Setting Your Consulting Project Up for Success: Part 1 | Getting Started


By Caitlin Perry

Trusting an outside team to help grow your business can be scary. Terrifying, even. What if you pay tens of thousands of dollars and see no results? Or end up with a solution that doesn’t actually solve any of your operational issues? What if your staff has a hard time grasping the new processes? Or worse, ignores them completely, leaving you back at square one?

These concerns are valid, and we’re here to ease your mind. With the right partner, the right approach and the right mindset, you can lay the groundwork for successful consulting projects that are sure to transform your business and drive long-term results. Read the first installment of our four-part blog series to learn how.

 

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You did it! You’ve identified critical operational gaps or inefficiencies, convinced the executive team that it’s time to address them and found the budget to hire the perfect consulting team for the job. Now what?

Operational change can be a long, expensive road, and we’ve all been a part of the chaos that comes between project approval and kickoff. The early, pre-sale stages of a big project always seem to be the most daunting, but don’t panic – this quick guide to jumpstarting your consulting project will help you find the right partner, navigate the sales process and prioritize the key deliverables your project needs to address.

 

Step #1 | Know Your Company

Before you begin engaging potential consulting partners, it’s important to do something no one enjoys – take a good, honest look in the mirror. Not at the specific business issues that you’re looking to improve upon with your project, but at how your company has historically handled its evolving needs. Reflect on questions like:

  • Does your company tend to struggle with change?
  • What’s your company’s reputation around adopting new technologies or solutions?
  • What’s your team’s realistic capacity to help where needed throughout the project without dropping the ball on everyday responsibilities?
  • And most importantly, did your last major project yield the results you were hoping for?

Having too much going on internally or not being honest about the state of your business can hinder the success of any project. In order for a consulting team to roll out a new process or solution, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of your company’s track record and priorities, and be able to communicate that to potential partners from day one. This early transparency will help your consulting team plan accordingly to account for what has and has not worked for your company in the past. 

BONUS: Download our free Know Your Company worksheet to help get you started with your self-evaluation!

 

Step #2 | Find Your Perfect Partner

Every company has a personality. And in order to build a long-lasting, mutually beneficial partnership, you’ll need to find a consulting partner whose identity and approach meshes with yours. For example:

YOU: Need your new solution or processes up and running pronto.

YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER: Should be known for accelerating complex projects without skimping on solution design and end-user training.

 

YOU: Want to challenge your team to think big or outside the box.

YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER: Should focus on pushing organizational boundaries and breaking down barriers.

 

YOU: Know your users require ample training in order to maximize adoption of new solutions.

YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER: Should value education and specialize in hands-on or ongoing training options, even if it means stretching project timelines or budgets.

 

YOU: Work almost exclusively with a specific software – and it’s not currently living up to its potential.

YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER: Should be an expert in that software, in order to help pinpoint and fix problem areas for a more successful implementation.

 

YOU: Don’t know much about the available tech that can help bridge your organizational gaps.

YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER: Should prefer to be heavily involved in the solution evaluation and selection process.

 

YOU: Operate in an industry with strict regulations or compliance standards.

YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER: Should have ample experience building solutions for clients in your industry or other heavily regulated industries.

 

Even if none of these scenarios match your exact situation, you get the idea. When it comes to consulting partners, technical expertise alone should not drive your final decision. Choose a company that understands your needs, values open and frequent communication, provides a reliable team for the life of your project, and connects with your team from the first conversation.

 

Step #3 |  Sign the Statement of Work

Once you begin digging into project details, you’ll collaborate with your consulting partner sales rep to help them understand your high level needs, budget, timelines and preferred approach, all of which will play a role in developing the project’s Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW will serve as the initial project outline for your project team, specifying the services they’re expected to perform from discovery through go-live.

Many items will be thrown out in the open during the sales process, but only mutually agreed upon items should make it into the SOW. Avoid these common SOW missteps to ensure a smooth project every step of the way. 

1 | Assuming that everything you discuss automatically makes it into the SOW.
The SOW’s purpose is to distill your sales conversations into actionable, deliverable project details – not to capture every single wish list item you mention. As such, it’s crucial to carefully read (not just skim) the SOW before signing on the dotted line. If it’s important to you at this stage of the project, make sure it’s in the SOW from the get-go.

2 | Not speaking up about concerns (even the tiny ones).
Communication is key to a successful project, so don’t hold back if something doesn’t look quite right. Bring up any and all concerns you have up front – what may seem small during pre-sales conversations could cost you at go-live.

3 | Being tempted to throw in the kitchen sink.
Don’t be scared to keep the SOW focused. Making a project too big can take away from the main objectives and dilute your solution’s success in solving your most pressing issues. If you uncover other critical problems during early conversations, your consulting partner will help you break the project/SOW into meaningful phases to clarify priorities and timelines and ensure that each milestone along the way helps you achieve specific goals more effectively

 

Step #4 |  Send a Memo

With all of the early conversations going on, it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows about your project. Luckily, that’s an easy fix! Schedule a brief all-hands-on-deck meeting or send a company-wide email with high level project details to get everyone up to speed prior to kick-off.

Before communicating the project details to the internal masses, be sure to establish specific success criteria surrounding the desired outcome. Success varies for everyone, depending on roles and responsibilities. Without communicating a clearly defined path to the new normal, you’ll leave the project goals open for interpretation and be held to many sets of differing expectations.

Need help getting everyone on board? Selecting an executive sponsor to back up the rationale or business case for the project can be a great way to show the company’s commitment to the success of both the project and the new solutions or processes that come from it. An executive sponsor can help communicate details, push user adoption, navigate change at different project stages and ensure the project team consists of the right people.

 

NEXT UP? DISCOVERY.
And with that, you’re off! As you get ready to dive into discovery with your project team, remember: You and your consultants are creating a long-term partnership built on trust and communication. If everyone on both sides of the project team sticks to frequent and open conversation, fairness at every turn, and an adaptable mindset, you won’t be disappointed.

Have additional questions about getting started with your consulting project? Contact Canpango’s expert consultants today!

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