Reasons For Hiring Consultants

Requiring the assistance of consultants can be due to a number of circumstances. Sometimes, as in the case of Y2K projects, consultants are needed because they possess a certain level of skill and experience to carry out specific work. Assignments of that type are referred to in the consulting industry as staff supplementation.

Managing supplemental staff is the most straightforward. Usually, such consultants work under the direct control of a manager, and assignments are closely monitored. Most staff supplementation assignments are completed satisfactorily. Any problems that may arise can be easily handled because the scope of the consulting assignment is limited, and the IT manager responsible for the effort thoroughly understands the project.

When an IT project grows in size and complexity, IT management often has to decide whether or not the department has the necessary resources and experience. When the answer is no, bringing in consultants is the answer. IT projects need not be large or complex to require the assistance of consultants. In smaller projects, an IT department may not have the required staff or skill. In such a case, bringing in a consulting firm is a sound business decision.

When an organization decides to adopt new technology, it must weigh the risk associated with that technology and how long it will be until the technology yields benefits. Both risks can be reduced by hiring consultants experienced with a particular new technology. Because consultants are involved in a variety of assignments for different clients, they often become familiar with the new technology as soon as it is introduced and thereby provide sound assistance.

When considering a consulting firm for implementing new technology, move carefully. It is easy for an unscrupulous consultant to quickly gain superficial knowledge of a given technology. Such consultants banter about new terms associated with an emerging technology to deceive potential customers. IT managers must see beyond a consultant's marketing approach in order to clearly determine the level of skill and experience the consultant has with the new technology.

Another word of caution: some consultants work well with the technology but lack skill in dealing with people and documenting assignments. When selecting a consultant in new areas of technology, find someone who not only can deal with the technology, but can also provide training and documentation. The goal is not only to move to a new technology, it is also to be certain that the IT organization can manage the new technology once a consultant leaves.

IT management sometimes decides to turn an entire project over to a consulting organization because of resource or skill constraints. Sometimes, giving an entire project over to consultants is done reluctantly. Sometimes, particularly in projects seen as high risk or otherwise undesirable, IT management willingly hands over an assignment to consultants.

Often, consultants are given full responsibility for legacy systems because IT organizations would rather not manage these systems, which poses processing and management challenges. Handing over legacy systems to consultants cannot be seen as a final solution to legacy-related problems. IT management must oversee them. If, in handing the work over to consultants, an IT department has not remained aware of changes made in legacy applications or in operational procedures, unfortunate surprises may arise.

If an IT function is poorly managed or is perceived to be poorly managed by senior management, consultants may be hired to manage the IT department. In such circumstances, members of the IT department are not going to be in a position to exercise control over the consultants. As such, consultants are in charge, often in spite of pronouncements from senior management that such is not the case. Dealing with this type of situation is beyond the scope of this chapter, but it is worth noting.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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