Over the past month I have been engaged in a large home renovation project which I outlined in the article What Successful Home Projects and SAP Rollouts Have in Common. It has really struck home how important it is to trust the people that you are working with especially if you don’t have that expertise yourself. It’s very common on most SAP projects for customers to use SAP consulting resources to assist them with their implementation or scope of work and I think trust is an underrated dynamic that plays a big part in the overall success. Trust needs to be earned over time and here are some signs that should give you some second thoughts if you see them happening with any of your consulting resources.
Provides Incorrect Information/answers – One of the reasons that you hired a consultant was to take advantage of their experience/expertise. Any good SAP consultant would rather say I don’t know and go research something and come back later with the right answer than to blurt out an answer they were unsure of. On many occasions over the years I have heard consultants provide clients different answers to the same questions on different days and a repeating pattern of this should be a major sign of concern. Imagine if my home contractor told me he could build a certain design and when I saw him doing something different he told me either “he didn’t say that” or “It isn’t possible and we “talked” about it.”
SAP Community Forums – The SAP community forums can be a great tool and being a moderator I highly encourage the interaction but often see things that are very troubling. They include consultants asking for a “full blueprint”, configuration documents, “help resolve urgent client issues” or extremely basic questions that show they have no expertise in the area they are “consulting”. It is important to note that in many of these cases SAP customers have brought in outside expertise and very few would be happy if they knew there were in fact counting on strangers in forums who are getting paid “points” for their answers. Imagine if after I brought in the contractor I noticed in a home improvement forum they were asking “how to build a outdoor patio”, “how much wood do I need”, “what type of wood should I use” and “can you provide me a specific architectural plan
Prior Project Failures – There have been several high profile SAP failures over the past decade and it is important that customers do an in-depth review if a new proposed consultant worked on one of them as you want to have a clear understanding that they weren’t part of the problem. Keep in mind on almost everyone of these failures great consulting resources came in to clean up the mess which again highlights the need for clients to understand when the consultant was engaged as the timing is extremely important. Imagine if I found out after the fact that my contractor was being sued by five people for failure to build what I had just contracted them to do. Sadly SAP does not have a Better Business Bureau type repository to check consultants.
Under Delivers – One of the basic things I have seen in stronger consultants do is to under promise and over deliver. This includes an expectation of providing their customer ample notice if any tasks are failing behind schedule as well as a detailed explanation why. If on a regular basis you are being surprised at the last minute that key tasks, planned well in advance are behind schedule without a strong explanation you have a valid reason to start losing trust. You are paying a consultant for their experience, expertise as well the ability to be pro-active and inform you when things are not going according to plan. Imagine if my contractor told me they were going to take ten days to complete the job and half way through the 9th day they informed me that they were going to take another ten days to finish with additional cost to me.
Lack of knowledge – If you are have a project manager for example and they don’t know how to use Microsoft Project or don’t want to take accountability for the project plan, if you have a payroll consultant that has asks what a garnishment or 941 is, if you have time management consultant that seems confused when you tell them about your overtime requirement it would be my recommendation to make a change as soon as possible as those are table stakes that any good resource should have in spades.
The bottom line is that if you have engaged outside consulting resources you are paying a lot of money and their performance will play a role in the success of your project. The ideal scenario is to ensure you are diligent in the hiring consultants from the beginning which I wrote about in Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant but once they are on board their performance should be monitored. You shouldn’t be afraid of getting rid of consultant that isn’t working out as if they can’t earn your trust it might be smart to find someone who will.