construct various Web portals without help from the useless employees. It's too bad that I had no business sense to devise a proper contract that would've allowed me to charge extra for the large bottle of Tylenol. I am now permanently employed but I understand that consultants can be used and abused if management is made up of a bunch of idiots. Of course, any consultant who realizes this ahead of time should charge accordingly for the major headaches that are coming.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

or many of the other people in here who have done consulting. The industry has a dirty rep, some of it deserved, but most not. Others have made the point, but there is a real difference between contract employees, consultants, and the H1-B mills out there. On my last job, I was a consultant. I had worked for the company previously, wrote the hub of the system that they were still using and required ZERO time to start producing. I was also able to train other consultants on that hub. THAT is expertese and THAT was why I was hired and THAT is why three more positions went unfilled for the life of the project. When IT managers hire a bunch of bodies and call them consultants, it's their own fault. If you buy a screwdiver, you can't compalin that it's useless as a hammer! Consultants and contract employees have their places. It is the job of MANAGEMENT to utilize the resources properly.

kjmartin
kjmartin

... bring their expertise and experience to bear on a client's problems.. Or, from what I've seen, find out what the person paying the bill wants to hear and write a report to validate that.

Tek Guy
Tek Guy

Here I go, ranting about how I think a consultant can provide an actual value for, money if used correctly, when I could've just approved your comment and be done with it. Oh well, the title was insulting enough to merit as many comments from consultants as possible.

Ian Thurston
Ian Thurston

The folks who've been posting to this topic as consultants by and large seem never to have studied up on the consulting process. Their crass cowboy attitude should probably relegate them to the role of VERY closely supervised contractors at best. I work both as a consultant and a contractor. Often one of my jobs as a consultant is to evaluate contractors and other consultants and also the management process used to work with them. In general, my experience has been that in-house managers try to work with consultants as if they were contractors, and with contractors as if they were consultants. I mean that they often have strong preconceptions that prevent them from seeing alternatives that consultants can offer; on the other hand, they may expect contractors to be clairvoyant (which of course is the consultant's job ). Meantime, I suggest that those posters who believe that a consultant's raison d'etre is to rip cash outta the hands of their clients that they read two books: Flawless Consulting by Peter Block, and Work as A Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Happened at my last contract. 1)Company laid off most of IT department. 2)Company was hit with a HUUUUUUGE project 3)Company ignored labor needs. 4)Team of consultants were brought on at last minute 5)Consultants were blamed for mucking up project that was also doomed.

tysonkam
tysonkam

Small world, Chip. I agree. I am also an IT Consultant, and the best clients are the ones that judiciously engage consultants to address a temporarily required skill set, or augment their current staff to better meet a deadline. It cannot be overstated how important strong program and project management disciplines are when running any organization, but especially if you routinely engage consultants. I hate to say how many hours I bill to clients that show little value because my client runs us around in circles not knowing what they want, how to get it, and not being focused in what they are asking my team to do. I rather prefer spending less hours working for a well organized and structured client so I can show the most value for my time and leave the best impression, should they require my services in the future.

william.bondy
william.bondy

I have been a consultant for years; I switched to a full time job quite a while ago. If you have an I.T person on staff they have more time than consultants to look up new concepts and methods if they don't spend time looking up new methods there a bad I.T guy. Technology has a habit of passing you by in weeks generally speaking. Hell most of my Idea's are right off this web site, how can you say that a full time I.T person isn't as good as a consultant LOL.......... if and when I get spare time I enjoy reading Tech Republic (TR) and other pages, If you?re a young I.T person I strongly recommend you subscribe to TR, because buddy TEK GUY might show you up one day and he is really good. It has always been my job to do the very best for the company I work for, my main focus over the years has been saving money, and I might have gotten that from my consultant days. I believe Consultants have their place in the world; I look at it like Linux and Microsoft. Linux makes MS work harder to stay competative; And yes I have seen I.T guys over the years that really should go back to the jobs they came from hehehe and the consults can make a living off these guys hehehe. I am generalizing here; consultants can be a good asset in certain situations. I personally try not to use them.

mamato
mamato

I started my career in the late 70?s as a print room operator for a large mainframe shop. I have held various positions and have been involved or lead dozens of major upgrades and deployments. Implementations were varied and have included every aspect of county government. Consultants can be a positive force if you have staff with limited skill sets. If you have a competent staff I see no need for consultants and I have to agree in most cases their objective is to find the next problem or create one to keep the revenue stream flowing in their direction. I have also observed the disasterous political aspects of consultants that can destroy an organization and suck millions of taxpayer funds into the pockets of friends of politicians. Unfortunately waste, corruption and backroom politics are the common denominators for many large scale consulting engagements in both the public and private sector.

