The fix: Since you're unlikely to find out how big a cut your consulting firm is getting from the outsourcer, says Smith, your best bet is to ask for competitive bids, then negotiate a better price with the firm you want to go with.
Dirty consultant trick No. 6: Selling you the latest and greatest
You need a shovel, they'll sell you an earth mover. Want to manage your contacts? They'll convince you an enterprise-level turnkey CRM system is the way to go. Why? Because nobody makes money selling shovels and contact managers.
"My personal 'favorite' dirty trick is IT consultants who sell the client on a complex customized solution that takes months of time to implement when the latest out-of-the-box product would cover 80 percent of the functionality and 110 percent of what the client actually needs," says Mark Mueller-Eberstein, CEO of Adgetec, a consulting, coaching, and mentoring company. "With the current speed of technical innovation, most 'customized' solutions are outdated the time they are implemented anyway."
Eberstein points to a large international bank that hired consultants to create a content creation workflow for its country reports. The consultants said it would take six months to build an automated system. Using Microsoft SharePoint, the bank developed and rolled out its own system in two days.
Because many IT shops are paid by the applications and licenses they sell, their goal is to activate as many applications as possible, says Chris Stephenson, co-founder of ARRYVE.
"In a recent RFP meeting for our client, I asked the consultant's IT sales rep if we could automatically send quotes to clients from a central email," says Stephenson. "His response was to highlight a more expensive application in the CRM software that allowed chatter with clients, centralized all communications into one portal, used Twitter (really), and did a whole bunch of other great things. When he finished, I repeated my questions, and after a pause, he said, 'No, it is unable to do that'."
The fix: Be wary if the sales team is pitching great applications rather than focusing on your business requirements, says Stephenson. The applications often cost more than the feature you're requesting and sometimes miss the business problem completely.
Dirty consultant trick No. 7: Empty suits and vampires
No matter what problem you have, the consultant knows the solution. And if they don't know the solution, they'll pretend they do anyway. Faux expertise has brought down more than a few IT projects, usually after megabucks have been spent.
One of the worst dirty tricks is when consultants take on projects they're unqualified to handle, says Innovator LLC's Steven Lowe. Unfortunately this is often exacerbated by clients that assign committees of people with no understanding of the problem to oversee the consultant.
"When this situation occurs by accident, I call it the 'empty suit' problem," says Lowe. "When it occurs on purpose, I call it the 'vampire' problem. When the consultant is an empty suit, success cannot be delivered. Instead, the consultant attempts to prolong the project until the budget and participants are exhausted, or the consultant magically acquires the necessary expertise. If the consultant goes into the commitment knowing that success is impossible, the empty suit problem becomes the vampire problem."