I just finished Scott Berkun’s project management book titled Making Things Happen. The book is highly recommended for PM’s and managers alike. One of the more unusual areas was chapter 10, How not to Annoy People. At the beginning Berkun covers the kinds of things that annoy people and I found that every item on the list applies to consultants.
It is impossible to run a successful Dynamics GP practice of any size without consultants. Good Dynamics GP consultants are always in demand, even more so as the economy starts to improve. They are also expensive. So why do companies still do things to annoy their consultants? I’m going to assume it’s just ignorance and we’ll see if we can get better together.
How do partners annoy consultants?
Assume a consultant is an idiot
Consultants were hired to implement Dynamics GP. When consultants are treated as if they can’t do that, it annoys them. A 20 step procedure, daily evaluation, rulebook or any other process that implies that a consultant is not competent is annoying. Certainly the company needs standards but until the consultant proves their incompetence they should be treated as if they can do what they were hired to do.
Don’t trust a consultant
When consultants are expected to check in, double check, triple check and report on decisions that are well within their range of responsibilities, it’s annoying. When consultants have to confirm everything with someone else, they aren’t really consultants, they are robots. If a consultant has demonstrated a reason not to be trusted then management should provide a defined path back to trust or cut them loose.
Waste a consultant’s time
A consultant’s time is precious, they know exactly what it’s worth. It appears on a bill every week. Most consultants I know only have two types of time, billable and family. Anything that wastes either of those is really annoying. When consultants have to over document because management is over protective, it’s annoying. When there are flip flops on important decisions its annoying. When poor management decisions lead to rework and wasted time, it’s annoying. When consultants have their time wasted in unnecessary meetings, it’s annoying.
Manage Consultants without respect
When a project is grossly underestimated and the burden put on the consultant to fix it, it’s annoying. When consultants are given assignments that have no basis in reality it’s disrespectful…and annoying. When a consultant is asked to pick up a book and learn enough Sharepoint to teach an advanced class on it tomorrow, it’s really annoying. A consultant should be supported by management not abandoned by them. Stupid processes fall in here somewhere too but that is a whole other post.
Make consultants listen to or read stupid things
For Dynamics GP consultants this includes asking them to learn stupid things. In my career I’ve been to classes for Siebel, Solomon, CRM and Sharepoint. None of them have advanced my career as a GP consultant. Consultants are asked to read, attend webinars, sit in on meetings, listen in on conference calls. Easily half are annoying. Work hard to identify the half and cut them out. Cut out too much. Good consultants will ask to get back in.
Before anyone tries to read too much into this, I have worked for a number of different partners organizations. I don’t find I.B.I.S. to be very annoying. This not true of some other partners I have worked for. Andy and the folks at I.B.I.S. always treated me with respect and been willing address annoyances when I bring them up. Can your firm say the same thing about your consultants?
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A rather dramatic title for a blog on managing an IT consultancy, I admit. So, why use it?
As a career consultant and professional services manager since the late 80’s, I see a pattern of behavior that repeats itself time and time again: for all the benefit Microsoft technologies can provide a client, and all the strengths a skilled Microsoft partner can provide the same client, at the end of the day most clients and partners find themselves rather dissatisfied with the experience. And yet, I see very little changes in the behavior of most clients or partners to address this issue.
Sure, as an industry we talk (a lot) about client retention, satisfaction and being trusted business advisors so as to create better, stickier clients. And, as clients, we talk (a lot) about vendor management, software selection, RFP processes, etc to better engage and work with a Microsoft partners. And yet such talk culminates in the same behavior each time: a client hires a vendor to do a specific job, expectations are usually different on each side, scope is defined on such mis-set expectations and, when the contracted project is done, the client feels they didn’t get full value and the partners feels they did the job well but are not appreciated.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing each time and expecting a different result, than clearly this constantly repeated behavior indicates a death of reason in the approach to Microsoft Client/Partner relationships.
The purpose behind this blog, then, is two-fold: to provide advice to partners and clients on how to better manage themselves and their relationships, and to engage open discussion and commentary around same. Our contributing authors will come from Microsoft, the Microsoft ecosystem (Partners and ISV’s) and Microsoft clients spanning all industries and all departments (accounting, ops, IT, marketing, sales). The goal is the development of a broad viewpoint on how to improve our ability to manage, and engage, Microsoft consultancies.