Finding a BI Consultant Who's Your Soul Mate
Looking for a consulting partner? Finding and selecting the right partner can be the difference between a great and mutually beneficial marriage and a marriage fraught with bad communication, unmet expectations, and cheating. I liken selecting a consulting partner to marriage because I believe it carries the same weight and should not be entered into lightly.
Much like dating you can find consultants and those calling themselves consultants everywhere, but most people start on the internet. You might Google the software or business issue that you need help with and come up with a considerable list of companies. You might go through a vetting process of looking at their websites to see who advertises the best and narrow your list down. See the parallel? Just like a person on the dating scene, you are drawn to those who advertise the best or who are the most attractive. I just want to warn you that those that look the best or have the best outfit aren’t necessarily your match. Of course you know that, but I just have to remind you…we are still human and our selection process is mostly visceral first and then cerebral. Anyway, you have narrowed your list down and ready to start talking.
When you start your conversations, think about your company’s core values and culture. This is akin to dating, when you meet someone and they look great but when you talk to them you find out they aren’t interested in having children, don’t care for animals, and stay up all night. If you are a person that loves children and can’t wait to have your own, or have a dog that has been your best friend since college, and you get up early because you don’t want to miss the day…then this relationship is going nowhere. I am not saying you can’t have a great time together or there can’t be compromise, but I am talking values. Values are like our DNA and it is impossible to change them. You can suppress them and become someone that you are not and we all see the disaster in that so why bother. Your company’s values are not going to change or should not change based on your consulting partnership. I will say that the relationship might introduce you to things that might be a bit uncomfortable but beneficial in the end…if it is a right pairing.
After you have found a group of consulting companies that match or compliment your company’s values and culture now you need to take a closer look. The right firm has a great mixture of subject matter experience, real world business knowledge, and exceptional communications skills. In my experience as a customer looking for a consulting partner, I found that many firms were great with the technology, but had little real world business experience. You might think you have enough business experience to compensate for what the consulting firm lacks. Let me take you back to the marriage or dating analogy… how long could you be with someone where you can only have superficial conversations? How successful or long could the relationship last if the person you are dating or married to doesn’t understand you or the challenges you face? Finding the right firm that has faced similar challenges and overcome them is key to the relationship. You need someone that can help you through the process with techniques that will allow you to still be you but better. I am not saying you need to date a therapist, but I am saying that you need to date someone that at the same points in their lives.
In my past I have selected firms that were small enough to know my name and make me feel important, but had the breadth and depth to mentor my company. The partnership worked because the firm’s needs were met, in that they were working with a company that complimented how they did business and we could be open and honest with one another. Sometimes the firm called my company out and they were right to do so, but they respected our feelings without coddling us. The relationship worked because to borrow a religious phrase “we were equally yoked.”
The relationship between a company and a consulting firm is one that takes work and patience on both sides. Much like dating I encourage you to look past the superficial and look deeper you might just find your company's professional soul mate.