Recently, we have seen more willingness from enterprise technology companies to use an outside product management consultant to help with challenges in their product organization. Whether they seek to inject expertise, domain knowledge or just bandwidth into their organizations; the number of companies looking for product management services has increased.
In our experience, companies that seek outside expertise; are not just looking for advice. Usually, there is a need to deliver new capabilities and knowledge that help solve their issues.
There are four key things that must be considered when selecting a consultant or consulting firm that will improve your success rate.
1) Unquestioned Expertise
Don’t hire just to augment, HIRE TO ACCELERATE. Hiring a product management consultant is very different from hiring a product manager or director level product manager.
Naturally, you want a consultant with product management experience and ideally domain expertise in your segment. More importantly, you want to make sure that your Product Management consultant has solid consulting experience and a formalized approach to complete your engagement.
What you should look for:
- Verify their product management expertise
- Look for previous engagements or projects in a similar problem space
- Product Management Certifications such as SAFe™, Pragmatic Marketing® or CSPO®
- Demand clarity on the consultant’s approach for the project
None of these items will guarantee a flawless engagement, but they will increase the likelihood of achieving your project goals.
2) Fees and Cost Structure
Lower rates can mean higher cost!
As a buyer of product management consulting services, you want to find a resource that can deliver adequate services for a fee that makes budgetary sense. The key is to pay a reasonable fee for the services delivered.
Determining whether or not a consultant’s fees are reasonable require more than simply selecting the cheapest vendor. A firm or independent consultant with a mature consulting practice may have higher fees and cost much less because they will deliver a solution to your issue more quickly.
The other question that comes up is – Should you pay a fixed fee or for the consultant’s time?
Regardless of the fee structure the best product management consultants always propose an end date for a project or identify a date to resolve your company’s issue. They don’t want to drag out an engagement longer than necessary.
A fixed fee project has an advantage by increasing certainty and lowering risk. This fee structure is helpful because:
- A project timeline is defined
- Deliverable is documented and defined
- Acceptance criteria is documented
Time based, or T&M projects are useful when:
- Complexity and uncertainty are high
- Discovery is a critical element of the project
- Augmenting staff to increase the capacity of your team
3) Knowledge Transfer
Expertise is nothing without knowledge transfer. With all of the best consulting methodologies, deep domain expertise and relevant previous engagements your consultant brings to the table; if your consultant doesn’t have a formal method to transfer knowledge, the value of the engagement is significantly diminished.
The knowledge transfer mechanism should be defined in the contract or statement of work.
It needs to be well defined and agreed upon by your company and the consultant. There are a wide range of knowledge transfer methods:
Depending on the scope and type of engagement your knowledge transfer will probably include several of these items.
4) Soft Skills
Honesty, this is what clients seek from consultants, but how it is delivered is critical. I use the term “EQ” to describe how well someone handles people. The most capable consultants have the ability to listen to their clients and communicate in an efficient manner to a variety team members and stakeholders.
Make sure that the consultant can be client-centered and focuses on the needs of your team or organization. They must show the ability to give honest, unbiased assessment of the issues and specific recommendations regarding how to fix them.
Toward the conclusion of the engagement, your consultant’s ability to use soft skills has the potential to be the difference maker for the success of your project.
The availability of product management consultants has grown significantly in the past 5 years. This is a welcome change. Companies have more options when they need to address issues that impact the health and or market success of their products and services.
No individual consultant or consulting firm is a good fit for all situations. My hope is that these guidelines will help companies that buy product management consulting services achieve the goals of the engagement, have a great experience and get real value from their service providers.
At Egress Solutions Inc., our goal is to work with clients to accelerate their product management efforts and transition to market-driven best practice. If you would like to learn more about our services, contact us here.