Of course my favorite reason is because that’s how I make enough money for my family to eat and sleep indoors. But really, there are some very good reasons to reach outside your organization for subject matter expertise and experienced help in accomplishing your BC projects. The best reasons I can think of are:
- A lack of internal expertise. It may very well be that no one at your company has ever done a BCP project and there isn’t a clear understanding of how to go about accomplishing the assigned mandate. A directive has come down from on high to “go forth and business contingify, whatever that is, and, by the way, you have six months.” An experienced consultant can develop project focus, detail all the steps required, develop a reasonable schedule, and accomplish the tasks in the allotted time frame. A good consultant will also major on knowledge transfer rather than building dependent step children.
- A lack of internal resources. It’s especially true in smaller organizations, but most companies operate on a rather lean staff budget and they don’t have a pool of technical and business people sitting around with large open areas in their job description just waiting to take on a project of this magnitude. The leader of the project usually has an already crowded plate and nothing gets removed to make time for this new responsibility. A good consultant is a dedicated resource who can focus entirely on the project and should bring not just direction but strong shoulders to carry the bulk of the weight. I tell prospective clients, “I hire people to do things like wallpaper the kitchen because I have too many Howard things to do. Assign me part of your to do list so you can focus on the stuff that only you can do. Give me this project and I’ll get it done, and make you look smart for hiring me.”
- People tend to cooperate with outside consultants. The staff usually realizes the company is paying for this consultant and so they should probably cooperate so whoever brought them in doesn’t get a report that they have become a roadblock. Like many families, they treat outsiders with a little more deference than they would one of their own. This is not always the case, but a good consultant recognizes the obstacles and uses his powers of persuasion to get on calendars, run meetings efficiently, gather information as painlessly as possible, and honor everyone’s time pressures.
- A good consultant brings a deep well of experience. This BCP project is not their first rodeo, or least it shouldn’t be or you’ve got the wrong consultant. They may have even done similar projects at similar companies in the same industry. They should be able to provide insight on how your peers are doing BCP and be able to cross pollinate solutions and recovery methods from other industries as well. The consultant should be able to enrich the solution set with lessons learned on successful efforts performed elsewhere. They should have a clear understanding of the technology required to support the client’s recovery needs and priorities, a handle on realistic expectations for the time required for recovery, an ability to outline effective recovery strategies, and the ability to build the business case for BC/DR expenditures. He should also be able to identify a roadmap for the way forward to improved recovery capabilities (not just upsell opportunities for his firm). And, perhaps it goes without saying, he should have a good handle on project management metrics including adequate status reporting on the project’s progress and unresolved issues.
- Company budgets often have restrictions on hiring new staff. Even though the BCP project has high level support and has been deemed an important requirement for this year, the bean counters have convinced management that the people costs are the easiest and most important to control. The edict comes down, “No more hires this year”, and the door for adding skilled staff slams shut. You’d like to go out and find an experienced BC person to bring onboard, but that is not possible. However, consultant dollars often come from a different budget and since the project has a defined cost and duration, money becomes available to bring in an outsider to handle a short term project. When the project is over, he goes away and you are not saddled with the cost of an ongoing head count.
In a future blog I will discuss how to find and use a good consultant, but for now let me just encourage you to make use of the wealth of experience a good consultant has learned while someone else was paying for acquiring that knowledge. I realize mine is not an entirely objective opinion (my professional motto is, after all, ”Consulteo ergo sum” I consult therefore I am), but I believe the right consultant can be a tremendous resource for the success of your BC project. As always, I welcome your comments and please feel free to contact me. Good projects to you.
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