• 07/15/2002
    4:00 AM
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Hire Authorities

Before calling in the experts, do your research and get the best consultant for the job. Then be prepared to manage that relationship. here's what you need to know.

You'll also want to take a crack at calculating the project's return on investment. Technology consulting is a business value proposition. As Meta Group analyst Willis says of the digital convergence projects his firm takes on, "If there's not a 12- to 15-month payback, it's just not going to happen."

Unless you've put in some time with project management, trading in netViz for Microsoft Excel may seem like busywork, but trust us: You want columns and numbers when you're making a case to management.

Once management buys in, you'll need to choose the consultant that's right for the job. Your partner firm may be large or small; it may be a pure-play consulting firm or a technology vendor. Regardless of the characteristics, you must pick a consultant whose advice is reliable. "A good consultant's ultimate goal is to be a trusted adviser," Compass America's Kopeck says.

Sources of Info
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Of course, when IT views itself as the trusted adviser, Willis says, "it can be a tough gap." For this reason, it's a good idea to involve internal staff in the entire process, from identifying the need to choosing which scenario makes the most sense and selecting the consulting outfit. It could well be staffers who identified the need for the specific skill or knowledge, so keeping them involved makes the ultimate outcome seem more natural.

How do you pick a trusted adviser? Word of mouth based on first-hand experience carries a lot of weight. Dave Munn, president and CEO of ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association), compares it to finding a doctor: "When it comes to making decisions about whom to use as a heart surgeon, you don't look at an ad. You ask a friend who has already had heart surgery, or you ask your doctor, whom you already trust, for a referral. When you look at IT projects, you can put them on the same scale." Munn Munn says that ITSMA's research bears out this comparison (see graphic "Sources of Info").

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