Planning for the Future, Planning for the Now, Planning for Success

Planning for the Future, Planning for the Now, Planning for Success – what planning can do for you and your business and what NOT planning can do for you and your business.

As business executives and business owners,Guest Posting planning is a natural part of our business lives. We plan for product rollouts, employee growth, revenues, and more, but we don’t necessarily look at planning as a process.

The value of planning isn’t just about the result, The Plan, at the end of the day. Planning is about the process, the act of thinking about your company, and your goals, and how you’re going to get there. There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to plan, but there are better ways than others to think about planning.

What’s involved in a plan, then?

A plan considers your goals for your company and the actions you’ll carry out to reach those goals. While you want to make sure those goals are realistic (are you really going to roll out two new products next year, or can you really go from revenues of $1 million to $3 million in one year?), at the same time, you never know what you could achieve with a plan. You may be successful without one, but you may never know what other possibilities there were beyond your current success without a plan.

Part of the value in planning is that it shows you how you are successful. Often companies are very successful, but they can’t really tell you why. And while we don’t want to take away the magic by analyzing away, we can learn to clarify who we are that makes us successful and build that into the plan.

So, you have a plan. Now what?

Does it sit on your shelf in your office, never to be looked at again? Absolutely not. Your plan is a living document and needs constant attention. This means that you need to look at it often (monthly at least) to determine if you are on track to meet your goals. If you find you’re not on track, that’s okay. The goal of the plan is not to have something etched in stone, but something that develops as your company does.

What happens if a new opportunity arises that you didn’t plan for, didn’t take into account? If you use the plan you developed as the yardstick to measure the current opportunity, you might determine that even though it’s a great opportunity, you as a company (or as an individual) may not be ready at this time. Using the existing plan helps us make the critical judgments all executives need to make as conditions change.

A word of caution about changing the plan.

Usually the problem with changing the plan is not the changes themselves; it’s that we make changes without considering the current plan and the assessment that goes with it. We plan, we create goals and actions to meet those goals, and we take into consideration the business and the individuals as part of that plan. If we change the plan, then we could go off course from our original plan without any thought or assessment of this new opportunity against our original goals. Does this new opportunity get us where we want to be, or does it change our direction? If we change direction, is that a good thing or bad? Do we have the resources to implement this new change? What do we need to shift around, and how does this new opportunity impact other parts of the original plan (training/staffing issues, for example).

What we most often do is simply jump into this new area without the careful consideration we gave the original plan. So we haven’t thought of the what if’s and how to’s. We don’t consider the implications to other parts of the plan and organization. A change in one part always affects some other part. We can’t simply decide to change something and incorporate the change into the plan.

You’ll find that as you review your plan (monthly at least, remember?), assess, make changes, and incorporate new opportunities, that you are fully entrenched in the process of planning. You’ll find as you go along that each year your plan will be more useful as a tool to assist with making business decisions based on information and facts. Ultimately the information one gleans month after month, year after year is what is powerful, the information provides us the power to make informed choices for our department, our business, and ourselves.

What else you need to know about planning

Involve others in the planning process. A plan is that much stronger when you have multiple viewpoints and input. Also, share the plan. Employees and staff will buy-in to the actions when they understand the goals and the plan.
Do what you’re passionate about. If you create a plan around what you love and love doing, the passion will come through in both the plan and the implementation.
Don’t make planning a harsh ‘should’ in your life. See it as an opportunity to create what you want for your life, professional and personal.
Be kind to yourself. This isn’t about pointing to the cracks in your company; it’s about understanding your capabilities and building a plan that plays to those capabilities. And it’s about finding work around for those areas of cracks.
At the end of the day, you get so much more than just The Plan. You have a process for your business, a litmus test for all your actions, and a road map to your goals, whether those goals are to reach a certain revenue point, sell the company, turn over management, or whatever designs for your business you might have.

How to Write a Business Plan

Use this guide to write your perfect business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document that outlines the “who,Guest Posting what, when, where, why and how” of your business. It allows the company to gather pertinent information, look ahead, prepare resources and most importantly, raise capital.

Your plan will help guide you through setting up your business and stay on a clear path.

Why do I need one?

Now granted, there are many entrepreneurs that have successfully opened up shop without the use of a plan. The funding may have come from family and friends, they took a sinking company and turned it around or they knew what their direction was and didn’t need to look back. However, in most cases a plan is a viable resource for your business.

