By Cathy Dew
In today’s gig economy, it seems like everyone and her sister is calling themselves consultants. This is especially true in the business process and intranet design and development spaces.
Sometimes freelancers are picking up the moniker to add panache (and a bigger payday) to their offerings, and other times it’s a tactic used by side hustlers wanting to turn their avocations into full-throttle vocations.
And sometimes, a consultant can actually be an experienced, professional, business-savvy expert who adds so much value to your enterprise that bringing her in to fix what ails your company is worth the (hopefully competitive) investment of company resources.
Qualifying Consultants: Questions to Ask
If you have already figured out that you need a business process consultant or outside intervention to construct or complete an employee intranet (or both), it’s time to start qualifying those candidates. Here are some questions to ask anyone claiming suitability for your systemic needs.
What are your credentials to take on this engagement?
With this question, you’re looking for a combination of experience and education. How many years has the consultant been working in this particular field? When your engagement concerns business process support and analysis, you want to make sure that the person you are working with has the ability to dive deep into complex processes. Look for someone with information architect credentials that is also proficient in evaluating and designing business systems that promote user experience. If your project involves help designing and/or incorporating an intranet or extranet into your enterprise, look for a team with UI and UX design experience as well.
What is your track record of success with companies like mine?
Qualified consultants have a track record. They have enough street cred in the field to give you comfort that you can turn over critical data and information about internal controls, procedures, and processes and they will understand their application and importance to your business. True professionals will also understand the importance of keeping your proprietary and other business confidential information, you know, confidential.
Ask for references (and call them). Meet with the prospective consultants in person (and ask them) about their experience with the type of business process issues your company is experiencing.
How do you think you will fit in with our company culture?
One of the most important characteristics you will need in a consultant is corporate culture compatibility. And that is going to be dependent on the consultant’s adaptability to new environments. No matter how experienced the consultant is they have never been in a company environment exactly like yours. Your company is unique and you need a consultant who can take what she knows from other engagements and use that knowledge to adapt to your work culture and the rhythms of your operations seamlessly. She needs to show that she can hit the job running, without experiencing culture shock or engaging in off-putting behaviors that will create internal resistance or, at the very least, suspicion about motives and competence.
Ask a few of your team leaders into your qualifying meetings for the sole purpose of gauging culture compatibility. It will matter more than you might suspect.
How do you balance potential resistance to your role in this company with the need to be persistent to get the job done?
Bringing in a consultant role in any company is bound to produce resistors. But when the role is as a business process consultant—meaning the person you hire might be seen as an interloper or a hatchet-man—can be challenging for both the consultant and your workers and managers.
Business process consultants in particular often come in with a scarlet C hanging from their necks. While it’s your job as a company leader to prime your personnel to exhibit minimal resistance—after all a business process consultant’s job is to make your company run more efficiently, to actually help people gain the resources they need to perform at a higher level, and increase their employee experiences—the reality is that the process is disconcerting to many, and could be an annoying interruption to a few.
An accomplished consultant understands and empathizes with her clients (and make no mistake, her clients include your hard-working employees) and will have the skills necessary to push to get the information she needs while reassuring the rank-and-file that her goal is to make the company better and more profitable to the benefit of all. She is a good resource and a better listener. You’ll know you found a consultant with the emotional intelligence to accomplish the job when you get feedback from your employees that they feel heard.
What type of a timeframe do you need to accomplish set deliverables and how can you ensure your ability to stay on task and on budget?
In a word, you are looking for a consultant who has great discipline. You need someone who can gauge the scope of an assignment and who can bring home the bacon (as it were) in the greatest quantity in the shortest amount of time. You want someone who has great creative problem solving skills and would never resort to presenting cookie-cutter solutions for a company as unique as yours. Look out, however, for anyone who promises too much too fast. If he sounds too good (and too cheap) to be true, he probably is. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing value, but don’t sacrifice experience and quality to save a few bucks. That old adage about being “penny wise but dollar foolish” is appropriate here.
Before You Choose a Business Process Consultant, Call 2Plus2
Over the past 20 years, the information architects, UI and UX designers at 2Plus2 have proven their worth to hundreds of clients around the world.
To learn more about how 2Plus2 can help elevate your business processes, reach out to us online or call us today at 510-652-7700. Initial consultations are always free.