Friday, January 11, 2013

IT Projects - Keys to Success #2 - The consultant

IT Introductions are major investments in time, dollars, human energy, and business opportunity costs (the things you can't do while you're doing something else).

These investments are often mission critical systems, forming the DNA of the organization.  They are data repositories, systems for order management and fulfillment, customer contact systems, and telephony interfaces.  Clearly these projects can have a dramatic impact on organizational performance.

Given the major challenges of these IT introductions, organizations often use external consultants to advise and provide everything from project management to change management.  External consultants have the expertise and they can staff up or down, depending on the needs of the project.

A few considerations:
  1. IT consultants are not part of your organization - that's a double-edged sword.  They will take up much time learning what your organization does and that translates into $$$, Euros, Pounds, Yen ... name your currency. 
  2. Not being part of your organization allows them to push and say things internal people may not feel comfortable addressing.  That's a good thing, and a key lever to use during organizational change.
  3. IT consultants will not be working for your organization after the project is done ... at least not for a while.  They are not as invested in the outcome as you are.  They can leave; you remain. 
  4. During the sales process, IT consultants are likely to provide a glamorous view of projected savings, improved revenues, employee satisfaction, and myriad other benefits.  This is normal and natural, but ... their projections may not be realistic.  I haven't seen companies check out the BEFORE and AFTER effects of an IT implementation, comparing initial projections with actuals.  You may want to consider that in your assessment ... and in your contract.
  5. Finally, most IT projects run over on time and cost ... it's a fact of organizational life.  When push comes to shove (and it often does) IT consultants will want to cut time to reduce cost.  That's not a bad idea, but it can cause problems if they cut critical process analysis steps.
Cutting the Wrong Corners Can Lead to Disaster.

Organizations don't do massive IT projects every day, and thus they need the assistance of IT consultants who can manage the details.  A bit of caution is in order ... take the time to understand the relationship you have with the consultant ... set careful boundaries and expectations.  After all, they are working for you!

Next time: Managing Scope

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