ACQURING A CONSULTANT
In my previous blog, the second in this series, I identified levels of preparedness for an FM organization to gain positive short and longer-term payoffs using a consultant. I also mentioned finding a consultant using the FMCC Consultant Search directory in IFMA ENGAGE. Essentially, an organization with sound strategies, that give rise to practical objectives, which can generate clear processes stands to strengthen its FM outcomes with consultant use because it can insert consultant work anywhere to support specific business outcomes. A less mature organization can still obtain defined results, but with less certain alignment with performance expected from FM by top management. Regardless, it remains to design and manage an FM consultant engagement for optimum results.
In The Phantom Tollbooth Milo (right of center) struggles to reach Rhyme and Reason (left) who, unsurprisingly to any FM, encounter plentiful obstacles to being recognized and heard. Constraints of time (Watchdog, left) and unreliable guidance and communication (Humbug, right) don’t make things easier for Milo, who has to follow leads, take chances, discern what could work, and adjust when something doesn’t.
A consultant project has a life cycle, beginning with recognizing an advantage – or not – in using an FM consultant at any given time. You don’t have to be confronted by necessity. Optional use to take advantage of an opportunity is not a luxury, but it must advance FM and satisfy stakeholders, especially your boss.
Model your circumstances. Stay informed about the business of your parent organization: market conditions, trends, competition, regulation, legal, politics… belong in a helpful background anytime. Identify the problem to be solved, risk to mitigate, or opportunity to be realized. Be clear about organization and FM goals affected (strategies and strategic objectives, if you use strategic management such as a Balanced Scorecard.) What are the pertinent time, financial, staff, risk, compliance, and cultural conditions ongoing? Apprehend them. A SWOT is a convenient beginning, then move to detailed, quantitative tools, giving preference to ones used in your organization. If you are new to consultants, talk to colleagues across and above in your own organization, or with FMs with responsibilities resembling yours. Talk with IFMA members, whether or not they are consultants. Build a narrative to inform your own situation. Now you are prepared to confer with a consultant, making good use of the time and energy that you both bring.
You may be surprised and informed by the variety of approaches and solutions that come to light. Consultants vary widely in how they render and charge services, so explore for a good fit, editing your model as you go. It will be the background for your presentation for approval and funding.
Hiring an FM professional differs from outsourcing facility services – in the level of understandings and expectations of results. Whether you are working from an O&M discretionary budget, or an identified project budget requiring a more detailed analysis, prepare and present a clean summary, in person, to your boss. If you have kept up communications so far, your boss will be anticipating with confidence what you will propose.
Here we leave Milo, Rhyme and Reason recovered. In the next blog, we take up consultant engagement and performance. Heads up: it’s more than project management, but competent project management is essential.
 Juster, Norman and Jules Feiffer, The Phantom Tollbooth, 1961, Penguin
 Rhyme and Reason, Milo, Humbug and Watchdog, from Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. Illustrations, Copyright © 1961 by Jules Feiffer ISBN: 0-394-82199-8.