- You think you know but you don’t know. In other words, you may have outlined the entire business in your head but when you put pen to paper you realize there are things you’ve missed, items that haven’t been accounted for, or worse, you didn’t even have an initial plan of action.

- You wouldn’t go in to an investing office without it. If you are looking to raise capital for your business you are going to need a solid business plan to present to an investor. They will use this along with many other factors to determine whether your proposal is viable. Their main goal is not to lose money, so they won’t gamble. Having a strong business plan will help you secure the funding needed to start your business.

- It’s your roadmap. Briefly discussed above, your business plan will be your roadmap to success. It will help guide you through the start-up stages and even further in preventing the least number of hiccups possible. You should keep your business plan handy so you can look back at it and keep on the right path.

What makes a great plan?

Before writing your business plan, you might want to take a look at some of the key factors of a great business plan. Understanding these key elements will save you time and effort in the end. You can focus on these during your writing instead of having to go back and edit in the end.

- What is the basic concept? Write it down.
- Gather all of the information possible prior to writing your business plan.
- Review sample plans. Read them. Understand them. Why do you think they include the information they do?
- Don’t overdo it. Keep things simple and straightforward. Your business plan isn’t a tool to showcase your knowledge of the business.

What are the do’s and don’ts of a business plan?

Okay. We are almost there. But first lets address some of the more common do’s and don’ts of business plans. Again, keeping these in mind will save time and effort in the long run.

Do answer the who, what, when, where, why and how in your business plan.
Do understand that planning is a critical step in a successful business.
Do keep the business plan clear, straightforward and to the point.
Do explain your experience and how it will benefit the company.
Do consider your competition.
Do address the strengths and weaknesses of your business.
Do spell-check.

Don’t be general.
Don’t guess on factors such as financial needs and projections.
Don’t take a business plan you found online into a bank.
Don’t assume everyone is an expert on your niche.
Don’t exhaust your business plan with information that is not relevant and meaningful.

What are the parts of a business plan?

Your business plan will need to include a few important elements. Truthfully, it doesn’t have a great impact if one comes before another but be logical about it’s order. Here is a suggestion:

Cover: Now as unimportant as it may sound, your business plan does need a cover. Keep it simple and clean. Just like visiting a website, a store or even meeting someone at a networking event, first impressions are everything.

Executive Summary: This is where you will gain the investor’s interest. Briefly describe the reason for the investment and highlight any key factors that may persuade them to commit. And make sure to include your contact information. You may want to write this last as you will be outlining in more detail in other sections.

Table of Contents: Would you want to flip through a book, even a small book trying to find a particular paragraph? I wouldn’t. Make it easy for people to go back and find information.

The Company: This is where the importance lies. You need to be able to present your company in the best of light. Being as specific and precise as possible will help you gain the trust of the investor. Include such things as:

The Business: Provide insight that will help the reader gain knowledge on the overall market your business is in and the trends it will experience.

Profile: Explain in detail the purpose of your company and how it will benefit a group of people in the market place. Define the organization structure of the business, market influences, contracts and procedures.

Target Market: You need to be able to outline the company’s target market. This is the group of people based on demographics you will focus on in your marketing efforts.

Challenges: Be able to explain how you will overcome downturns in the economy that might affect the performance of your business.

Marketing: You need to be able to address your marketing strategy, prepare a growth timetable, budget, packaging and presentation, policies and cost. This could be the most important section of “The Company.” Address your marketing plan shows that you have a plan for bringing in business.

Financial: As boring as a section as this is, you MUST be able to outline your financial outlook. You need to be able to prepare Cash Flow Statements for the next three to five years, prepare a Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statements. When you head to speak with an investor you need to be aware of where you are walking into. Probably a bank. And what do banks care about? Money! They will likely spend a good amount of time in this section so be clear, precise and realistic.

Needed Capital: Lastly, you need to address the capital you need. Be aware that most banks will not provide “operating costs” for a start-up. They will supply capital for most tangible items. This way they can make some of their money back by selling these items if you default on the loan or if the business does not take off.

The Appendix: The appendix acts as more of a support for the business plan. You can include anything from supporting documents, biographies, footnotes even a glossary of terms.

What do I do after a create a business plan?

Practice, practice, practice. Pitch your business plan to your family and friends. Gather their input and edit your business plan accordingly. Then, you’re off to the bank.

