Using consultants - checklist

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Using a consultant can be a great way to get a project rolling or to bring in expert help. We explain how to get the best from your consultant.

  • Define the project and the result you are aiming for; confirm how this will contribute to your overall business objectives.
  • Consider whether you have (or should acquire) the in-house skills to carry out part or all of the project.
  • Discuss the project with relevant employees; ask for suggestions and get their agreement to involving a consultant.
  • Ask your local business support organisation, trade association or relevant body to recommend a list of suitable consultants with experience of similar projects.
  • 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.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities for the consultant, employees and any other contractors involved.
  • Identify key objectives; aim for specific, measurable targets but leave room for the consultant to suggest alternatives.
  • Prepare an outline brief summarising the project, objectives, budget, timescales and in-house resources available to the consultant.
  • Clarify any constraints on the consultant: for example, budget, restrictions on disclosing confidential information or contacting customers.
  • Agree a project schedule, including project completion and interim milestones; negotiate exit clauses for sub-standard performance.
  • Negotiate fees; consider success fees or a fixed fee and clarify exactly how fees will be earned, when they will become payable and how any expenses will be handled.
  • Brief employees involved in the project; ensure they fulfil their responsibilities to maximise the consultant's effectiveness.
  • Provide access to any necessary in-house information and resources.
  • Maintain regular contact with the consultant; look for evidence of the work, monitor costs and review the project at each milestone.
  • 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.
  • Check that objectives have been met to the agreed standards before signing off any work or overall project completion.

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