Chain Reactions

How Is A Consultant Like A Laxative?

Answer: When they work like they're supposed to, they provide all sorts of health benefits health to a person or to a company which makes everybody much more pleasant. When they don't work correctly, there is a lot of discomfort and internal problems, not to mention a hard-to-shake dependency on them.

Okay, that's not all that funny of a punchline, but then again, it's not really supposed to read like a joke. The above comparison (and to be precise, it should actually be comparing IT consultants with fiber supplements, but I needed a punchier headline) comes courtesy of Bruce Skaistis, an IT consultant himself and the founder of eGlobal CIO Advisors.

According to Skaistis, there are three keys to using consultants effectively:

1. Use them where they add value. "The only time you should use consultants to do something members of your team can do," he says, "is if you need to free up your people to work on something that will produce even more value for the enterprise."

2. Clearly define your partnership. He suggests you define in writing what you expect from a consultant, including specific objectives, responsibilities and key performance factors. "You also need to clearly define costs and incentives," he adds, "and I recommend spelling out an approach for addressing and resolving problems."

3. Actively manage the consultants and their activities. "Some consultants resent being closely managed," he acknowledges, "but it has to happen if you are going to get the most out of your consultants. Consultants are service providers and you are paying for their services so you have a right to make sure you are getting what you are supposed to be getting from the consultants."

Skaistis also offers this observation: "Fiber supplements have warning labels that tell you what can happen if you misuse the supplements. Maybe consultants should have warning labels too."

TAGS: Supply Chain
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