What does an outside consulting team bring to the table aside from the discrete set of technical skills listed on its Capabilities Statement? They’ve been around and seen a lot; they have experience, and with it comes the seasoned judgment and timing that can only be had by knocking around different environments and learning from the mistakes of others. Experience can’t be taught. Experience teaches. And, there is only one way to get it.
Julius Caesar famously said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” True enough, as far as it goes. Almost 1,000 years later, a philosopher added: “Experience is a good school. But the fees are high.” That last bit of wisdom reveals the hidden value of bringing a team on board who has already paid their dues! How do you find such a team?
1. Understand there is a difference between a contracting company’s experience and the experience of individual team members. Just because a company has broad and deep experience does not mean that each team member or manager has the same experience. Quite the contrary! After impressing you and gaining your contract with their seasoned staff, these companies try to gain experience for their low-cost, inexperienced staff on your project. Everyone has to gain their experience somewhere, but your company and your project are special: You don’t want to help pay those “high fees” for someone else!
2. You spent time researching and surfacing the contracting company. But it does not stop there. Make sure you interview the key members who will be assigned to you. While the company’s experience and institutional knowledge are important, the experience of the individuals assigned to your project is every bit as critical. They are the ones who will be making on-the-spot decisions, the ones who need to have the experience and judgment to say, “The emperor has no clothes!” if it comes to that. Do these key members have experience on similar projects for companies similar in size, industry, and culture? How long have they been engaged on such projects? Ask them about the mistakes and disasters they have seen and what they learned from them. Ask how they would have handled things differently now, based on their experience. If it is a small team, ask to talk to, or at least get information on, each of them.
3. If you are happy with the contracting company’s experience and you are happy with the experience of the key consultants, nail it all down in writing. In the contract, name the personnel you expect to have on your project and their roles. Make provisions for substitutions if necessary by having a clause that describes the capabilities and experience of each position, but also provides for your prequalifying replacements. You have invested your time and company resources to get to this point; don’t fall victim to a “bait and switch.” There are plenty of companies out there looking for a way to get your company to pay the high fees of the school of experience for their people.
When you hire a consulting company, it is the experience of the resources coming through your gateway that is going to determine the success and timely completion of your project. The way to assure you are getting what you need is to look behind the curtain and be mindful of that from the very beginning of the engagement process.
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Since 1996, the staff here at Dumas Software Services has helped numerous companies with their software development needs. For a trustworthy group to help with your project, contact us today by giving us a call at 770-753-9623.