How Do You Know If You Really Need An Outside Consultant?

outside consultant

If you are embarking on an organizational transformation, a large platform migration, or a complete overhaul in the way a part of your business works, how do you know whether it would be worthwhile to hire an outside consultant?

1. Assess your internal talent pool

Before you can know what you need, you need to know what you have. Whether you are implementing a new technology or a new way of working, it pays to know who in your company not only has experience with what you are moving to but also who has been through a similar transition. An employee with experience using the new technology at a company where it has been in use for a decade may not necessarily be prepared for the bumps in the road faced when setting up the system from scratch and migrating all the data from the current platform.

While the technical talent is important (both the number of people available and their skill level), it is just as important to know if you have the in-house talent to manage the change and the associated training. If you have a strong training department but they are unfamiliar with the subject matter, you may have different needs than if there isn’t anyone that does training because everyone can “just learn from their co-workers on the job”.

When thinking about who could manage the coordination and communication of the roll-out, think about how well similar past initiatives were received at the company and if it was as smooth as you think it should have been. If not, you may want to consider an outside consultant.

2. What would be the impact if this went poorly?

Now that you know your in-house capabilities, what would be the impact if the weakest links didn’t step up to the challenge like you hope they would? From a technical aspect, if there is no experience with the setup and configuration of a new technology, how much time and expense would be wasted if something was done wrong the first time around? Could the cost of having an outside consultant not only consult on the best practices but also provide guidance and training to in-house staff throughout the process outweigh the potential opportunity cost of months of delays, rework, or bad customer experience?

From an operations perspective, think about the potential for lost revenue or customer dissatisfaction if employees are not properly trained or a clear communications plan isn’t executed. A system isn’t of much use if nobody wants to use it.

3. Talk to a few experts

Once you’ve identified the areas of greatest risk in attempting what you are about to do (or you have come to the realization it has already gone off the rails and needs to be rescued), bring in an outside consultant that has successfully navigated these waters before.

Ask not only about past experience, but what red flags they have seen and what their process is for identifying and mitigating risks. Anyone with a lot of past client experience can give you an idea of what makes for smooth sailing and what could sink you. They can tell you how to avoid the unmitigated disaster that caused that huge client to flee, as well as some key elements that led to the game-changing success that gave the project sponsor a big promotion.

With the understanding of the potential impact of any missing in-house capabilities, reinforced by the experience of experts, you can weigh the risks and benefits and make the decision that provides the most value to your organization with the highest likelihood of success.

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