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7 dirty consultant tricks (and how to avoid them)

Dan Tynan | April 12, 2011
Scope change, empty suits, kickbacks -- beware IT consultants looking to turn your IT project into their cash cow.

"Since these requirements are all at a high level and subject to drastic change, firms use this knowledge as leverage for far higher fees -- usually $200 an hour or more," he adds.

The fix: Build some flexibility into your RFP, says Meikle.

"There should be an amount of leeway in the requirements/scope to avoid the 'out of scope' clause being used and additional charges from being incurred," he says. "How flexible the vendor is with this process should factor heavily in whether you select them to do the work."


Dirty consultant trick No. 2: Bringing in the B team

You thought you hired the New York Yankees. But when it comes time to actually do the work, you get the Scranton Yankees.

One of the classic dirty tricks big services firms pull is to bring their best and brightest to the sales meetings to close the deal, then send in newbies fresh out of school to do the actual work, says Diana Kelley, a partner with research and consulting firm SecurityCurve. Worse, they may still charge you premium rates for staffers with minimal experience.

"Staffing with less experienced employees is fine as long as the customer knows what they're getting and aren't being charged senior staff rates for junior staffers," Kelley says, "Unfortunately, that's not always the case; some companies staff with low experience but bill at high."

A similar technique is also used when responding to RFPs, says Meikle.

"Consulting firms will pack their responses with all their top consultants' résumés," he says. "Then, when they win the assignment and sign the contract with the client, none of those top people are actually involved in the contract. Sometimes the résumés themselves are of consultants who either no longer work for the firm or who have never actually been an employee."

The fix: Be sure to meet the key team members who will be handling your project and ensure that they match up to the résumés that were provided, says Meikle. Also, stipulate in the contract that these are the people the vendor promised to provide.

"If they do not deliver these resources, add either a penalty or a means to acquire a resource with a comparable skill set," he says. "Normally, just requesting to meet the proposed team will disqualify some vendors due to their inability to present them to you."


Dirty consultant trick No. 3: Stall tactics

It's true that Rome wasn't built in a day -- but it would have taken even longer if the workers had been paid by the hour. The longer things take, the more consultants make, which is why allowing indecisiveness to fester is a key tactic used to string out projects, says Patrick Gray, president of Prevoyance Group, a business strategy consulting company.


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