Lose The Weight For Good – Get Help Choosing A Program

I am a personal trainer who works with both women and men to get them on-track to better health. I know what it takes to stay fit, and I know what it takes to lose weight. Many of my clients come to me with their ideas about the latest fad diet, and personally I am against most of them. There are diets that work, but choosing the wrong diet plan can actually work against you.

As a personal trainer I am constantly inundated with questions about dieting and losing weight. When you begin to look at these topics,Guest Posting and specifically at dieting, one thing quickly comes to light. There are so many diet plans out there that wading through them all (and choosing one that works) can be extremely difficult. With that, let’s first cover what a good diet plan is and what it is not.

First, a diet plan alone is NOT the only thing you need to stay in good health. It may be able to help you take some weight off, but you should add in a daily exercise plan to be sure you keep that weight off.

Second, NOT everyone needs a diet plan. For those who just need to shed a pound or two, exercise is the better way to take it off.

Third, a good diet plan IS an excellent way to lose weight. In fact, if you choose the right diet plan you may be able to finally get the figure that you want.. The best diet plans will help you to lose weight and stay healthy at the same time. The better plans will also teach you how to keep that weight off and not just lose a few pounds in the short term.

Fourth, if you don’t choose the right diet it could seriously affect your health. Too many of the latest fad diets are actually dangerous, and some of them are so dangerous that they may land you in a hospital. A good diet plan should never negatively affect your health.

To help you out, I along with some people who wanted to lose some weight (my clients), took the time to evaluate the top diet plans on the market today. I based my evaluations on the following criteria.

Weight Loss – Obviously the main goal of any diet plan is to lose weight.

Health Factor / Safety – Did the diet plan allow you to stay healthy while you worked to lose weight. Really, some fad diets are downright dangerous so safety is a concern when choosing a plan.

Ease of Use (Simplicity) – Was it easy to learn how to cook foods for the diet plan? A good diet plan shouldn’t require you to become a chef.

Long Term Weight Loss – Did the program teach you how to keep the weight off in the longer term.

Value for your Money – Programs that teach you how to lose weight cost money. Did the plan give enough content for the cost of the package itself?

Motivation Factor – A good program should motivate you to use it, and not just teach you how to cook for your new diet.

Enjoyment Factor – Was the diet plan enjoyable? Most diets fail because everything they suggest for you to eat tastes like cardboard. Higher ratings were given to diet plans that suggested food that is both tasty and healthy.

Overall Rating – Based on all of the above, how well did the program rate?

To evaluate each diet plan we tested them over a six month period of time. Before anyone used them, I first evaluated the program for safety, and then with the programs deemed safe by me I had five of my clients use each diet plan. To ensure that the evaluations were fair 3 of those who tested each program had more than 100 pounds to lose and 2 had 50 pounds or less to take off. Each month our test subjects were weighed, and they shared their thoughts about their progress (and the diet plan) thus far.

Below you will find our ratings for the top five weight-loss programs on the market today. These five make up those that were safe, helped my clients to lose weight, and taught them to keep it off. The clear winner from the evaluations was Fat Loss 4 Idiots, but all of the diet plans in our top five helped those who used them to lose weight.

If you need any help choosing the diet plan that’s right for you, please don’t hesitate to email me ([email protected]). I have no problem working with those who are trying to better their own health. Also, once you have started your diet plan, please do contact me and let me know. Let me know how your diet is going, and how you feel as you take the trip to becoming a slimmer you!

To Losing Weight and Looking Good,

Amber Friesen

OUR TOP PICK FOR LOSING WEIGHT

Fat Loss 4 Idiots

Fat Loss 4 Idiots

Rating9.9/10

Weight Loss

Diet Safety

Tasty Foods

Overall Rating

Click to lose that flab!

#1 Rated Site for Losing Weight 2011

The clear winner from our evaluations was Fat Loss 4 Idiots. This one program helped more people lose weight than any other program on our list, and those who used it also lost more weight than those who were evaluating the other programs we tested.

This one is mostly a diet program and doesn’t go a lot into exercise. The best part about Fat Loss 4 Idiots though is that it works very well. This one isn’t a fad diet. It won’t have you eating high-carb or low-carb foods, and it won’t put your health at risk.

Fat Loss 4 Idiots is a complete solution that concentrates on eating the right foods and at the right times. This is the type of diet plan that really works since it helps your body to use its natural hormones to help burn fat.

