Tweak Your Biz » Management » Consultancy Engagement And Scope Control

Consultancy Engagement And Scope Control



Scope management

A consultant’s dream or a nightmare both for the company and the consultant alike?

And what is this terrible thing?

Simply, an un-scoped/unplanned engagement exercise for that consultant.

A management team will often engage the services of a consultant or contractor in some shape or form during the business year.

This person is brought in to perhaps;

  • Run a project,
  • Bring about organisational change,
  • Implement new practices and procedures,
  • Deliver specific  expertise,
  • Put some control on a situation that appears to have gotten out of control.

All very worthy reasons to engage a professional in the necessary space.

However what can happen, particularly in larger organisations, is that what started as a short term engagement can result in the consultant or contractor being in the company for months or even years.

This is allowed to happen for a few reasons.

  • The consultancy objectives and outcomes were not clearly defined and agreed in the beginning.  The consultant is at fault from the perspective of not highlighting the absence of defined scope and the company management is at fault for not ensuring that the scope existed correctly in the first place.
  • The consultant becomes involved with areas outside of the specific scope remit and becomes, in essence, an operational resource i.e. like a standard member of the team.
  • The in-house skills are insufficient to cover once the consultant leaves i.e. the competence in the organisation is absent.

The outcomes of the above are;

  • That the initial engagement normally does not end up delivering what is required of it.
  • The budget originally assigned for the activity is well and truly shattered.
  • Reputations of the consultant can become tarnished. They will feel like they have failed to deliver and you will feel you have not seen the benefits of their engagement.
  • The consultant becomes a key dependency within the organisation.

These are just some of the consequences of an uncontrolled engagement and none of it does either party any good!

To prevent these types of issues occurring, the scope of the engagement needs to be crystal clear to both parties and both have an obligation to flag if there is any doubt at all.

Further, if the business end up using the consultant for “other things” normally covered by an operational, full-time employee then the business case needs to be addressed and understood for doing so.  If there is benefit to that activity – great, if not, it should be stopped straight away.

In reality, if you are using contractors or consultants to fulfil longer term key roles within your organisation, then you would be better to bite the bullet and engage a full time member of staff or to examine the existing teams skill-sets and ensuring that you have the right team on board.

So when you are hiring any sort of external consultant or contract resource, ensure that the lines are drawn as to what they will/will not be responsible for and what is expected as the end result.

What are your thoughts?

Photo: Michael H Karshis



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The Author:

Budding entrepeneur working on software product solutions for business. My background is mainly operational and senior management roles in mobile telecoms and software houses. Areas of expertise include professional services, out-sourcing, team management and general operations management. I've made the conscious decision to create my own company having spent the last 20 years learning in the corporate world. In my contributions to this forum, I will share some insights and learnings that I've picked up along the way and hopefully they will be useful to some or all! http://www.myprojecttracker.com

Add Your Comment

  • http://twitter.com/fredchannel Fred

    Good post Barney!nYes, it’s true. Sometimes the consultant becomes a Joker covering more that expected.nTwo things that we do that help a bit avoid that situation (besides asking all relevant question to get a good idea of the scope) are:n1) Get a Statement of Work signed. This way all activities and work involved is clear. Even though we are flexible with this, if the situation gets out of control like you said, you can always go back to that document. Maybe create a new one for a different amount of course.n2) We define the internal team that will work with us. This way we understand what are they going to be doing and in what capacity. If the scope is too big for example, we would tell the customer that it can’t be achieved with the current workforce. Then you reset expectations or start from a level down.

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Hi Barney, I often work where my payments are largely results based. This is more lucrative, gives me a competitive advantage and I enjoy working in this way. However itu2019s not a good idea for many companies for many of the reasons that you mentioned above. In scoping out projects, other points for me are: Where is the business now, what evidence exists to support this and how was it measured? Where does the business need/want to go, what evidence is there that this is possible how will it be measured? Getting many businesses even big ones to measure ROI is often one of the hardest tasks I find, great share.

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Barney, nnre: if you are using contractors or consultants to fulfil longer term key roles within your organisation, then you would be better to bite the bullet and engage a full time member of staff.nnThat makes sense, though I’ve been on projects where they deliberately churn contractors to keep the best by making it competitive, eg with short contracts.

  • Facundo

    Good post Barney. In reading it together with the comments, I see a lot of points of view for the company side and the project. If we go to the contractor side, in my case we are lucky to be a team so it’s easier to maintain scope (i.e. the client cannot drag us all into something very out of the way). I see the a clear risk for consultants who work on their own and start with a nice pool of clients but then end up almost employed full time by a client, which is very tempting. Specially when the economy sneezes they are either let go or have to accept lower rates from their now “employer” since they don’t have that client base anymore…

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Hi Niall. Thanks for the valuable addition to the conversation. Considering the broader business requirements as part of the scoping exercise is an excellent idea. Cheers

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Hi Ivan. Agree 100% – you are far better off just biting the bullet and employing full time. If your business needs a consultant or contractor for longer than a few months or perhaps for a major project, then they need an FTE! Thanks for adding.

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Hi Ivan. Agree 100% – you are far better off just biting the bullet and employing full time. If your business needs a consultant or contractor for longer than a few months or perhaps for a major project, then they need an FTE! Thanks for adding.

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Hi Fred. Thanks and also thanks very much for adding to the list of things to help prevent the problem in the first place! Some valuable additions – cheers

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Hi Fred. Thanks and also thanks very much for adding to the list of things to help prevent the problem in the first place! Some valuable additions – cheers

  • onebusiness brokers

    Nice article Barney. Regarding this topic I am also write some blogs which is very interesting subject for me. Considering the broader business requirements as part of the scoping exercise is an excellent idea.

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