Hello, my name is Ben and I am a consultant. I feel like sometimes that’s my introduction to clients. Like it’s a bad thing that I’m there helping them out.
There are a few reasons why you’d bring in a consultant:
- It’s free! A lot of the time, a vendor will throw in free service when you buy the gear. This means I’ll typically come in and guide you through the design/install phase of your shiny new gear!
- To bring in a subject matter expert. Let’s face it, most IT/Networking departments are responsible for more than one particular vendor/platform/architecture. When you’re spread so thin, your knowledge level may be very wide, but not as deep as someone who focuses solely on one technology.
- To temporarily augment your staff. Let’s say you have a huge project deadline coming up in the next 3 months. You don’t want to hire a full-time employee because of two reasons: #1, the ramp up time for a FTE can be measured in WEEKS and the ramp-up time for consultants is typically measured in hours/days. and #2, after the project is over, you’ll have and extra body to feed non-existent work to.
- To bring a new/fresh point of view. If you have a team of experts that have only circulated ideas among themselves for awhile, it could be beneficial to bring in someone who can bring their design and implementation experiences from previous engagements.
- To train your staff. It’s a sad fact, but professional development always takes a back-seat to business needs. If you bring in a consultant, your staff gets the extra help and can pick up tips, tricks, and on-the-job training while the consultant works through the engagement.
- To get the 3rd party support. If you’re trying to push a design change or product implementation to outside departments it always helps to have an outside party. Consultants aren’t biased as to the inner-organization politics. A 3rd party’s opinion that the datacenter needs a refresh will go farther than “We’ve had the same gear for years, it’s time for new gear.” Especially if the two departments have had disagreements in the past.
- To get results. Consultants are focused on one thing. Achieving what they set out to do from the onset. We don’t arrive on-site for any other reason than to finish the engagement with arms raised high in celebration of another success. Our reputation DEPENDS on this!
So, what are some myths about consultants?
- They’re outsourcing me. Trust me, consultants make good money, they’re not out to take your job. Most consultants don’t like super-long engagements, why would they want the same job day-in/day-out?
- They’ll work with my competitors. You’re right. They probably will work with a competitor of yours in the future. But they’ve also probably worked with your competitors previously. They’ve all signed NDA’s, so the “secrets” never go anywhere, but the expertise, tips, tricks, and tools they learned over the years come straight to you. Also, how different do you think your environment REALLY is compared with your competitors? As a networking consultant, the design/implementation changes very little from technology to technology. A lot of the shorter engagements are almost “cookie-cutter” engagements anyway.
- They’re overpaid, lazy, divas with expense accounts. Diva? Well OK. I’m guilty of being a bit of a diva from time to time. 🙂 But are consultants really overpaid? You don’t have to pay them benefits, sick time, PTO, and don’t have to worry about putting them to work after the job is done. As far as laziness, that’s a systemic problem throughout the world, not just a problem with consultants.
- My employers must think I’m stupid. Far from it! They’re willing to put in the time and money to bring someone in to work next-to or under you. Consultants aren’t the bosses. You are. If my clients wanted me to plug in cat5 cables instead of design BGP Route Reflection for VPLS, I’d do it. You know where the consultants are best utilized, we don’t. We were brought in to bring you up to speed on new technology or free up your time so you can use it on more important tasks.
- They’re just here to change and ruin everything. While most of the time we are there to change things. We always want to leave our engagement better than when we found it. We’re nerds and geeks for the most part. We want to optimize, repair, recover, engineer, and solve as many problems in a day that we can. We know the change can be tough on departments after years with the same product. That’s why we’re there. To “ease” you into the mix instead of drop you in and leave.
- They’re terrible at documenting. I’m not the biggest fan of documentation, but if a client REQUIRES documentation, I’ll get it done. This is where project managers come in EXTREMELY handy. They are able to take our technical jargon and pass it to you and the executive team on a regular basis. This frees us up to continue the dirty work in the trenches while satisfying the higher ups with status reports and spreadsheets. 🙂
So, don’t be afraid of consultants. Use them! And if you set the tone from day 1, you’ll find that the whole process will go more smoothly than you could have ever imagined!