Those who used this program lost a lot of weight. In fact, I had one tester who took off 150lbs in just four months, and she ended up looking and feeling better than she had in years.

The problem I have with many diet plans is that they get you eating foods that make you feel less energetic. This isn’t the case with Fat Loss 4 Idiots, and everyone who used this diet plan actually reported an increase in energy. Best of all, they got that increase from eating foods that they enjoyed, and nothing in this diet plan will have you eating cardboard for dinner.

For simple effectiveness, a great safety factor, and being the most enjoyable diet plan on our list, we are giving Fat Loss 4 Idiots our highest recommendation.

Adware Award 2009

December Update: I’ve just learned that Fat Loss 4 Idiots is currently being offered for 50% off. That means that for a limited time you can buy this $80 diet plan for only $39.95. I’ve been told that this is a limited-time offer and that the price will soon jump back up to $80.

In Summary: All my testers who used this program lost more weight, and in a shorter time-frame than with any other diet plan on our list. As such we are recommending Fat Loss 4 Idiots as the diet plan to choose. This one simply was the best-of-the-best, and it works!

Click Here to get Fat Loss Now!

Burn the Fat

Rating9.1/10

Weight Loss

Diet Safety

Tasty Foods

Overall Rating

Highly Recommended

2. Burn the Fat

In second place we have a program called Burn the Fat. This one was written by one of the world’s top fitness experts, and as such, it’s both a diet and exercise plan. In our testing this one worked almost as well as Fat Loss 4 Idiots, but since there was a bigger exercise factor and the diet plan was slightly different we have put it in second place.

Burn the Fat is touted to be the program that burns fat and feeds muscle. In our tests this turned out to be true. Of the five people who tested this one they all lost weight and if you stick with this program you should keep it off for good.

Where this one lost points was for the enjoyment factor and for diet safety. It’s not that this one is unsafe. It should be perfectly safe for most people, but the diet does require you to change what you eat slightly, and the large exercise factor may make it unsafe for those who are obese (heavy exercise right from the start).

All in all though, everyone who used this one lost as much weight as with our winner, and they did so in about the same amount of time. I might recommend this one to men who are looking to build muscle with their weight loss program, but for most Fat Loss 4 Idiots will be a more enjoyable choice.

Click Here to Burn the Fat!

Master Cleanse

Rating7.0/10

Weight Loss

Diet Safety

Tasty Foods

Overall Rating

Also Recommended

3. Master Cleanse

Taking third place is a diet plan called master cleanse. This one actually surprised me a bit when it made it into our top five. It isn’t specifically a diet plan meant to help you lose weight. Rather it’s a system that is meant to teach you to eat food that cleanses your body and gets your natural hormonal balance back.

It’s likely that cleansing factor that made it so effective at helping to lose weight as well. Having said that, those who used the first two programs on our list took the weight off faster. This one also doesn’t teach you how to keep the weight off so it lost more points in the weight loss rankings.

Those who used this diet plan did enjoy the foods it taught you to eat, and I would say that this one is as safe as any other diet plan on the market.

If you’re looking to for a way to restore your body’s natural balance I do recommend you give this one a try. For those looking for the best way to lose weight though, our first or second place program will be a better choice.

Click Here to experience a Master Cleanse

East Stop Eat

Rating 6.9/10

Weight Loss

Diet Safety

Tasty Foods

Overall Rating

Also Recommended

4. Eat Stop Eat

Taking fourth place we have a program called Eat Stop Eat. This one actually performed quite well for weight loss, and for the enjoyment factor as well. The reason this one is in fourth is because it lost points on the health/safety factor.

I wouldn’t necessarily call this one unsafe. For most people it is perfectly safe, but since it is a program that requires you to eat for a while, then stop eating, then eat again – this diet may not be appropriate for some people. Specifically those who suffer from diabetes, or some other illness that requires them to keep their body in balance, may find this one unsafe.

In our evaluation the people who used this program did lose weight. In fact it performed better than our third place program as far as taking the pounds off was concerned. However with the safety factor involved here I am putting this one into fourth, and recommending our top two programs first.

Click Here to Eat Stop Eat

The Diet Solution

Rating6.9/10

Weight Loss

Diet Safety

Tasty Foods

Overall Rating

Also Recommended

5. The Diet Solution

The last product on our list is called the Diet Solution. Again this one performed quite well for weight loss. Where it lost points was in safety and in enjoyment.

