Having spent a number of years in this business, I have seen the good, bad, and the downright ugly. While consulting companies can unfairly be saddled with blame when things take a turn for the worse, there are often subtle “dirty tricks” that allow consulting companies to happily watch billable hours stack up while the client suffers. Here are a few of the worst and most common offenders:
Enabling indecisiveness. Many organizational endeavors (IT or otherwise) fail when decisions are not made quickly and effectively. When you have a large consulting team that likely helps manage the project at hand, they can sabotage budgets and burn cash simply by enabling indecisiveness, and allowing low-level analysts on the client and consultant side to accept any and all scope changes. While not exactly a “Johnny Neer-do-well” level of nefariousness, billable hours tick by unchecked as the consulting team dutifully schedules and attends endless meetings and stands idly by as a three-day decision drags into a multi-month debate.
Going after the “cool stuff” at the client’s expense. Everyone in tech loves the new, exciting and often untried, consultants and vendors included. While every organization should be pursuing some R&D-style experimental efforts, many consulting companies pitch something as “stable” when it is beta at best. Trusting a key process to half-baked systems is a sure way to pump up billable hours, and risk the whole implementation going bad to boot.
Reinventing the wheel. The big firms pitch their methodologies and associated tools and templates as a big benefit and cost saver. Yet, when the implementation starts, they happily rebuild it all at the whims of some midlevel manager who doesn’t like the layout. On a large project, this can easily be a five or six-figure endeavor. Are pretty documents worth that much to your company?
So how does one “stop the insanity?” There is no shame in seeking an outside advocate with no vested interest in the project. For smaller efforts, this could be someone internal who is not connected or compensated for the project’s success, or an external resource who has your best interests at heart. Ideally, this person gains nothing financially when the project stalls or drags on, and is not looking for opportunities to get their implementation team on the ground (I just might know a guy).
Trust your gut when something seems fishy, and above all stamp out “stealth” scope increases and inefficient decision making. Lopping a few days off a project schedule will do far more for your budget than calling in the expense police and forcing the team to stay at the Fleabag Inn.