Bringing on a Consulting Group

15 Apr 2007 - 1:09pm
7 years ago
8 replies
553 reads
skyburn
2005

Could use some advice here.

Our Sr. Management group has decided to bring on an outside consulting
group to "help" with our product/information architecture. I will
purposely not give out the name of the group since you who are reading
this might be working for them.

We currently have a team of 5 UI/Interaction Designers, 1 UX Manager
(research guy), and about 8 or so Business Analysts.

So where I am asking for advice/guidance/input are in the following

1. How I can help steer the relationship on both sides so we don't
have folks pissing each other off?
2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate
structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up
the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?
3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like
everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep
from building up a relationship of dependency?

-Joe

Comments

15 Apr 2007 - 2:30pm
AlokJain
2006

Joe,

Bringing in a consulting group should really be driven from a strategy which
defines what [part of UX should be outsourced and what should be kept
in-house. If this is not defined then it should be defined now on what is
expected from this consulting group.

Further establishing processes which clearly define roles for each one from
in-house team and consulting group will help setting the expectations. The
process should include both implementation and management processes. For
this you need to see what skills are really there in your team and where you
need or want deeper skills.

If you do not want the relationship of dependency then you need to define
the critical strategic knowledge is their with your team. This does not mean
that consulting group should not be involved , if they need to be involved
they should be, else both parties loose. Documentation is key for this!
Also, ensure that more than 1 person from your team is working with
consulting team, and then have regular sessions with rest of the team for
k-sharing. having more than 1 person involved in every initiative will help
ensure that you have a continuous involvement and knowledge of what is being
done why (think of scenarios where 1 goes on leave etc). For areas where you
don't have involvement and/or skills you can have the consulting group
provide required information to your team.

Having a new group come like this can also have impact on team's morale and
there could be concerns, this means a clear communication channel for people
to raise their concerns is important, and then regular communication back to
people to provide required required confidence. If senior management can be
involved in this, it'll have a greater impact.

Hope this helps

Alok Jain

On 4/15/07, Joe Davidchik <skyburn at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Could use some advice here.
>
> Our Sr. Management group has decided to bring on an outside consulting
> group to "help" with our product/information architecture. I will
> purposely not give out the name of the group since you who are reading
> this might be working for them.
>
> We currently have a team of 5 UI/Interaction Designers, 1 UX Manager
> (research guy), and about 8 or so Business Analysts.
>
> So where I am asking for advice/guidance/input are in the following
>
> 1. How I can help steer the relationship on both sides so we don't
> have folks pissing each other off?
> 2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate
> structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up
> the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?
> 3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like
> everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep
> from building up a relationship of dependency?
>
> -Joe
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
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>

15 Apr 2007 - 2:32pm
Chris Bernard
2007

Some quick thoughts.

Consultancies are great for saying things that you know (and say) but actually get other people to pay attention too. Take advantage of this if you hire one.

Issue 1. This is all about chemistry and understanding the business model of whomever you're dealing with. Their goal is mostly like to generate more business out of you and establish themselves in a trusted advisor relationship. If you want to get their best you need to understand what incentives they are operating against and reward accordingly (For example, you're project may be small and finite but perhaps there's other business areas in your company where this group can play, manage those interactions.)

Issue 2. If you're on this list you now that most of the companies that operate in this space probably focus on being collaborative already. Culturally you're looking for a company that can 'teach you to hunt' in addition to doing all the work for you. Does the company you're hiring have someone in charge of practice development? Do they talk about knowledge transfer in their approaches. Are they looking for joint leadership and accountability in their proposal? You may want to ask for a proposed or typical work breakdown structure that details how these interactions occur and how the 'soft' parts of project management are handled, including issue resolution and escalation. Also figure out if most of the work is going to be on your work site or theirs. Big box consultancies typically work on site (or are demanded to for this reason). Smaller firms often don't. If the company is going to work in a hybrid fashion (with a mix of onsite, offsite and field interactions) it's really critical that you evaluate the proposed work structure before making a hiring decision. Even go so far as to speak to some of their other customers.

