SIDEBAR: 10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Consultants.
Who you see is who you get. Consultancies will send their best people to sell you on an enterprise software project. But by the time you make up your mind to buy, those people may not be available. If you meet someone you really like during the sales process, name him in the contract to guarantee he will show up.
Play golf. Businesspeople buy enterprise software, not IT people. Build a relationship with the businesspeople who will sign the consulting cheques so that you will have a say in the choice.
Check the people's references, not the company's. Make the consultancy give you customer references for the managers who have been assigned to you before you sign the contract. Talk with their past customers about specific issues in their performance. Did they miss deliverable dates? How did they deal with the situation?
Ensure knowledge transfer. If you want your internal people to learn from the consultants, write a specific employment contract with each consultant stating that they will remain until the employee they've been paired with has been fully trained.
Get access to their methodology and understand it. Many consultancies have internal project documents they share with each other but not with customers. Demand to see every document that relates to your project - including e-mails - and give your employees access to the Web site the consultants use for the project.
Plan for business improvement, not systems installation. Studies have shown that new ERP systems cost more to support than the systems they replace, so if you don't have specific benefits - reduced transaction costs or improved worker productivity - outlined in your contract, your project will not net much return.
Screen every consultant. Make sure you have someone on staff who is knowledgeable about enterprise software and can grill consultants to make sure they have the skills they represent on their resumes.
Make them come back. It can take companies months or even years to get a big enterprise software system working right. Insert a clause in your contract that brings the consultants back at a reduced rate if the stuff breaks down after they've left.
Push for discounts. Consultancies are willing to discount, especially in these tough times. Gartner found that 80 per cent of consultancies it surveyed were willing to reduce their services fee by 10 per cent to 20 per cent for clients that will give them follow-on work, a big deal or agree to be a customer reference. But don't forsake the goals of your project for a discount. You'll pay more in the end.
Plan for turnover. Turnover among the consultants on big enterprise software projects is inevitable, so make sure you have an internal process for getting a new consultant the basic tools - a work area, a desk, project documentation and so on - so that he can get right to work when he arrives.