Like our number one program, the diet solution suggests eating foods that boost your metabolism and in turn help you to lose weight. Unlike our winner though this one requires you to switch what you eat. Because of that, it lost big points for enjoyable foods.

I’m also unconvinced that the change to your diet couldn’t negatively affect your health. In the case of our testers, everyone remained healthy, but none of them experienced the energy gains that those using Fat Loss 4 Idiots did.

Small Business Consultants Can Help You Grow and Achieve Operational Excellence

Good small business consultants can help business owners and entrepreneurs discover more ways to make profit on a regular basis. A lot of people who seek the help of a small business consultant wind up pleasantly surprised at just how many areas of expertise that consultant actually has.

Outsourcing some of your processes, such as marketing, or getting help coming up with a plan of action to tackle your existing business challenges could make a big difference to the success of your business; and fast, too. Small business consultants can help you go after new business as well as help you to ensure that you can effectively handle a spike in volume. Growth is good but you need to be able to handle that growth and to be able to sustain it as well. Getting help from an expert just makes sense. A consultant has expertise working with many industries and can help you market to expand as well as correct operational deficiencies that could be limiting or potentially dangerous to your reputation and future growth possibilities.

Most business consultants have a wide array of experience and have been entrepreneurs themselves. Their knowledge and experience puts them in a good position to look at businesses with challenges or goals that require direction and action plans and then provide small business owners or entrepreneurs with info that can help them move forward.

Finding New Customers

Most businesses are on the constant lookout for new customers. Why wouldn’t you want to capture more market share than you have today? Your business consultant can help you find customers that don’t know how much value you can add to their lives yet as well as help you position your company’s products or services so that you can take market share from dissatisfied or disloyal customers of your competitors.

Capitalising on Existing Customers

Some businesses have a more loyal customer base than others. But many small businesses who first start out don’t realise the full potential in your first few customers. Not only could they become repeat customers but they could also be case studies that help you demonstrate your capabilities in your industry.

If your business has an existing client base, it makes sense to spend a bit of time marketing to those people. After all, they have already shown that they are confident enough in you to place an initial order. If you have done your job well, subsequent sales should be much easier to achieve and those businesses could prove to be valuable for their testimonials, the business you can begin forecasting for based on trends, and for their word of mouth referral power.

Small business consultants help small businesses capitalise on existing customers while helping them to expand to attract new clients as well. By investing in expertise you can expand quickly and with confidence that you have the infrastructure in place to support new business.

Entrepreneur Consultant: Power of Your Intention

Today we are going to talk about the power of your intention. Every business that is built has a reason for its existence and this reason determines the path the business will take to achieve its goals. Your business can only be as unique as its intention.

What I believe. I believe in your intention to create the kind of consulting business no one has ever seen. Your goal is to create a business that gives advice in a different way to a different audience. You are trying to elevate your art form by being more valuable, not just more intelligent. I understand you’re trying to do consulting differently and I believe in the picture you have created.

Why I believe it. I believe you are an expert. You have the experience and background that gives particular insight into you marketplace. I believe you plan to use your insight for good. I also know that you’re irritated. You have seen so many other experts do the same thing repeatedly and their approach adds little value. You aren’t impressed that the status-quo gets reinforced year after year with no real movement in the marketplace. You know it’s time to shake it up and you know your company can do it.

Being in business means more to you than just the money itself. You could’ve taken a more lucrative path if you wanted, but instead you chose a path that has meaning in it. At the same time, you understand that being a responsible business means making a profit. You plan to continue your profitable ways, but you also understand that there needs to be some substance in your business if you are going to stay excited.

Relevance to you. I realize that you are not a normal consultant. You don’t give normal advice and you don’t work with normal clients. You created your business to have a specific impact on the world. That’s a different kind of intention and as a company we know your kind of intention requires a different kind of care.

At the same time, you understand that the typical business, marketing, and management advice will not satisfy your desire to grow. You know you need something different. Perhaps you already have grasped those basics, but you’re looking for the next level of insight to help your particular kind of business grow. We understand that the support you need is more than just informative resources. Your business needs to be cultivated and that is why we include measures of accountability into our programming. We want to be sure the cultivation process happens. Your business should get a little better quarter after quarter, year after year.

