By Ann Wyganowski, CBCP, CBRM, MBCI
A consultant in our unique industry is often faced with many major challenges. As a person usually versed in the risks and issues understood by the business continuity and emergency management community how do we convince others that those risk might actually be real, prevention measures are in order, and an action plan needs to be in place should they occur.
Key areas that need to be addressed at the start of any contractual obligation however informal include:
- Support within the customer organization (visible and senior level)
- Understanding of the project objectives
- What might constitute a good project plan – how detailed do our goals and deliverables have to be?
- How well prepared the sponsor is to work across the entire company or organization to assure plan integration and synergy (? A bottom up push?)
- How the consulting engagement is introduced to all of the participants and what senior level backing it has
- Clear project scope and timelines
What the consultant needs to consider is also unique to each engagement. Your reputation is at stake. How well positioned are you to succeed and complete the assignment with a happy customer and good reference for future work? If your customer is not willing to support you in the needed areas, the resulting outcome could impact your reputation in the industry.
Key success factors
Many small to medium sized business folks who need to engage a consultant are not quite as familiar with working with an industry expert or “outsider” as those people with the same roles within a large multinational group who might regularly use consultants. How you work together to position the project to succeed may also impact your reputation.
How ready are you to back out of an agreement, or accept you have taken the wrong direction? Contractually how easy is it to say goodbye?
Each customer environment and concerns are very different. A consultant has to be flexible and creative. Typical project activities and templates need to be adapted to the unique environment that you are working in.
Typical areas that need close analysis include the risk assessment / business impact analysis process. Each customer is totally different. How you might prioritize their business can have totally different drivers. This can range from facilities and IT dependencies, to the key human resources and knowledge holders who are essential to business or organization survival.
What makes a consultant different?
Usually a consultant has an objective view point, without an interest in company or organization politics. As an expert, it’s necessary to distance your report from “opinions” and those internal politics.
A consultant must be neutral, but fair. Opinions expressed should reflect a balanced and judicious view, based on industry best practices. This report as a distanced individual reflects on your ability as a professional.
Tact and measure must be the consultant’s constant companion; however the obvious plan faults and shortcomings must be highlighted and prioritized. All key areas that are the customer’s main concern must be addressed in a diplomatic way. These should be identified up front with the customer and a framework for the report outcome defined.
Why use a consultant?
Each customer has its own corporate culture and communications environment. How they will want to craft key messages to push out across their organization may also be quite different from customer to customer. Some will be “high tech” and prefer to communicate in a web based fashion, while others might feel the most effective messaging might be through direct manager communications or hard copy desk drops.
Can you make business continuity tools and template repeatable? Can a consultant come in and just implement their existing tools and templates to make it easy for us?
There are some degrees that approach and methodology can be deployed in multiple environments. However, that must be tempered with the fact that every environment, organization, business and group of people is totally unique.
Consultants can use an existing framework that they may have successfully deployed in the past to facilitate your BCP implementation. However, the unique set of priorities considered by one organization may not fit the next group the consultant works with.
The consultant may have a cross business viewpoint which can help their customer understand how to model their business impact analysis and process prioritization; however BCP is not a “one size fits all” exercise.
No typical workgroup has that cross functional view, or breadth of experience. That is where a consultant can provide some deep understanding of what is going on across the industry or country.
I’m a consultant and I love the variety, the challenge or working across many customers, the variety of customer environments and the need to analyze how BCP can best become a competitive advantage to support their team. In selecting a consultant, I hope that presenting the various dilemmas faced by the contractor and the consultant will help all to work together more cohesively.
Ann Wyganowski is a Master Business Continuity Professional (MBCP), and Certified Business Resilience Manager (CBRM) and Member of the Business Continuity Institute (MBCI), all of which are internationally recognized designations in the field. Ann sits on various emergency management and business continuity boards as a volunteer and is the Treasurer of the Disaster Recovery Institute Canada. She is a recognized senior consultant in the industry with a prosperous consulting practice. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bcphelp.com.