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.
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").