How to use a consultant
- 1 Define the project and the result you are aiming for; confirm how this will contribute to your overall business objectives.
- 2 Consider whether you have (or should acquire) the in-house skills to carry out part or all of the project.
- 3 Discuss the project with relevant employees; ask for suggestions and get their agreement to involving a consultant.
- 4 Ask your local Business Link, trade association or relevant body to recommend a list of suitable consultants with experience of similar projects.
- 5 Choose a suitably skilled and experienced consultant from your shortlist and ask for a preliminary proposal based on your brief; amend the brief to incorporate any valid suggestions.
- 6 Clarify roles and responsibilities for the consultant, employees and any other contractors involved.
- 7 Identify key objectives; aim for specific, measurable targets but leave room for the consultant to suggest alternatives.
- 8 Prepare an outline brief summarising the project, objectives, budget, timescales and in-house resources available to the consultant.
- 9 Clarify any constraints on the consultant: for example, restrictions on disclosing confidential information or contacting customers.
- 10 Agree a project schedule, including project completion and interim milestones; negotiate escape clauses for sub-standard performance.
- 11 Negotiate fees; consider success fees or a fixed fee and clarify exactly how fees will be earned and how any expenses will be handled.
- 12 Brief employees involved in the project; ensure they fulfil their responsibilities to maximise the consultant's effectiveness.
- 13 Provide access to any necessary in-house information and resources.
- 14 Maintain regular contact with the consultant; look for evidence of the work, monitor costs and review the project at each milestone.
- 15 Watch for warning signs of any problems: for example, sub-standard work, missed deadlines or poor communication from the consultant, or low morale among the project team.
- 16 Check that objectives have been met to the agreed standards before signing off any work or overall project completion.
- brief relevant employees and get their support
- use in-house skills where available
- set clear objectives and performance standards
- define clear roles and responsibilities for everyone involved
- set interim milestones
- monitor progress and tackle problems
- agree to open-ended projects without clear objectives
- amend the brief mid-project without agreeing new objectives and fees
- sign off unsatisfactory work
- become over-reliant on consultants - build in-house skills instead