Tek Guy
Tek Guy

This may only apply to the field I'm working in (general IT consulting for offices of 50 desks or less), but without a consultants expertise, most of my clients would be up an unspecified creek without so much as a canoe, let alone a paddle, let's get that out of the way. Unless I develop a sound solution, all they are going to get - from management, vendors, or even their own IT staffers - are quick fixes. No holistic concepts, just a patch here and there to keep the train rolling, until it hits a dead end. Consultants introduce new concepts, we find the knots early and untie them before everything becomes entangled in them, we facilitate new and efficent ways of doing business. No employee in the world is going to introduce these changes. Because if they make the wrong choices, they are to blame. If everything goes south because they just keep the system running, nobody is going to say "We should have upgraded when there was still time". Sure, you can waste money if you sit down with me every other day and just rant about things you may be thinking about doing, but even if you just charge me with generally optimising the way your tech is implemented, finding more efficient ways to go about your routines, then I will still do my very best to be worth what I charge you. Because, as was pointed out before, unemployment constantly dangles above my head like a damocles sword, and any job well done adds to my portfolio, my only insurance. If you want to tally up, this is more of a 2 bucks fifty than 2 cents, but I was really pissed off by the headline, so there...

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

and I was a fool. Every "compnnay man" I have ever met has the same story. They use you, then throw you out. If you're not out for #1, you end up in #2.

TGN42
TGN42

Generally there are two types of people: Group A - Works for the benefit of the company, sacrificing themselves for the good of the company. Group B - Works for the benefit of themselves, sacrificing the company for themselves. Considering all employment is a contract to provide services for certain benefits, companies should never expect employees to put the company before themselves. Business is business. The trick is to align company mission/vision with the employee's, to create a win win. This irregardless of whether it's a consultant or employee. I've yet to meet any employee who put the company before themselves. I've met many who look to provide best to both, but ultimately you expect to get paid for the value you provide.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Those who have been career employees and never done consulting work will never understand us. We bill by the hour and it's not in our best interest to finish things immediately, because if we don't work, we don't get paid.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I don't. If you want loyalty, then give it. Consultants know that they're not even guaranteed a full day. When you consult, you're not payed to be loyal, you're not paid to solve the corporations problems, you're paid to work on a project. PERIOD. You know what kind of bonus you get for finishing ahead of schedule? Unemployment.

william.bondy
william.bondy

As a contractor I am out for my benefit first, (fair statement) as an employed person I am out for make the business I work for succeed (fair statement) as a person who own a company you need to decide. both have advantages, please don't forget Training is a write off for companies so don't think the I.T staff get stagnant, and if you do then you?re the bad I.T guy hehehe

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Typical management mentality. I said it before and I'll say it again...we are contractors looking to make a living the way we know how to. We are not employees doing you any favors, so of course we'll be looking for ways to make more money. Does your auto mechanic behave any differently by looking for further problems than what you are already aware of? Money talks and bullsh*t walks...and it's all about money...nothing else. We ain't in this business for the health benefits (or lacktherof) that the stress puts on us.

bob
bob

In the post I see: "I never went into a clients place just to solve the problem at hand I went to find the next problem to keep them paying" Not much else to say!

tappy0814
tappy0814

Contrary to your observation, I bill my client for less hrs than I put in on site. I round DOWN to the nearest hour, sometimes throwing away 30-45 minutes. And if I spend time researching something that I did not know right off the top of my head, I do not bill my client for the time. Some reseach like 'finding a better way to do something - performance enhancement of an application - would be accepted by any client as productive work. I can bill the client but no, I provide that as part of my customer service. They hired me for my expertise and not to "learn". And they pay me well. I have not experienced bad treatment in 6 years of consulting. In fact I think I have been treated very well, respected for my skills and knowledge.

Tig2
Tig2

I require that a requirements document be negotiated up front along with a definition of success criteria. I provide weekly reporting of which items in the task list have been completed, which are outstanding and any blockage encountered. My clients generally like me as I make an honest effort to fit their environment to the best of my ability. I also produce exactly what they ask for. My experience has been that you need both the internal employee and the contractor. The contractor has no preconceived ideas about the environment and is able to bring a fresh perspective to the table.

the.tumbleweed
the.tumbleweed

He's never worked with me, either. I usually cut my own throat than bill for something questionable, and always put in more time than I bill for, just to make sure the client gets what they expect, on time (unlike their full time employees).

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