Consulting’s dirty little secret?

In the blog “Consulting’s dirty little secret“, Michael Krigsman opinions that the consultants often try to delay the projects to get financial benefits.

Below is the verbatim from his post:

Enterprise software implementation consultants often benefit financially when their clients’ projects fail. Anyone buying software implementation services should be aware of this fact.

Successful projects have a predetermined end date, marking the project’s conclusion and signaling the end of consultant billing. When failing projects run longer than planned, consultant fees often run substantially larger than budgeted. Much of this over-budget amount drops to consultant’s bottom line.

I don’t quite agree with this perception. The consultants, in general, would strive to complete the project within estimated time and budget. I don’t believe consultants would deliberately attempt to delay the project so that they can get extra billing. Consultants get most of their business through customer referrals and they depend on repeat business from the same customers. In all likelihood, they would be working towards establishing credibility and customer rapport. Who would want to kill the golden goose?

While I agree that there may be few consultants employing the above unethical tactics, it is an exception rather then the rule. And it is wrong to generalize based on few exceptions. Further, the delay can happen for various reasons and by various stakeholders involved in the project. The reasons could be too many -including unclear scope, abstract requirements, non availability of relevant technical and/or managerial personnel to provide input, clarify, review and approve artifacts, non-cooperation from collaborative/support teams and infrastructure related issues. Besides, the project manager is accountable who need to be monitoring the progress constantly and initiate course corrections as required. I would hold the PM more accountable than the consultant in this case if the project is inordinately delayed.

This type of issues, though far between, would primarily happen in time and material projects, where the requirements are evolving and not well defined upfront. What customers can do to protect themselves from this scenario? The best choice is make the consultant to own the project and transfer the risk to the consultant. Go for fixed price outcome based payment contracts with the scope, requirements, outcome, timeline and service levels clearly defined upfront. Also, it would help to encourage the desired results by including penalty clause for not meeting the service levels.

However, to realize the benefit the clients must be prepared to invest time and effort on detailed planning and clearly defining the project objectives upfront as well.


2 Responses to “Consulting’s dirty little secret?”

  1. 1 Pandu February 18, 2009 at 6:13 am


    The source blog which you URL-ed inside yours, may not imply that consultants “try” to delay the projects.. it just says that they get benefited if projects delay.

    I would like to delineate two things here. Project Delay may happen
    — (1) Due to Consultant related delays
    — (2) Other Project related delays (which you highlighted as well)

    Client can plug (1) by various means – which you rightly pointed as well — SLAs, incentives, penalties. (2) could be reasons attributable to & at client end, where some homework needs to be done at client end as well.


  2. 2 Dhandapani Ammasai February 18, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Pandu, The original blog, though not stated in straight words, has the tone and indication that “consultants try to delay the project for financial benefit”.

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© Dhandapani Ammasai, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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