Issue 3. Is very much related to one. Understand their incentive structure and see how you can play with it and reward their business model. If it's not a good fit for what you really want you may want to consider bring in contractors versus a bigger firm. But also be realistic too, in today's markets the best firms are being picking and choosy about the work that they take on. Be honest about what you need and don't just engage with the business development and account managers up front. See if you can intuit how the people that will 'work' the project will engage too.

Chris Bernard
Microsoft
User Experience Evangelist
chris.bernard at microsoft.com
312.925.4095

Blog: www.designthinkingdigest.com
Design: www.microsoft.com/design
Tools: www.microsoft.com/expression

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Joe Davidchik
Sent: Sunday, April 15, 2007 1:09 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Bringing on a Consulting Group

Could use some advice here.

Our Sr. Management group has decided to bring on an outside consulting
group to "help" with our product/information architecture. I will
purposely not give out the name of the group since you who are reading
this might be working for them.

We currently have a team of 5 UI/Interaction Designers, 1 UX Manager
(research guy), and about 8 or so Business Analysts.

So where I am asking for advice/guidance/input are in the following

1. How I can help steer the relationship on both sides so we don't
have folks pissing each other off?
2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate
structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up
the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?
3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like
everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep
from building up a relationship of dependency?

-Joe
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
(Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

15 Apr 2007 - 3:33pm
Bernie Monette
2005

> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Bringing on a Consulting Group
>
> Could use some advice here.
>
> Our Sr. Management group has decided to bring on an outside consulting
> group to "help" with our product/information architecture. I will
> purposely not give out the name of the group since you who are reading
> this might be working for them.
>
> We currently have a team of 5 UI/Interaction Designers, 1 UX Manager
> (research guy), and about 8 or so Business Analysts.
>
> So where I am asking for advice/guidance/input are in the following
>
> 1. How I can help steer the relationship on both sides so we don't
> have folks pissing each other off?
This is hard to predict-what does their website say about their methods? If
they say something specific you might be able to phrase the issues in terms
they can understand.
> 2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate
> structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up
> the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?
Do you have a process in place that can be used in this instance? E.g.: "we
have these reporting forms we want you to use"? How much are they charging
for things like meetings, emails, and other collaborative efforts? If they
have provided a quote it probably includes only the barest minimum for
collaboration because that tends rack up expenses quickly.
> 3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like
> everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep
> from building up a relationship of dependency?
What does the contract say? Who owns what? Do you have a statement of work
or some other specification that you can measure work against?

For example: a client of mine had a logo done. We wanted to use the font and
when my client asked the designer they were told it was proprietary.
Fortunately, I was able to identify the font but it annoyed my client that
the designer had tried encourage the dependency. Since the contract was
vague on this point my client had no choice.
>
> -Joe
How do you feel about giving a running commentary about this? Changing the
names to protect the innocent etc.

Cheers,

Bernie

--
Bernie Monette
InterActive Arts
Internet Presence Management
http://www.iaai.ca monette at iaai.ca 416 469 4337

15 Apr 2007 - 3:49pm
Donna Maurer
2003

Explicitly write into their contract that they are to provide mentorship
to your team and that your team will be involved in every step of the
process. This will stop them from running off, will force them to
clearly work through decisions (rather than just give you a report) and
will build your skills.

I do this type of work now more than regular consulting and it is far
better for both parties.

