Management January 13, 2011 Last updated January 13th, 2011 1,488 Reads share

Consultancy Engagement And Scope Control

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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

Barney Austen

Barney Austen

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!

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