Ten Tips for Selecting and Using a Consultant – 5. Request a proposal

Now that you have identified a group of possible consultants, you should ask them to submit proposals for your evaluation. To help them propose the appropriate services, include the following information in your request:

Scope: Describe the expected scope of work. Are you looking for specific documentation help or general consulting assistance? Do you want onsite training classes or an audit of your system?

If you are not sure what you need, then request a discovery stage where the consultant performs a gap analysis and proposes the project plan. In all likelihood, you would use the same consultant for the next stage, but it gives you the option of selecting someone else or going in a different direction.

Timing: Let the candidates know when the work is to be done, when you expect their responses, and when you will notify them of your decision.

Methods: Ask the consultants to describe how they would perform the work and produce the deliverables. See what you think of their approaches and how they express themselves.

Fees: Ask the consultants to identify their hourly and daily rates. Since the rates may differ by type of service, request their training, auditing, consulting, and documentation rates, as appropriate. Find out if their fees are different for onsite assistance versus electronic help. Ask if they charge for travel time (this could add significant costs for remote locations).

Expenses: Most consultants charge actual and reasonable travel expenses. Some may request a flat per diem. Ask how they handle expenses. To evaluate the differences, you could ask them for an expense estimate for a possible trip to your location.

Format: If you want the consultants to submit their proposals in a specific format or medium, let them know. Make it easy on yourself to evaluate their responses.

Note: The last five tips for Selecting and Using a Consultant will be in our e-newsletter next month:

Choose the consultant
Negotiate the terms
Prepare the agreement
Manage the consultant
Evaluate the results