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George Fowler, principal and vice president of supply chain consulting with Spinnaker Management, discusses how companies can work with consultants from the very start of the engagement, to ensure that the relationship yields long-lasting results throughout the organization.
An outside consultant can be a tempting solution for a company that lacks the internal resources and expertise to get an ambitious project done. But both sides need to plan carefully in order to ensure that the engagement yields measurable results, says Fowler.
It starts at the negotiating stage. Many relationships ultimately fail because of mistakes made at the outset. The client must have a clear vision of what it intends to achieve, and that vision must be communicated up front to the consultant. In addition, the parties need to determine the precise resources and costs that will be brought to bear.
There's also the risk of relying too heavily on outside expertise. A company should identify one of its own employees as a key point of contact with the consultant, offering insight into its systems and business processes. Fowler stresses the importance of having an internal sponsor who can serve as liaison between the outside consultant and upper management. At the same time, he says, it's important not to rely on that individual as the engagement's sole source of support. Multiple departments should be kept up to date on the project, to avoid the roadblocks to progress that typically exist in siloed organizations.
Lack of followup is another reason why so many consulting engagements fail to produce the expect results. Fowler recommends that the consultant return at a later date to ensure that its recommendations have been implemented properly. It can also advise on additional steps that might be taken to boost competitiveness and save money.
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