Managing Expectations – Building Client-Consultant Partnerships
I’ve had a long and very enjoyable career as a consultant, dating back to 1979 and encompassing around 500 projects. Certainly I’ve undertaken over 100 as Intranet Focus. The most enjoyable projects are those where the challenges push me to the limit of my experience and expertise and where right from the start I have been able to build a strong partnership with the client. The International Monetary Fund comes immediately to mind, where the major challenge I faced was the tragic impact of 9/11 just two days after the start of the project. The partnership that was forged led to the on-time delivery of the project reports, an invitation a few years later to undertake a high-level project at the United Nations HQ in New York and subsequently a project for the World Bank.
As well as being a consultant I have also been the ‘client’ in a number of major consulting projects. Building an effective partnership requires a significant contribution from a client, who may not have worked with consultants before and who may also be concerned that the consultant will be critical of their work. There are many books about how to be a consultant but virtually none that offer advice to people who have no consulting experience on how to get the best out of a consultant. Intranet managers often need to bring in additional specialised advice because they are often a team of one. The 2016 Nielsen Norman Group Intranet Design Annual lists out over 20 areas of external expertise that between them the award winners used in the development of their intranets. Kara Pernice kindly allowed me to include this list in the book. Managing this array of consultants and contractors is a substantial challenge to even the most experienced of intranet managers.
Late last year I suggested to Kristian Norling that this might be a good subject for his growing range of books. He had the same opinion and in the space of three months the book was written and then launched at the IntraTeam event last week. It covers how to write a request for consulting support, select a consultant, start up a project, and ensure that the outcomes are in line with the expectations. Of course these expectations can change in the course of the project, often for very good reason, and that was the reason for the title of the book. At the end of the book are ten critical success factors, and in addition ten factors that can quickly derail any consulting project. You can order the 125page book from Intranatverk or from Amazon. Comments on the book would be greatly appreciated.
Working with Kristian was a great pleasure, and we quickly built the sort of author-publisher partnership that is a model for a client-consultant partnership. The end result is a book that I am very proud of delivering to schedule despite some changes to the contents and structure along the way as Sam Marshall, Jane McConnell and Sandra Ward challenged some of my initial ideas. My thanks to all of them.