The fix: Build some flexibility into your RFP, says Meikle.
"There should be an amount of leeway in the requirements/scope to avoid the 'out of scope' clause being used and additional charges from being incurred," he says. "How flexible the vendor is with this process should factor heavily in whether you select them to do the work."
One of the classic dirty tricks big services firms pull is to bring their best and brightest to the sales meetings to close the deal, then send in newbies fresh out of school to do the actual work, says Diana Kelley, a partner with research and consulting firm SecurityCurve. Worse, they may still charge you premium rates for staffers with minimal experience.
"Staffing with less experienced employees is fine as long as the customer knows what they're getting and aren't being charged senior staff rates for junior staffers," Kelley says, "Unfortunately, that's not always the case; some companies staff with low experience but bill at high."
A similar technique is also used when responding to RFPs, says Meikle.
"Consulting firms will pack their responses with all their top consultants' résumés," he says. "Then, when they win the assignment and sign the contract with the client, none of those top people are actually involved in the contract. Sometimes the résumés themselves are of consultants who either no longer work for the firm or who have never actually been an employee."
The fix: Be sure to meet the key team members who will be handling your project and ensure that they match up to the résumés that were provided, says Meikle. Also, stipulate in the contract that these are the people the vendor promised to provide.
"If they do not deliver these resources, add either a penalty or a means to acquire a resource with a comparable skill set," he says. "Normally, just requesting to meet the proposed team will disqualify some vendors due to their inability to present them to you."
Dirty consultant trick No. 3: Stall tactics
It's true that Rome wasn't built in a day -- but it would have taken even longer if the workers had been paid by the hour. The longer things take, the more consultants make, which is why allowing indecisiveness to fester is a key tactic used to string out projects, says Patrick Gray, president of Prevoyance Group, a business strategy consulting company.
"When you have a large consulting team that helps manage an IT project, they can sabotage budgets and burn cash simply by enabling indecisiveness and allowing low-level analysts to accept any and all scope changes," he says. "Billable hours tick by unchecked as the consulting team dutifully schedules endless meetings and stands idly by as a three-day decision drags into a multimonth debate."
The fix: Stay on top on the management, scope, and scheduling of your IT projects, says Gray.
"While most consulting companies really do want you to succeed, there is always an inherent conflict in the relationship," he says. "As your project drags on and your revenue goes down, the consulting company's revenue goes up. You are always going to do the best job protecting your interests, so don't outsource that task."