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What you should know about consultants

Esther Schindler has written an excellent piece at CIO.com on things CIOs (and others) should know about working with consultants and contractors. I particularly liked this:

Statements of work are necessary elements, particularly in project definition and negotiation. However, points out Terrence Gargiulo, president of MakingStories.net, statements of work should be treated as living, breathing, evolving documents that reflect a collaborative relationship between the consultant and client. Otherwise, he cautions, "Projects can too easily turn into an 'us versus them' dynamic in which no one wins."

This is an important point. Both the consultant and the customer need to be flexible enough to deal with changes as they occur. Otherwise, the situation can become rigid and create unnecessary friction.

There are a few other things I would have included in this article:

  • When selecting a consultant, check the references of the specific consultant. Often a large consulting firm will assign a consultant based on availability, not on their fitness for the task to be completed. Checking references will help you to discover if the consultant is suited for your project.
  • If possible, start with a smaller project. Consulting engagements work best when a good working relationship has been formed, and that can only happen over time. Starting small allows you to build momentum and make sure the consultant is a good fit for your organization.

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