There are only three legitimate times to hire a consultant.
Is your company or department is about to hire an outside resource? Or are you an outside contractor? Be smart. Look at the situation and ask yourself these three questions:
1) Is this a competency that is missing internally that we need to utilize quickly?
Examples of that would include:
- A need to build a forecasting algorithm with high level mathematics that doesn’t exist within the company
- Advice on international copyright laws which your in-house counsel does not know.
2) Is this a short-term need for which it would be foolish to build long term staffing?
Examples would be:
- year end auditors
- physical inventory counts
- high peak workload in a particular department.
3) Is this a politically tinged initiative or project?
It may be best to bring in an outside resource when delivering hard news, driving change among headstrong management or brokering an agreement between powerful stakeholders.
If you answer “yes” to one of these three questions, then an outside resource is likely the best solution.
Also, consider if there is a need for a long-term resource. Does your company pay top dollar to bring in outside Project Managers and Change Management teams for strategic company initiatives? Do EVP’s include a six to seven figure line item to bring in a bevy of consultants for their projects? Many retailers look holistically at their needs and realize that can justify internal resources. Creating a business transformation office can include project managers and change specialists who become a shared resource. Retailers can look at the cost model for projects year after year and save millions of dollars.
As a consultant, I don’t want to put myself or my brethren out of work. But ethical consultants know that unhealthy relationships exist when clients are too dependent on outside resources. The times that I have been brought in that I think were very smart include when senior management needed external validation on a project’s assumptions or business case, when systems integration required detailed knowledge of technical requirements that outstripped the IT team’s experience, and when a project had to be supported by multiple departments or external partners who had the ability to derail the project.
Retailers: Before investing in an outside resource, think of these three questions.
Consultants: Before making a pitch to a client, ask yourself if you can honestly meet one of these three needs.