Getting The Most From Your Consulting Dollars – Will They Fire Themselves?

In the prior post on Getting the Most From Your Consulting Dollars we began discussing the importance of ensuring that consulting / contract resources are only engaged by your organization on a temporary basis.

Especially, given the fact that when many consulting firms get in the door they simply do not want to leave (ever). And, the reality that employees are more often than not happy that these resources remain around to help out, even when they are more than capable of handling the work themselves…The result: unnecessary costs being absorbed by the business. And, third-party resources (which are ultimately temporary) developing key subject matter expertise that belongs within your organization for the longterm…

At Customer Centricity we are simply not geared that way. And, here is example number 2 demonstrating this fact.

We are often engaged on high profile projects once they have languished (missed deadline after deadline) and have run WAY over budget. This has resulted from ineffective project management by internal employees and/or external consulting firms.

The particular example to be covered is quite telling of the true nature of many (but not all) consulting organizations.

A few years ago we were asked to rescue a long overdue ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation.

The company had been through several internal and external project managers before the CFO (one of our longstanding clients, at a few other firms) finally “had enough” and called on us.

Upon engaging it didn’t take long to realize that the project was being managed from a technical vs. business / process perspective.

Sure, components of “cool technology” had been pieced together to handle a key segment of the overall application. However, the entire aspect of process, necessary to properly manage the business application, was lacking.

We subsequently re-baselined the project with what we “thought” was a solid team (comprised of internal employees as well as consulting “experts” from 2 other firms).

As we commenced to execute against the revised plan it became clear that the earth was shifting beneath us. That is, the business was rapidly evolving which directly impacted the scope and requirements of the project.

This resulted in a few project “resets.”

Because of the above sequence of events, “project fatigue” set in. This was demonstrated by resignations of project team members / employees of the client’s firm. Departures of key resources with deep subject matter expertise on the business, processes and related applications.

What remained was a number of well-meaning employees and a team of consultants…

At this point we met with the CFO and CIO, and delivered a simple, yet strong, message. It went something like this…

Given the nature of the business (continuing to evolve faster than a project of this nature could ever keep pace with) and the fact that the project team is lacking the necessary depth and breadth of expertise “internally” (due to recent departures) you are better off killing this project than attempting to continue. The alternative is to pay us another $XXX,XXX over the next several months ONLY to end up in a place not much different than where we are today.

Said another way…We’ve seen this movie before. We didn’t like the ending last time. Let’s not watch it again…

Shortly thereafter, when the team gathered for our weekly status meeting, there was an ominous air about us. The CFO promptly kicked things off announcing the decision that the project was being put on hold – immediately. And, all costs resulting from external / project-related resources were to cease.

In summary, we turned off the spigot!!!

Appropriately so!
It was the classic money-pit: the never-ending project that had taken on a life of its own.

We stepped forward with the unpopular recommendation to shut it down and stop the bleeding once and for all. Of course, we also put ourselves out of a job in the process – but that was the right thing to do for the customer.

To be clear, the other firms engaged on the project were NOT pleased. They had expected to reap many more months of continued revenue from the client, even when the project was clearly destined for failure.

In closing, you want a consulting firm that is looking out for YOUR best interests. Not one whose primary goal is to keep the meter running – indefinitely. As such, when considering engaging consultants on your next project, ask them to clearly demonstrate how they’ve put their clients’ interests first (by firing themselves).

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