"When you have a large consulting team that helps manage an IT project, they can sabotage budgets and burn cash simply by enabling indecisiveness and allowing low-level analysts to accept any and all scope changes," he says. "Billable hours tick by unchecked as the consulting team dutifully schedules endless meetings and stands idly by as a three-day decision drags into a multimonth debate."
The fix: Stay on top on the management, scope, and scheduling of your IT projects, says Gray.
"While most consulting companies really do want you to succeed, there is always an inherent conflict in the relationship," he says. "As your project drags on and your revenue goes down, the consulting company's revenue goes up. You are always going to do the best job protecting your interests, so don't outsource that task."
Dirty consultant trick No. 4: Taking hostages
You hire an outside firm to write some custom software, develop a website, or manage your infrastructure. Months later you decide to go with a different provider and discover you don't actually own the source code, the domain name, or the passwords to your network -- your services firm does. Sometimes the only solution is to pay the ransom or threaten to sue.
"I rescued a client recently from another company that was hosting servers for them containing their financial and personnel files, Exchange database, intranet -- the works," says Jeff Pagano, owner of cloud IT services firm Iconic Consulting. "This rotten apple was not happy about being dumped and was holding the client's data hostage until his demands were met. We had to get the client's lawyers involved before the consultant agreed to release the data, and then it was in a proprietary format. We ended up eating the cost of getting this data restored and into our data center."
Howard Sherman, founder of tech support and Web design firm RoyalGeeks.com, says the "we own you" strategy is the single worst tactic pulled by consulting scoundrels. He cites the experience of one RoyalGeeks client that was left high and dry by a former Web developer who was "cruel to the point of pure evil."
"The client had to register a whole new domain name and seek new Web hosting services because access to his own website and domain name was rendered impossible," he says. "Even worse, the contract stated that the entire site design -- including the databases driving the back end -- remained the developer's intellectual property. The business didn't legally own its own website. We had to push the reset button and redo everything from scratch."
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