Take a Look Outside
Mollo adds that the letter should state exactly what deliverables you expect from the consultant. “Define the scope of the project, and understand that there frequently is ‘scope creep.’ That is, you’ve brought in a consultant to do one task, and before anyone realizes it, the job has moved beyond its original scope.” Having the objective clearly stated in the RFP or the agreement letter, then, can help keep a lid on scope creep, Mollo notes.
While the benefits of utilizing a consultant can be significant, you still must be cautious about whom you hire and under what conditions.
“If there’s a lack of clarity about what needs to be accomplished,” says Ittner, “you could get caught in an open-ended agreement. A consultant’s agreement can be renegotiated if needed and mutually agreed upon.”
Understand also that Rome was not built in a day. Says Kinsella, “I once worked with a cataloger who wanted to reduce backorders, and we reduced them by 80 percent. But it took six months to do it. We had to touch not just forecasting, but also vendor relations, supply chain management and everything else in the continuum. You have to give the consultant enough time to affect all of that change.”
Additionally, beware of consultants who aren’t objective. “After doing some analysis, the consultant may tell you that what you’re doing really is the best procedure,” says Mollo. “But the reason for that advice shouldn’t be just to tell you what you want to hear.”
Finally, be wary of consultants who charge very little for their services. “A good consultant has to charge for services. The lowest-cost solution may not be the best,” says Kinsella.
As to be expected, costs for such services are dependent upon the nature of the job, its length, necessary travel, etc. It’s helpful to have an idea of your boundaries regarding costs before you begin the negotiation process.