Managing Consulting projects: 6 tips to do it right

When you are buying services, and in particular intangible services like consulting, the bulk of the work comes after the procurement process has ended.

On this week’s Smart consulting Sourcing podcast, Consulting Sourcing Expert Hélène Laffitte explains how to better manage consulting projects.

Key Takeaways

Sourcing the right consultants is important, but so is putting them in the right conditions to deliver. Too many consulting projects fail because the client is not managing them properly. Don’t be that guy who buys a fancy new toy and leaves it on the shelf.

Transcript

Hello and welcome to the episode 38 of our podcast: Smart Consulting Sourcing, THE podcast about Consulting Procurement.

My name is Hélène, and I’ll be your host today.

Each week I’ll give you the keys to better use, manage and source consulting services. This week, I’ll discuss how to better manage consulting projects

Last week, I explained how Clients can Benefit by Providing and Receiving Feedback from Consultants not selected on a project

We saw that by providing feedback to the other Consultants, you will improve supplier competitiveness, and ultimately increase the potential for positive outcomes. But more importantly, this will help you toward better project implementation. Also asking for feedback will position you as being committed to good practices, openness, and transparency.

When you are buying services, and in particular intangible services like consulting, the bulk of the work comes after the procurement process has ended. You have to monitor and manage the outcomes of the project, but also the project itself. Indeed, consulting projects very rarely play out as planned. Let me give you 6 tips to better manage consulting projects

1. Get organized to manage your consulting projects.

Managing a consulting project is first and foremost managing a project. The same principles apply. To maximize the chances of success of your project, you will need to manage these three elements:

  • Stakeholders – This is project management 101. Align the stakeholders to make sure they will support the project and collaborate with the project team and the consultants.
  • Project – You need to put in place the best practices for project management: define the work plan, clarify the roles and responsibilities, and put in place a clear governance.
  • Change – Always obvious, but more often overlooked, change management is a key success factor for consulting projects. Anticipate the resistance to change in the teams impacted by the project and define strategies to address each situation.

2. Monitor the performance.

Don’t wait until the end of the project to evaluate the performance and share your results with the consultants. The reasons for low performance can be multiple and simultaneous. It could come from the Consulting Firm (capabilities, skills, experience, staffing, etc.) or your teams (low priority, staffing, etc). In any case, it is best to sit down with the Consulting Firm to discuss and understand the issue and find solutions together.

3. Manage the Consulting contract.

When you are working with external consultants, you also have to manage the relationship. First, you will have to track the changes in the project that can touch on scope, staffing, timeline, or unforeseen events.

When these changes are substantial, you should consider amending the contract. In any case, keep a trace of the changes in the minutes of the Steering Committees.

For very large projects, you should consider organizing a formal mid-project review. You can cover both the changes to the statement of work and the quality of the outcome.

It should not prevent you from checking in regularly with the Consulting Firm to anticipate potential slips in the project scope and timeline and allow your provider to fix the problem.

Consider the consulting firm as your partner with a common objective: the success of your project. Be unbending on the quality of the outcomes. Give them feedback on their performance and visibility on payments.

4. Wrapping up – Anticipate and prepare for when the Consultant departs.

Maybe you have prepared the transition from the start (in other words, in your RFP), and included the transition plan and regular check-ins in the deliverables. If that’s not the case, make sure to prepare for when the consultant leaves.

Once you have decided what recommendations you will act on, you have to organize how you will act. You should also consider the transfer of knowledge in particular if the project implemented a new organization or technology. And you should define this plan with the consultant at hand.

Prepare the performance assessment for the Consulting Firm by gathering the information collected along with the project.

5. Don’t hesitate to end the contract earlier.

Sometimes Consulting Projects have to be closed earlier than expected. Many changes can happen between the moment you decide to work with consultants and the end of the consulting projects.

The context can change or the management team. If that’s the case, continuing the project as it is might just be a loss of energy and money. Always find ways to adapt the scope to your needs. And terminate the contract if you must and if the consequences will be acceptable.

6. Close the project neatly.

Whatever the reason for terminating the project early, don’t rush into it. Take the time to analyze the impact of the termination and the probability of success of another consulting project.

Prepare also what to communicate with your teams involved in the project.

At that point, you should have paid the consulting provider based on the delivery, and accrued the budget until the end of the project. Keep the last invoices on your desk until you are sure that the project is delivered in full. That will give you enough leverage to get back to finish the project.

When you think the project is closed, and the invoices are approved for payment, you can take the time to debrief the consultants on their performance on the project.

If you use these 6 tips, you’ll definitely be in a better place. Sourcing the right consultants is important, but so is putting them in the right conditions to deliver. Too many consulting projects fail because the client is not managing them properly. Don’t be that guy who buys a fancy new toy and leaves it on the shelf.

That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll explain How to Streamline Your Sourcing Process So You Can Have More Time for Things You Love

In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to learn more about what we do at consulting quest, just send me an email at helene.laffitte@consultingquest.com

You can also have a look at our website smartconsultingsourcing.com to know more about our book and download free templates & guides to improve your consulting sourcing.

Bye and see you next week! Au revoir!

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Helene Laffitte

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting. To find out more, visit the blog or contact her directly.

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