5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Consulting Dollars
The old adage “time is money” is never truer than when working with consultants. Very rarely do companies have an unlimited budget to spend on outside help. Even if they did, paying a consultant most likely isn’t on the top of the list of things they could use their money on. And believe it or not, even though consultants are hourly, their success depends on the success of the project, not how many hours they can get out of it.
Here are five ways to help ensure you have a successful project by getting the most out of the time with your consultant(s). Note: each tip should be accomplished before your consultant even begins the work you want them to get done.
Generally speaking, there are two reasons companies hire consultants: lack of manpower or lack of knowledge (sometimes it's both).
Whatever the reason, a clear expectation needs to be set prior to breaking ground on a project. If it is manpower that is needed, expectations need to be set as to what the end game is and how it should look. If it is knowledge that is needed, expectations need to be set as to what business problem the consultants will try to solve. However, be prepared for and open to suggestions from the consultant along the way. Good consultants don't just take orders, they ask questions, help find a better way and then get to work.
Having a clear understanding of what it is you want them to do and communicating that will pay huge dividends in the long run.
Once you have a clear(ish) idea of an end game, the next challenge is figuring out if what you want is even feasible.
- Is there data to support what you want?
- Is it accessible?
- Is it accurate?
You would be surprised at how many projects start before data sources are validated, or even identified! Having correct and accurate data is crucial to a successful project.
Generally speaking, you can make some fantastic dashboards and reports with a lot of different tools, but if the data isn’t there to support it, or even worse, is incorrect, you essentially have a very expensive paper weight.
Consultants can be very helpful in mapping out the resources needed. When we begin a partnership with our clients, we start by doing an assessment that ensures we cover the entire scope of a project and that they are set up for success.
Aside from data, another important question to answer is: how will this analytics initiative globally fit into your company?
- Is this end game already being accomplished elsewhere?
- Is any other department going to be able to use this?
- How can your vision encompass as many different visions as possible within your organization?
So many companies act locally, but never think globally. This leads to a multitude of different dashboards, reports, and data sources that are specific to a department or business case. This creates validation and trust issues with reports and dashboards.
Knowing how this initiative could impact other areas is very important. Talk with other department heads, take stock of what is already out there, and figure out a plan to evolve or revolutionize the way reporting and dashboarding is done globally. There is no worse feeling at the end of a BI project then to have somebody ask “aren’t we already doing this?”
Keep in mind, for your global efforts to be effective, you need to think through how you will foster user adoption and even consider having a centralized BI Competency Center within your company. This can be overwhelming, but again, a benefit of hiring consultants is that you get their expertise, previous experiences at other companies, and guidance. We've partnered with companies to help them through their entire analytics strategy beyond just their single business intelligence project so that the projects had maximum benefit for the whole company.
Odds are that you have a lot you want to accomplish, which is great! But as you are staring up at the mountain of work you have created, it’s time to take a step back and prioritize how you are going to climb it. Not having a clear path forward is setting the project up for failure.
Before you give the green light to your Sherpas (the consultants) to start climbing, prioritize the segments that get you to the top. Have a clear and documented path forward that breaks the path into smaller sprints. Sound overwhelming? Don't worry, consultants are a great resource to help with this. They’ve been up the mountain many times before, and it is part of their methodology to make sure sprints are set up for fast and accurate results. Make sure the sprints are agreed upon internally so everyone is on the same page and as stated before, communicate along the way.
One of the tools we use at Analytics8 to help our clients prioritize their projects and create a game plan is something we call the BI Program Matrix. Clients look to us to help them establish a BI strategy and a corresponding program, and then help prioritize projects and guide them in their decision making processes. We evaluate each BI project the client wants done to determine the technical feasibility and the real business value. The end result may look something like the below image and helps our clients think through how well each propsed project aligns with their BI program objectives and ultimately how well each of those objectives correlates to their overarching Corporate Objectives.
Once you have a path forward, to ensure that all your planning doesn't go to waste, it is essential to have the right gear (personnel). Identify the key stakeholders, technical team, business team, and anybody else who will play a part in the project. Getting C-Level sponsorship will help tremendously to make sure your team prioritizes your project. Once you have a team assembled, make sure they are all on board with and available to help along the way.
Ensuring your consultants have access to the resources they need will not only make the most of their time, but also make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.
Nobody likes to waste money. To make sure you are getting the most out of your consulting dollars, follow these tips to prepare for your time with your consultant and then consider these additional suggestions to ensure that your entire BI project stays under budget and on time.