TIME TO READ: 5 MINUTES
Hiring an outside IT consultant can help you accomplish complex projects in the short-term, or give you a strategic advantage in the long-term.
However, if not done right, it can also alienate your current team members.
Why? It's because your IT staff, whether they're a team of one or a team of fifty, they ARE a team. They have their own workflow, and their own sense of how "things should run."
What happens if you introduce a consultant into the mix? That's what we're talking about in this "WOOF!".
A Consultant is an Ally to Your Team, Augmenting Their Capabilities
We've entered customer locations thousands of times. Overall, teams can react in a few ways. Here's the order, from best to worst reaction.
BEST: Welcoming the consultant. The team takes advantage of the consultant's expertise and the opportunity to learn from them.
OKAY: Acceptance of the consultant. The team allows the consultant access, and treats them as another team member.
BAD: Passive resistance to the consultant. The team denies (or "slow walks") giving access to some systems. Some team members don't respond to requests in a timely manner.
WORST: Rejection of the consultant/refusal to work with them. The team puts new restrictions on everyone's accounts. Team members question the consultant's experience or strategy. They may even put up roadblocks for the
consultant, and/or give them misinformation to block their success.
Obviously, you want to see at least Acceptance, if not Welcoming.
The good news: It's not difficult to get positive reactions from your IT team...but it does take some planning.
Test to Avoid Hiring a Consultant You Shouldn't
Before introducing any consultant, there's one thing every business should do...vet them!
You don't want anyone working with your IT team who could damage your systems. The consultant must:
- Add a value the current team doesn't have, AND
- Bring the expertise to solve a current problem, AND
- Can readily point to collaborative projects with in-house IT teams.
Verifying all of these is your first step in vetting. (If they object at this stage, move on—fast!)
Here are additional vetting steps you can employ.
- Have them clarify their operations.
- How do they normally communicate progress?
- Do they do everything by "their process," or will they work with your processes?
- Can they estimate time for solving the original problem?
- What's the consultant's goal when it comes to interacting with your team?
- What's their plan if something goes wrong?
- Ask them to go through a previous project, "warts and all." Make it clear you want to hear what went wrong, and what the consultant did to fix it.
- If this is the start of a longer-term relationship, ask the consultant to describe other customer relationships they have.
It never hurts to be thorough. A professional consultant will expect vetting. An unprofessional consultant will try to get out of it.
The Foolproof Plan (Mostly) for Adding a Consultant into Your IT Team
Stage 1: Planning Ahead
- Identify the tasks you need done.
- Make sure the consultant has the relevant experience to address those tasks (per the vetting steps above).
- Request a detailed Statement of Work (SOW) from the consultant, to illustrate what they'll do.
Stage 2: Start the Relationship on an Even Footing
- Talk with your team as early as possible.
- Tell them that you want to bring in a consultant for X tasks.
- Reassure them nobody's job is at risk. Nor is this a failure on their part.
- Frame it as "an extra resource, to take some pressure off of [your team]."
- Ask your team who'd like to serve as primary contact with the consultant.
- This way you're not 'forcing' someone to do it.
- You may have to choose the contact anyway. Choose someone who can manage their time well, and whom other team members respect.
- Ask your IT team to share their thoughts on the consultant's plan.
- Everyone should agree to the plan before proceeding. If your team has an objection, take it seriously and discuss it with the consultant.
- Settle on a communications method for everyone to use. It should be the same as your IT team's primary communication method.
- Set at least 3 milestones on the project.
- Treat the consultant as a new team member.
- Ask the consultant to provide detailed descriptions of their billable time.
- Have them meet the primary contact first, and then the rest of the team after.
- Make the consultant's contact information available to the whole team, in case they need to chat.
- If possible, provide the consultant with internal email and chat accounts so they can communicate just like everyone else.
Stage 3: Check In as the Consultant Delivers (and the Relationship Builds)
- Schedule check-ins with both the consultant and your primary contact at regular intervals. A weekly in-person or Teams meeting works great.
- Look for:
- Milestones reached in solving the original problem.
- Any communication issues or roadblocks to success.
Consultant-Staff Relationships Make Everything Stronger—If You're Transparent
This is a little more effort than just calling up a consultant and tossing them in your team.
Approaching it this way pays dividends, though. Huge dividends.
- Your IT team gains a valuable resource, to tackle a big problem, and/or boost their capabilities going forward.
- The team members know they're heard and respected by management.
- IT staff don't feel blindsided or insulted by your bringing a consultant on board.
- The consultant knows this client has their priorities straight, and knows they must deliver their best work.
- Management has a bigger pool of IT expertise to draw from.
A little planning makes a big difference!
Could an IT consultant with specific expertise help your team? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss bringing on a PlanetMagpie consultant.