If you work for a company, or maybe you own a company, or maybe you just know of a company, and you hire or work with consultants for various things, there are some common things to pay attention to which are often overlooked. Let’s get started!
Let’s say that your boss asks you, “Hey, Jim. Don’t we have some vouchers sitting around?”
You answer, “We sure do, Bob, and my name is Dave.”
“That’s great, Jim! Maybe we can use those to get a fancy consultant in here to whip us into shape!“
“Yes ma’am, I’ll get right on it!“
You dig around and find the vouchers, and then call your trusty vendor representative, who was already eagerly awaiting your phone call. He/she tells you about their “partner program”.
You swallow hard, and ask, “Tell me about this ‘partner’ thing?“
“It’s a fantastic program we offer to only our highest-valued premium super-awesome platinum-level customers, just like you! It’s a program with partners.“
“That sounds awesome! How do we use it?!“
“It’s easy Dan.”
“Right, sorry about that, Doug. Anyhow, it’s where we offer you a list of partner consulting firms, and you choose one to help you solve a technical challenge, or adopt a new challenge, right from the comfort of your conference room.”
You slam the phone down, jump around and squeal like a baby pig, then calm down and make some calls. You ask all your drunk high school buddies for recommendations, and they all agree that they don’t know what a consultant is. So you pick one from the vendor list, and arrange a conference call to discuss your ideas.
Soon after, you’re on your way to pursuing a new project. Now it’s time to plan how to misuse their services to greatest benefit of someone else, not you. Here’s how you do it…
Don’t have a clear list of objectives
That’s right. Clear objectives are for the movies. Real people don’t have them.
Figure out what the consultant should do when he/she arrives. They don’t mind waiting around for vague direction. And whatever issues you’re facing each day, you can leverage the consultant to help with those, while they’re waiting for the actual project to begin. You hired them to help onboard O365 and Intune accounts, but why not ask them to help with your printer issues? It’s your money, so burn it up however you want.
Also, all that mumbo-jumbo the vendor mentioned about “valid uses” for using your vouchers is just talk. They don’t care if you want to use them for completely unrelated products and services. Microsoft vouchers? No problem, they’ll be fine for working on that VMware problem.**
Don’t assign one person to each role
Leave every decision to a committee. It works great. After all: If one person can make a great decision, then 8 people can make an even greater decision! It’s like traffic: Just add more lanes and the traffic jams go away.
When the consultant asks for a user account to be created in Active Directory, it should involve as many people as possible. One for each object attribute if possible. And when it comes to PXE, oh boy, that should involve at least one person from every protocol-related aspect of your business.
For example, to create the guest account for the consultant, you might need the following:
- Someone from the Networking team (because PXE needs a network)
- A Facilities person or two (because networks have wires and stuff, and they use closets sometimes)
- Someone for DNS (since your imaging process will probably need name resolution somewhere)
- Someone else for DHCP (of course)
- An Active Directory team:
- Someone to focus on the naming convention
- Someone to focus on group memberships
- Someone to focus on the initial password
- Someone to create the account incorrectly the first time
- Someone to fix the incorrect account, but also remove it from requested groups
- Someone to add the fixed account back to the missing groups
- Someone from IT Security (because they have to be at every meeting anyway, so why not?)
- Someone from HR to make sure the consultant isn’t offensive or insensitive.
- A Telecom person (make sure the conference room is working for the remote folks)
- Someone from Accounting (because something will cost something),
- At least one Project Manager for each group above (got to keep those toddlers in line, after all)
- And, someone from the cafeteria (you’re going to need coffee during all those meetings).
After a dozen or so meetings, you should have a clearer picture of how many weeks it will take to get the first account created, and a few more weeks to get the correct permissions assigned to it. If you start now, you might get 3 accounts created before the next fiscal budget runs out.
As a general rule: A meeting isn’t considered appropriately-staffed unless there are at least 12 people in the room. So, to be safe – double that.
Don’t be in a hurry
You’re important. You have a lot going on. Printers jamming. Passwords expiring. Facebook is slow. Jimmy spilled another beer into his keyboard. And the cleaning crew unplugged your router again. When that pesky consultant asks for some information, make sure to take your sweet time getting them an answer. Giving them a quick answer only cheapens your value in their eyes. Taking your time earns their respect.
A typical best practice rule is at least 24 hours per question. If they ask three (3) questions, that should take at least 72 hours. And if you only work 1 shift per day, that should be 72 business hours, or roughly 31 days.
And if the consultant reminds you about some so-called “expiration date” on those vouchers, be sure to remind them how important your business is. The vendor will obviously jump through every hoop to extend your deadline, because you’re waaaaay more important than any of their other customers. As if they have any other customers. Ha ha ha!
One of the worst things you can do when bringing a consultant onto a project is lock things down too much. It’s important to keep your options open. Even something like picking one system or product to focus on can be risky.
Remember: Contracts are just rules. And rules are made to be broken.
For example, let’s say you signed a contract to get a consultant to help you with migrating to Office 365 and Exchange Online. There’s nothing stopping you from shifting direction at the first meeting. Some good examples might be:
- “We can’t get these 5-year old laptops to image with Windows 10 using our old Ghost setup and DVD disks”
- “Skype keeps crashing on the CFO’s computer, at his condo.”
- “The CEO’s 6 year old daughter says she knows more about Office 365 than you.”
Just remember to stay flexible and adapt to whatever you feel is important each day. After all, you don’t know how many more you’ll get.
I hope you found this article informative and educational. Doing your part to keep consultants on their toes is the best way to insure you get the most out of the shares you own in their company.
** Disclaimer: Nothing said above makes any sense whatsoever and should be completely ignored.