The worst case: Consultant abuse
Thankfully, the numbers are small, but certain customers should be avoided like the plague by consultancies. I can think of three problem customers over the last 20 years that had a common, pernicious modus operandi.
The MSA and SOW negotiations with each were a breeze. The problem, discovered later, was that the customers had no intent of abiding by the negotiated contractual terms. About 40 days after the start of net-30 payment agreements, these companies would respond to payment inquiries, claiming, "It's been submitted," or "Sorry, so and so is on vacation. We'll take care of it." After 60 days, they'd begin to offer a rationale for unpaid bills by voicing dissatisfaction: "We're not happy with the work of so and so and would like consideration on invoicing. If you do that, I can push payment through."
Those disreputable companies fully expected small consultancies to capitulate, and it had the leverage of unpaid bills on their side. I'm now just as wary of easy contract negotiations as I am of difficult ones. I'm also adamant that new customers, in particular, abide by contractual payment terms.
But deliberate misconduct is rare. In the end, building a successful consumer/consulting relationship that minimizes the risks of dirty tricks and annoyances shouldn't be too difficult. Customers should look for consultancies that are capable and experienced in their project areas and check references carefully. They should be tough-but-fair negotiators, seeking to minimize project risk as they decide the terms of engagement. They should commit their own staff to sharing management of the project effort, making joint modifications to plans as the engagement evolves. They should be comfortable with the project team before the contracts are finalized.
Most of all, both customers and consultancies should acknowledge that a successful consulting relationship involves trust, fairness, and a mutually agreed-upon value proposition -- a true partnership.
This article, "A consultant responds to '7 dirty consultant tricks'," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.