As a consultant, you want to provide added value to your clients. To do this, you must first understand the business problem they are trying to solve. Engage all project sponsors, team members, stakeholders and impacted business executives at the onset of the project. This will ensure that proper scoping can take place. A properly scoped project is a successful project!
Make sure you identify any gaps in the client’s understanding of the business problem and proposed solution. Discuss these gaps with both the executive sponsors and the impacted business executives to ensure total buy-in on the proposed solution.
Ensure there is an agreed upon understanding around the total level of effort required to achieve a true ROI on the project at hand. This includes:
- Time commitments from client’s staff
- Gaps in client expertise that will require outside consulting
- Timeframe needed to complete
- Associated impacts to other ongoing projects
- Critical dates, scheduling, staff buy-in & associated change management planning
- Training plan for full client adoption of proposed solution
If the proposed solution is not the right solution, offer options to get them to their goal. Discuss similar client challenges you have solved and the steps that were taken to get there, include the resources required, time to complete, challenges, project impacts, lessons learned and total ROI attained once the solution was in place.
Once the correct solution has been identified, ensure all involved team members, sponsors and impacted executives are in agreement and have signed off on the total commitment to achieving the solution. Develop strong relationships with your client’s key project team members. Ensure they are comfortable communicating openly and honestly about their ideas, abilities, concerns and challenges throughout the project.
Developing an effective communication plan is key: communication breakdowns are a killer. Review OR create a plan to achieve the solution. The plan should include: proper resource allocation, realistic timelines, critical dates, associated impacts and associated costs. Ensure all parties are still in agreement and are 100% committed to the plan. Establish checkpoints/milestones along the way to identify and correct any issues promptly.
Make sure you keep a sense of unity throughout the project. Ensure the impacted business executives, team members, technical staff, end users and any consulting resources are all continually championing the solution. If not, TIME OUT… Get the elephant up on the table and RESOLVE ANY CONFLICTS!
Once the solution is in place, test it thoroughly. Does the solution work for all applicable scenarios? Train and document, and verify the solution has been fully adopted by all parties. Ask yourself:
- Are the users of the solution able to understand it and apply it effectively?
- Do they feel their problem has been solved?
- Was the ROI achieved?
Once full adoption has taken place and you are exiting the client, follow up at critical points to ensure they are self-sufficient – after all, a happy client is the only kind of client.