Donna

Joe Davidchik wrote:
> 2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate
> structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up
> the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?
> 3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like
> everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep
> from building up a relationship of dependency?
>
> -Joe
>

--
Donna Maurer
Maadmob Interaction Design
e: donna at maadmob.net
web: http://maadmob.net/maadmob_id/
book: http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/cardsorting/

15 Apr 2007 - 10:35pm
Buley, Leah BGI SF
2007

Hi Joe,

I've dealt with this situation quite a bit at my company. My solution
is to try to get an active role in the project by positioning yourself
as an internal partner to the consultants. You can do this by talking
about how you can help them and how they can help you. Here are my
tricks:

* Right away, I offer myself as a resource for institutional knowledge
or background information that they might need. I also talk up the idea
that we should be leveraging their best practices for our own internal
use in the future. All of this help to make an easy case that it's a
good idea for me to be actively involved in the project (sitting in on
working session, participating in review meetings, etc).

* When they do good work, I acknowledge it. And then I'm right there,
ready to talk about all the ways that my group can extend their work to
future projects within the company. This sets up the expectation that
the in-house IA/UxD people are the ultimately caretakers of the design
(no matter how it came to be). It also makes you seem confident and
in-charge.

* Above all, I try to be respectful and friendly. In the same way that
surrounding yourself with attractive friends makes you all look better,
treating consultants like the competent professionals that they are and
presenting yourself as a legitimate colleague to them gives us all a
little extra sparkle.

Good luck! I'd be interested to hear how it goes.

Leah Buley
Barclays Global Investors
leah.buley at barclaysglobal.com

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16 Apr 2007 - 10:59am
Pawson, Mark
2007

Joe,

>From the tone of your message I am suspecting that you have been
assigned consultant X by senior mgmt much to the concern of your team.
If this is the case the first thing I would do is present to your senior
mgmt the concerns of your team along with solutions and perhaps options
for other consultants. If this does not work, or perhaps you already did
and hence this posting, and this project goes sideways at least you can
sleep at night that you did your best to deliver value. And if your team
does take the heat that speaks volumes about your senior mgmt's support
for your UX team.

Otherwise I agree with the other posts, primarily the mentorship points.
The consultants should be bringing in experience your team does not
have, or does not have enough of and treating the relationship as one of
mentorship, not running the show.

And I also vote for running commentary using a pseudo name if you feel
inclined.

Good luck.

Mark Pawson
IHS
User Centered Design
Energy

39Flr, PetroCanada West Tower
150 - 6 Ave. SW
Calgary, AB T2P 3Y7

Direct: (403) 770-4518

mark.pawson at ihs.com
www.ihs.com/energy/

Confidentiality Notice: The information in this e-mail may be
confidential and / or privileged. This e-mail is intended to be reviewed
by only the individual or organization named in the e-mail address. If
you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any
review, dissemination or copying of this e-mail and attachments, if any,
or the information contained herein, is strictly prohibited.
>

--
Donna Maurer
Maadmob Interaction Design
e: donna at maadmob.net
web: http://maadmob.net/maadmob_id/
book: http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/cardsorting/

16 Apr 2007 - 11:35am
Klein Info Design
2007

Hi Joe

Interesting challenge!

Be absolutely clear up front what YOU want out of the engagement. You might
need to do some work within your own group to clarify your goals. It sounds
like you want a coaching relationship as well as having the consultants
perform some of the IA/UX work?

Be sure to communicate your needs to the hands-on consultants (not just the
account rep).

Help the consultant understand your goals in terms of milestones and
deliverables. This might be quite a challenge if senior management has
already hired the outside consultants and written a standard statement of
work. If so, I’d revisit the statement of work so you get what you want. If
you have a hand in hiring, make sure the consultancy can meet your mentoring
needs.

Collaboration and communication take time, so plan for it in budget and
schedule.

Explore ways to transfer knowledge, even if it’s not the most efficient way
to get this particular project done. Does it make sense to “assign” some of
your staff to the consultant’s team, so your staffers are working side by
side and learning as they go? Should status meetings include presentations
that help your staff understand HOW/WHY something was done instead of just
WHAT was done? Ditto for documentation.

As part of the process, develop your own tools and guides — whatever you’ll
need to do similar work on your own, without a consultant. You might have
the consultant review these and recommend additions/changes, as part of the
engagement.

