Sunday, March 27, 2011

Consulting Engagement- An Overview

Today the world has become a one global market; both for goods and services.   This involves exchanges of contractual obligations and organized commitments to one another involved in business.   Consulting Engagement has been the most predominant in the IT world and delivery services with the onset of offshore-onshore model or the best shore services taking the world as one platform for global delivery.  In such a context, there is large necessity to understanding how this consulting engagement works.

1. It is very important to understand the value of the Consulting Engagement for all the parties involved.  For example a IT MNC acquires to perform services for a Automobile Giant in Germany, which has a delivery unit in India, it is important to know lot more things than the usual business deal.
  • Government Regulations
  • Understanding the Client needs
  • Cultural dimension
  • Technological awareness
There is also a need to analyze the business goals, competencies available, budgets involved, business and strategic plans on delivery,  value of IT for the business, expected customer service levels and agreements if any,  and customer satisfaction assessment methods.

2.  It is predominant to know the elements of the consulting engagement life cycle and understand some underlying questions on the capabilities, providing satisfying technical solutions and effective project management

  • Engaging the right people, who in the IT world are called as Technology Consultants
  • Ensure the people hired have the right skills in terms of both technical and non-technical required to run a smooth business
  • Design a proper contract or a statement of work and set the expectations out of the fresh engagement
  • The scope of the work is detailed and work products are defined as deliverables
  • Does all the parties involved have all the required information, that includes any implicit and undefined requirements have to be analyzed
  • Schedules and time frames have to be decided with milestones and tollgates well defined depending on the business need
  • Metrics to measure the productivity have to be laid out so that the engagement manages to gather this information from the beginning to assess the process oriented IT delivery
  • Continuous monitoring and control to ensure that any variance in the terms of scope, cost or time are having mitigation plans in advance and can be duly aligned in the golden triangle to meet the engagement objectives
  • Though it is always painful not to discuss, the last step, it is always advisable to keep a note on what should happen in case the engagement fails, or have to be shifted from the scope or focus.   And on what circumstances the contract gets void and the engagement gets cancelled have to be put on paper.
3. The major steps in the Consulting Engagement would always involved the following
  • Creating the customer- engagement - vendor relationship.    Example, creating customer accounts within a large corporate house
  • Defining the customer need-   It is important to understand why the client needs this engagement and what value addition it is going to bring
  • Skill Matrix designed-   This includes creating a capability model involving both infrastructure availability and also the software technical capabilities and level of expertize of the resources planned to be involved in the engagement
  • Create a Program or Project plan -  This framework initiates the initial set up that is necessary to carry on with the engagement
  • Proposal or bid for the engagement-  Create a ball point estimates on what it takes to do this engagement with success and profits to either parties involved.    Create outstanding yellow board presentations on what makes us the best vendor for the engagement
  • Information is the key-  Having detailed information on the clients need, market competitions, capabilities and competencies will help us keep the engagement alive till the successful closure
  • Creating the proposal and finalizing it-  This involves both the actual experts in the field to review if the proposal would work and senior management involvement to ensure that the proposal materializes as a strengthful engagement  giving wider scope of work and opportunities
  • Commitment and honoring the engagement-  It is vital to provide our commitment to clients and do every bit of possibility to ensure that the commitments are met on time, within budget and as needed by the clients in the specification
  • Execution of the engagement-  Well planned and adequately managed engagement would ensure success to the vendors and effective solutions to the clients
  • Communication and feedback-  As the engagement progresses, it is important to keep a strong client- delivery teams relationship by constant feedback and active communications
  • Improving the scope of future engagement-  A well performed service is always a opening door for new business.   Especially if the clients are happy with the deliverables of the engagement consulting involved, they would definitely come back to the same vendor for their future business needs.  This established a continuous and most progressing business relationship.
4.  Focus of the clients and consultants involved in the engagement
  • Clients should focus on the business need, budget allocated and approved and obstacles involved and how to mitigate those obstacles with the consultants help and the process of escalation in case of need
  • Consultants to focus on the management of the engagement by effective project management and upkeep of timing and quality deliverables,  provide improvement opportunities and expertise that would strengthen client's business  and aim at customer satisfaction
5.  The Consulting Engagements are successful and boon to clients when
  • Clients see a value addition to their core business due to this engagement and consultants find a meaningful and productive work that is profitable to their business
  • Expectations are clear, concrete and complete so that all stakeholders are aware on what need to be done to make this a pain free process
  • There is a business need to ensure that the deliverables are made on time, as per the specifications set by the clients, reusable components and providing adequate reliability on the products for the best of business use and on time
  • Communication is in place to ensure that everything goes smooth for the client- consultant relationship to be ending to a successful engagement.