Rethink Three Myths When Picking a Consultant - InformationWeek
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9/28/2007
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Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
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Rethink Three Myths When Picking a Consultant

Independent consultants (a.k.a. sub-contractors) are often the back-bone of data management activities, especially database administration and ETL/database/BI development. Yet, finding good consultants is difficult. That's why you should steer clear of these three myths: #1: Vendors are always knowledgeable about the candidates they provide. #2: Prior work references can be easily obtained. #3: The candidate must be an absolute best-fit for the requirement...

Independent consultants (a.k.a. sub-contractors) are often the back-bone of many data management activities, especially database administration, ETL/database development and BI development. Yet, finding good consultants is difficult, and often a hit-or-miss proposition. Here are three myths about independent consultants that you should steer clear of.Myth #1: Vendors are always knowledgeable about the candidates they provide.

Although called "independent" consultants, these are usually recruited through technology-focused staffing firms, e.g. ones that are on the client's "preferred vendor list." When a client requirement is published, these vendors trawl the field for suitable candidates (frequently from other vendors) and present the candidates to the client. More often than not, there has been no prior interaction - let alone a dependable long-term association - between the vendor and the candidate. Under such circumstances, it's simply unrealistic to assume that the vendor knows any more about the candidate than you do.

Myth #2: Prior work references can be easily obtained.

Conventional wisdom demands that you ask for prior customer references from independent consultants. That's great. References are wonderful, but the trouble is they aren't easy to come by, and too often you just won't have the time to follow up on references. There's also a Catch-22 in checking references. If you require references early in the recruiting process (for example, along with candidate resumes), then you will need a legion of resources to follow up on these references. On the other hand, if you wait until you have finalized on one candidate, the reference might provide only a marginal benefit (remember, at this point you already like the candidate and are ready to bring her/him aboard).

In either case, checking references may significantly delay the recruitment, which could contradict the very reason you went fishing for independent consultants in the first place (to fill in a short-term or sudden gap). Besides, from the candidate's perspective, there are practical limitations to providing references (for example, a given reference may be provided only so often).

Myth #3: The candidate must be an absolute best-fit for the requirement.

You may compromise on skills if you're recruiting from among internal employees for the position, but heck, sub-contractors must qualify fully, else why would you bring them in, right? Well, good luck to you. The truth is, even with a generous supply of quality candidates in the labor pool, finding an exact match - in terms of hard and soft skills, geographical and temporal availability, billing rates, cultural fit and more - is very difficult. Chances are, you will have to compromise, but where to compromise? Well, that's where your own skills and experience comes into play… and it's a topic for another day.

Rajan Chandras is a consultant with a global IT consulting, systems integration and outsourcing firm, and can be reached at rchandras@gmail.com.Independent consultants (a.k.a. sub-contractors) are often the back-bone of data management activities, especially database administration and ETL/database/BI development. Yet, finding good consultants is difficult. That's why you should steer clear of these three myths: #1: Vendors are always knowledgeable about the candidates they provide. #2: Prior work references can be easily obtained. #3: The candidate must be an absolute best-fit for the requirement...

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