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This past year I worked on an 8 week contract. I was tasked with helping improve scalability, measuring current throughput, then troubleshooting systems & infrastructure to find the big problem areas.
Slow process of on-boarding
In only six months, the firm had grown from a small startup, to a larger mid-sized company. That kind of growth is great for margins & investors, but it’s tough on teams & management.
We had outlined a nice todo list up front. Tasks would fit well within our eight week budget, with some additional time for things that came up along the way.
As it turned out, on-boarding for the project got drawn out. I got tangled in email problems, configuring, forwarding, and so forth. The default on-boarding process placed me on various general lists about office parties, and treasure hunts. Having all this email forwarded to me became a problem to untangle.
Meanwhile getting credentials and logins to the correct servers was a challenge. Tickets were created, emails flew back and forth and time rolled on.
Time pressure at the end of engagement
As the engagement barreled on, we reached the final two weeks mark. It was then that I scheduled another meeting with the director of operations, and to go over status.
At that point the team was fighting some new fires with database change management. I was intrigued by the problem, and wanted to dig in and see if I could assist. But at that point we both agreed there wasn’t sufficient time left to devote to it.
Having spent a large portion of the engagement up front on administrative tasks, we now had time pressure at the end to finish the tasks agreed to.
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The hourly billing experience
I’d worked on many hourly clients over the past decade. With hourly projects the VPN configuration, logins & admin tasks sometimes fell through the cracks. Firms of all sizes, even small startups, often have a lot of balls in the air at once.
On hourly billing, when things get drawn out, there’s no real pressure. The cost to the firm is the same whether they drag their feet or push to get things done rapidly.
Contrast with weekly billing – mutual accountabilities
The contrast with weekly billing engagements is palpable. You feel it right out of the gates. We both want to make good use of time. And clients feel they don’t want to waste resources, and budgets.
That’s a good thing. There’s an incentive on everybody’s part to keep things moving.
We act when we feel it in our wallet
My conclusion from these experiences, we act when we feel pressure on our wallet. With weekly billing the client will pressure their own teams on mutual accountabilities. They’ll also pressure you the consultant or service provider. So be prepared to pull your own weight.
When things are not moving along smoothly, expect discussion to quickly bubble to the surface. Embrace these moments, for everyone will have incentive to solve those problems.
Time pressure & budgets – keys to successful consulting engagement.
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