As a consultant, I find these mentoring engagements very rewarding. What’s
in it for me is developing a different area of my business (coaching rather
than doing the UX work) and getting referrals from happy clients. Good luck!
- Kathleen

Kathleen Klein

Klein Info Design LLC

HYPERLINK "http://www.kleininfodesign.com"www.kleininfodesign.com

206-781-2615

From: "Joe Davidchik" <skyburn at gmail.com>

Our Sr. Management group has decided to bring on an outside consulting

group to "help" with our product/information architecture.

1. How I can help steer the relationship on both sides so we don't

have folks pissing each other off?

2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate

structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up

the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?

3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like

everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep

from building up a relationship of dependency?

--
No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.446 / Virus Database: 269.4.0/762 - Release Date: 4/15/2007
4:22 PM

16 Apr 2007 - 12:20pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Hey Joe,

I am in my first year ever of corporate employ after some 15 years of consulting, project management and account work from the firm I was a partner in. You have read a lot of good insight in these posts. I will try not to be redundant.

The first thing to think about is how to contribute to the collaboration. It is unfortunate that you were not in the decision process, but now that it is done you must work to make the best of it. Long after the consultant are gone, the in-house group is going to be saddled with the outcomes. The consultant moves on. That does not mean there are not incentives for them... but they are less significant.

There is typically lots of angst in-house regarding why they were brought in. The execs that make this decision are rarely straight forward about it. If it was just capacity they would likely hire contractors. Sometimes it is because there is not the right talent in house. This does not necessarily mean the talent in house is not highly regarded. Consultants will bring a fresh perspective. Sometime it is a political decision. Getting a bunch of people with different reports on the same page can be difficult if the protocall is generated in house. Turf wars are a pain, but they are nearly always present. Hopefully they are minimal in your situation.

In the late 90's responsability for the web face of company was not always well established. IT, marketing and product were often all launching ther own initiatives - all with differing agendas. Often it is just easier to bring an 'authority' in from outside. We often consutled and designed for firms with first rate in house talent. It was not that they could not do the work... but that it would be adopted and embraced better if it came from an external group.

Try and get yourself, or at least some inhouse person working directly on the design team. This worked really well for us, particularly on first time projects. It helped to establish trust and break down walls. We rarely if ever, went away to do the work and make decisions only to bring it in a power point presentation. Hopefully you wonn't run into this. We had great success with open process and lots of inclusion.

The other situation that we found common were executives that did not really 'get' what they were asking for. We were brought in after years of a company asking its internal communications group to do brand and marketing. They simply did not have the right talent. And, in that particular culture, no one was going to refuse the challenge. So they tried repeatedly with the same skill sets and failed repeatedly. It was not an issue of us being better, but having talents and expereince specific to the needs.

In the last few months I have seen internal groups school the consultants and I have seen really quality work come from outside partners.

You should find yourself much better off professionally for the expereince. The biggest downside of being in house (in all my 'months' of experience here) is the lack of diversity in process and thinking. Working with outside consultants will help you expand your tool set.

Good luck - and let s know how it goes.

Mark

On Sunday, April 15, 2007, at 02:10PM, "Joe Davidchik" <skyburn at gmail.com> wrote:
>Could use some advice here.
>
>Our Sr. Management group has decided to bring on an outside consulting
>group to "help" with our product/information architecture. I will
>purposely not give out the name of the group since you who are reading
>this might be working for them.
>
>We currently have a team of 5 UI/Interaction Designers, 1 UX Manager
>(research guy), and about 8 or so Business Analysts.
>
>So where I am asking for advice/guidance/input are in the following
>
>1. How I can help steer the relationship on both sides so we don't
>have folks pissing each other off?
>2. How can I get the consulting group work in a more collaborate
>structure, rather then just meeting to get inputs and then running up
>the mountain themselves to work out the solutions?
>3. Long term we look to be very self supportive. Consulting like
>everything else is a business. What should we do in this world to keep
>from building up a relationship of dependency?
>
>-Joe

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