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Bringing in external consultants

By MaryWeilage Editor ·
This week's Application Developer Management e-newsletter discusses what to watch for when enlisting recommendations from external consultants.

How do you view external consultants? Have you mainly had positive or negative experiences with them? Do you think there is a perception in the industry that some consultants are merely trying to promote their own products? Tell us what you think about bringing in outside consultants.

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Missing something

by wrlang In reply to Bringing in external cons ...

Good points, but the article is pretty one sided. I?ve had mixed experiences with consultants, but most of the time they get the job done. If you?ve had any experience with consultants you know that they have 2 top motivations, to please the customer and get more business for themselves or their partners. Most companies don't hire expensive consulting services unless they are handling a problem. Many times management suspects something and, unfortunately, they look to the consultant to confirm their suspicions. Don?t resist it, but do understand what it?s all about. If you don?t know why the consultants are really there, then it?s probably an internal problem. If they are focusing on your area, it?s important to understand what they are working on. Perhaps management feels that you don?t have a part in its solution, can?t manage to the problem, or you could be considered part of the problem. If consultants are working on something you told management you don?t have time for, don?t dare come back having spent resources on the same thing the consultants are working on, but do have your people log the consultants time with your staff and inform management if the consultants are taking your resources to do their work. The proper consultant is a good resource for experienced management with a stated set of goals, expectations, and deliverables.

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This is a dangerous attitude

by sheinkin In reply to Bringing in external cons ...

While consultants may (or may not) have hidden agendas, they are usually hired to look at YOUR performance by management.
Your article takes the tone if not the position that they are SUSPECT until proven INNOCENT, which may cause your readers to try and resist them, and be identified mistakenly as part of the problem (NON INVENTED HERE SYNDROME).
As someone who knows this issues from both sides, as both a CTO and a Consultant, I met and tried to diffuse this exact situation, in clients and in people on my staff.
It is imperative to make sure that you co-operate with the consultants, and provide them with all the required information openly and without hostility, otherwise you undermine your organization's efforts, and sometime your own job.
Of-course, Evaluation of the resulting report should be accordin to normal business practices, such as:
-- COST (money, time, personnel)
-- COST / BENEFIT ration
-- IMPACT (downtime, business initiatives delay)
-- GROWTH POTENTIAL (new options/capacity/extendability)
-- TECHNOLOGY LIFECYCLE (Maturity vs. Obsolescence)

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From a Consultant

by jel In reply to Bringing in external cons ...

I agree w/ points made in the article and the two responses to date. I am a consultant to the medical device industry, by choice, for the last 7 years, and have a website where one of the FAQ's addresses that very issue. Unfortunately many sales reps now call themselves "consultants", and a consultant approach to sales can be useful. However, I am constantly approached by companies, software and other, to join w/ them in a "mutually beneficial" arrangement where I push their product as a "solution". This can get you into the trap of "to a hammer, everything looks like a nail", and even where that type of application may be called for and in the client's best interests, who's to say that that particular product is the best out there. I certainly don't have the time to do that sort of research. So I avoid those arrangements, and leave it to the client to evaluate their needs, tho I will assist with the questions to ask. W/ consultants, I'm afraid there is somewhat of a "caveat emptor / buyer beware" element -- hence the need to be cautious as a buyer, rely on referrals if possible, and / or trial the consultant(s) on smaller, less sensitive projects at first if possible.

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