Consulting 101: So You Want to Hire a Consultant, Do You?
Last updated: 6/16/2002; 10:20:39 AM
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Consulting 101: So You Want to Hire a Consultant, Do You?

This document is the inverse of the normal Consulting 101 document.  This document looks at hiring a consultant from the perspective of what the client should ask (or do) before bringing the consultant on. 

And, yes, by posting this, please feel free to ask me these questions if you should hire me.

After All: It's only fair I used to ask them when I hired consultants.

NOTE: The assumption here is that you are hiring some type of web / Internet consultant but the questions are mostly applicable to any type of consultant.

  1. Is your production server under your desk?  Can you reach out and kick it?  Hosting on a cable modem or DSL line just isn't reliable or acceptable. 
  2. Have you specifically done X before?  Fill in X with a highly specific example. 
    • NO: Have you programmed in Java before?
    • YES: Have you used Java to build network monitoring applications?
  3. Can I see your coding standards?  Everyone has these and should, pretty much be able to produce them on demand.  Yes, I do too.  Here they are:
  4. How do they backup?  How often do they backup?  (Why?  If your consultant goes down then you're in trouble).
  5. Do they backup mail, etc or just data files? (Why?  If they lose their mail file then you, the client, will be resending them a lot of old messages).
  6. How do they track bugs?
  7. How are you billed for:
  8. Phone Calls?
  9. Email Messages?
  10. Instant Messages?
  11. Do you have access to in process work such as specifications, proposals, etc?  My clients do, here's what they can access:
  12. How do you protect the security of the work that you do for me?
  13. Can I see some code you've written?  Here's the key to making this work – even if you don't understand the code, you should a) not give them time to prepare – since then what's the point, you want to see normal engineering practices, not prettified stuff and b) just look and see if it's neat and if there are comments.  This gives you a pretty good feel for the person's engineering practices.
  14. References?  I tend to put less faith in this then a lot of people since I assume that any consultant you want to hire is smart enough to NOT give out references to customers that are unhappy.
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