Consulting Industry Today

How to Successfully Manage a Consulting Project in 6 Essential Steps

by | Feb 24, 2023 | Clients, Contracting and Managing projects

As a client, it is crucial for you to effectively manage a consulting project from start to finish. This involves developing a clear understanding of the client’s needs and goals, defining project scope and objectives, identifying resources and assigning roles, establishing timelines and budgets, monitoring progress, and communicating with stakeholders.

Effective project management also requires the ability to assess risks and proactively identify and address potential issues to ensure successful project outcomes. By managing consulting projects in a structured and organized manner, executives can ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and with high levels of quality and client satisfaction.

There are  6 essential steps on how to successfully manage a consulting project from start to finish and we’re going to tell you what they are.

How to Successfully Manage a Consulting Project in 6 Essential Steps

When you are buying services, and in particular buying intangible services like consulting, the bulk of the work comes after the procurement process has ended. You have to monitor and manage the outcomes of the project, but also the project itself. Indeed, consulting projects very rarely play out as planned.

#1. Get Organized to Manage Your Project

In order to manage a consulting project, the first and foremost step is to simply get organized. The same principles apply. To maximize the chances of success of your project, you will need to manage these three elements:

Stakeholders – This is project management 101. Align the stakeholders to make sure they will support the project and collaborate with the project team and the consultants.

Project – You need to put in place the best practices for project management: define the work plan, clarify the roles and responsibilities, and put in place a clear governance.

Change – Always obvious, but more often overlooked, change management is a key success factor for consulting projects. Anticipate the resistance to change in the teams impacted by the project and define strategies to address each situation.

#2. Monitor the Performance

Don’t wait until the end of the project to evaluate the performance and share your results with the consultants. The reasons for low performance can be multiple and simultaneous. It could come from the consulting firm (capabilities, skills, experience, staffing, etc.) or your teams (low priority, staffing, etc.).

In any case, it is best to sit down with the consulting firm to discuss and understand the issue and find solutions together.

#3. Manage the Consulting Contract

When you are working with external consultants, you also have to manage the relationship. First, you will have to track the changes in the project that can touch scope, staffing, timeline or unforeseen events.

When these changes are substantial, you should consider amending the contract. In any case, keep a trace of the changes in the minutes of the steering committees.

Moreover, for very large projects, you should consider organizing a formal mid-project review. You can cover both the changes to the statement of work and the quality of the outcome.

It should not prevent you from checking-in regularly with the Consulting Firm to anticipate potential slips in the project scope and timeline, and allow your provider to fix the problem.

Consider the consulting firm as your partner with a common objective: the success of your project. Be unbending on the quality of the outcomes. Give them feedback on their performance and visibility on payments.

6 Essential Steps in managing a consulting project

#4. Anticipate and Prepare for When the Consultant Departs

Maybe you have prepared the transition from the start (in other words, in your RFP), and included the transition plan and regular check-ins in the deliverables. If that’s not the case, make sure to prepare for when the consultant leaves.

Once you have decided what recommendations you will act on, you have to organize for how you will act. You should also consider the transfer of knowledge in particular if the project implemented a new organization or technology. And you should define this plan with the consultant at hand.

Lastly, prepare the performance assessment for the consulting firm by gathering the information collected along with the project.

#5. Don’t Hesitate to End the Contract Earlier

Sometimes consulting projects have to be closed earlier than expected. Many changes can happen between the moment you decide to work with consultants and the end of the consulting projects.

The context can change or the management team. If that’s the case, continuing the project as it is might just be a loss of energy and money. Always find ways to adapt the scope to your needs. And terminate the contract if you must, and if the consequences will be acceptable.

#6. Close the Project Neatly

Whatever the reason for terminating the project early, don’t rush into it. Take the time to analyze the impact of the termination and the probability of success of another consulting project. Prepare also what to communicate with your teams involved in the project.

At that point, you should have paid the consulting provider based on the delivery, and accrued the budget until the end of the project. Keep the last invoices on your desk until you are sure that the project is delivered in full. That will give you enough leverage to get back to finish the project.

When you think the project is closed, and the invoices are approved for payment, you can take the time to debrief the consultants on their performance on the project.

Closing Thoughts

Conquering a consulting project might seem like a mountain of work, but it gets a lot easier when you break the entire job down into manageable steps. And, we have just told you about the six essential steps to follow to successfully manage a consulting project from start to finish.

So, there you have it! Follow these steps and you’ll be well sailing your way to successfully managing your consulting project.  After all, consulting is a serious business, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

CEO and Co-Founder at | Website | + posts

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform and author of “Smart Consulting Sourcing”, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your consulting. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting.

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