In many cases I’m contacted about consulting services when a project is in trouble. Although this panic results in higher contracting rates, this is naturally a red flag. It doesn’t take long to discover why there is such a panic–Nobody listens to anything. In most of these cases I can merely watch a distressed project go down in flames one billable hour at a time.
There are a number of common reasons why consultants are hired:
Some wonder why consultants charge a premium over the equivalent hourly rate of a salaried employee. The obvious reason is the consultant’s expenses such as equipment, health insurance, and taxes not provided by the client. However, clients are also paying for the accumulated knowledge of the consultant.
You probably have staff just as talented as the consultant. Still, it may take them 3-6 months to get up to speed on a given technology or topic. You need this expertise NOW. This is why consulting is usually short-term. A consultant gives a company a burst of knowledge that they can use inside their organization to get to the next level.
Are you a high level employee of a company whose decisions are overruled by upper management? I’ve seen this rectified by directors hiring consultants who support their position. When the exact same idea is stated by a highly paid external consultant, all of a sudden it’s delivered with authority. Perhaps you’ll get your point across when it comes out of someone else’s mouth.
Let’s say you are about to embark on a risky pivot for your company. The way fabled sociopaths of the Gervais Principle make sure no potential failure sullies their reputation is through the art of blame shifting. A common way to do this is to hire an external consultant to support this new endeavour. When it fails, you can blame him. Why not? He’s not even there by the time the thing explodes. It’s much easier than the traditional route of blaming employees.
As a consultant you are usually brought in with the impression that it’s under the Immediate Knowledge scenario. Often you’ll find you’re actually in one of the other two alternatives. I was recently explaining the business of consulting to someone when she said, “Oh, it sounds like being a psychiatrist!” To which I responded, “Yeah except most of the patients commit suicide.”