Please Send Me The Right Consultant This Time


Increasingly, IT services executives from the most innovative cloud, machine learning and DevOps software companies tell me they can’t find and train enough people to deliver their solutions to meet customer demands. They turn to business partner and staffing channels for project outsourcing, particularly when they need emerging cloud technologies. They worry: Do they bet their business on consultants or staffing organizations set in their ways? Do they risk their reputation with customers? Will everything be ok?

Everything can and will be ok, especially if the IT services executives do proper due diligence up front about both the staffing company they keep and the consultants they engage. The dynamics of the emerging cloud environment, the gig economy and the accelerated pace of business have dramatically changed IT consulting. Here are five tips when choosing a staffing partner that can serve as a guide in a new age of rapid IT transformation.

Choose a partner that goes beyond pattern matching. A successful placement requires a consultant with the right technical skills, as well as the soft skills to do the job effectively. Yet executives feel that high turnover staffing companies often sell a consultant whose skills and track record of success haven’t been vetted appropriately against the job needs. Our advice? Ensure your staffing company goes beyond resume trolling and serves up consultant candidates who not only have the current technical skills but also the passion and communications abilities to navigate successfully within the business environment for the duration of the project.

Ensure delivery at its best. It is one thing to know a consultant and casually talk one-on-one; it is entirely another thing to have that consultant work for you. How many successful projects has the consultant delivered in a complementary field? In all honesty, some technologies are too new to have a five-year track record. Dig deep into the consultant’s experience level to see what could translate over into the project at hand. For example, a consultant who has delivered four successful Docker container projects most likely could deliver a Google Cloud Platform project successfully. This can reduce onboarding time and get to key milestones much faster.

Examine the partnering model carefully. The dynamics of today’s business world — and in turn the goals of IT services executives — call for valuable, successful results. Yet staffing companies often measure placements by outsourced projects, not successful outcomes. In our view, meeting the objectives in a statement of work (SOW) and having happy customers trump meeting hourly quotas or the number of projects in play. What to do? Drill into the nature and type of successful outcomes your selected staffing company has generated. Ask them to demonstrate how they have partnered to meet client outcomes.

Have the staffing company tell a story. Services executives stay up at night worrying about what and when things can go wrong. If a consultant is not performing, does the staffing company care or have the capacity to remediate the situation? Ask the staffing company to provide concrete examples of situations that went south, and how they resolved the issue, protecting their client’s reputation and salvaging the project.

Read between the lines on the scope. Scoping hours is a common method to estimate work. However, those hours are couched within the successful completion of a scope of work (SOW). The SOW represents a promise between a customer and a client that services will be performed on time, within budget, and to satisfaction. If the response from your staffing company and consultant don’t lead with this promise, then be concerned. You may be talking to someone wanting to simply book hours.

It is part art and part science to get the right consultant for your most pressing IT work. Don’t fall into old patterns. Upfront homework is essential; the convergence of gig economy talent and emerging cloud technologies gives you more options than ever to find the right consultant. New business models, hot new partners and expert consultants are at the ready for your bet-your-business IT projects. Choose wisely.

Darren Hoch, Partner, Stone Door Group.