Your intention has the power to make a difference in your chosen path. The more unique the intention you choose, the more unique the care needs to be in order to push your intention forward in the right direction. We accept the responsibility of working with you as you build your awesome consulting business.

IT Consulting Jobs

With the diversification of computer industry and rapid changes in technology, careers related to computer and information technology are one of the fields most people are trying to fill. The competition in this field has doubled every year. However, with the vast array of industries requiring IT experts and other IT consulting jobs, this profession is still viable and profitable.

One of the best positions to consider is being a computer consultant. Computer consulting career is one of the most exciting fields to look at, not only because it offers big compensation but it offers the flexibility in schedules and the freedom to choose the people you want to work with. However, the decision to become consultant should not be taken lightly. It needs proper education, several experience related to this profession as well as skills that you can use during IT consulting jobs. As a computer consultant, your clients trust and recognize you as the expert in this field expecting you to deliver results.

To enter in this profession, you should already have many marketable skills that you can offer to your client. It will be an advantage if you have many years working experience in one of many fields in computer industry. If not, you can partner with qualified consultant and subcontract with them. This technique will help you build the list of possible clients that you can work with in the future. Your client will be your bread and butter in advancing to this profession. It is important to leave a positive impression to every client that you work with. One client may result to another client if you did a good job.

Aside from being technically well verse, there are also other aspects that you should consider like: marketing skills, entrepreneurship skills, planning skills, time management skills and other skills needed for successful IT consulting jobs. Above all, you should be a self motivated individual because it is not always a happy day in this profession. There are times that you will not get a single client especially if you are just starting. The good thing about this profession is once you set your momentum there will be no stopping unless you said so.

Why SEO Consultants Are Needed In Businesses Today

The importance of SEO Consultants…

Now, you might know already what SEO means, but only few know how it really works and do wonders in your business. Having your own website is just a start of marketing your services or products worldwide. You need to make it visible to your potential clients or customers when they search the web. This is where the search engine optimisation experts come in, they are individuals and firms who know just what to do.

Benefits you can get from SEO Consultants:

1. SEO consulting is easier since they can explain to you the process and possible ways to increase the page rank of your website in popular search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

2. Everything will be clear to you through the reports they submit, so you can definitely monitor the progress of your pages every now and then.

3. You can save time and effort trying to increase the ranks of your pages on your own.

4. Being number 1 ranked in the search engine results means an increase of visitors looking for what you have to offer. More clicks on your website and potentially more clients, which can lead to higher revenues.

5. Visibility of your site and pages to your target market will be maintained which is a great advantage for you towards other competitors in the same category.

6. Assurance that you can contend with whatever problems in your online marketing strategy with the help of your search engine consultant.

7. If the results are unsatisfactory, you have the option to either continue or terminate your contract with that the seo consultant. Thus, finding an excellent professional to do the job for you is critical and must be done wisely.

8. More time for your other marketing strategies since you don’t have to worry about your page rankings.

9. Faster output when it comes to generating human traffic through keyword optimization because every keyword will be utilized properly according to your target URL.

10. All the important pages in your website will be focused and promoted by your SEO Consultant, so all of them will appear in the results list when they are searched.

SEO consultants understand what you need

Search engine optimization is a very broad topic and a complex process. It’s not easy to understand especially if you are new to it, that’s why there are SEO Consultants who help business and company owners kick start their visibility in the search engines. Don’t be hesitant to ask for help and hire someone knowledgeable about the whole SEO process as you will be the one to benefit from it in the long run. Just be sure that you employ someone whom you can trust and is an expert in this field. That person must be reliable enough and can carry out good results in a matter of time. If you have this kind of SEO Consultant then you’re in good hands because that individual will certainly maintain your high page ranking.

The Importance of Needs Assessments in Computer Consulting

Depending on the size of a company and its computer culture, implementing new computer solutions can range from being a quick, hassle free process to a complex process that requires a computer consultant to consider various criteria before proposing solution. In most cases, large companies where multiple employees will access a new computer system require computer consultants to conduct an in depth needs assessment that considers computer solutions form a variety of company angles, including a company’s organizational structure, its human resources, its competition, its customers, its employees at all levels, its staffing and employee turnover, its management and employee reward programs, its sales figures, its marketing strategy and its mission, goals and objectives, among other concerns.

In a needs assessment of this depth, the goal is to provide solutions that increase a company’s effectiveness without first resulting in a learning curve that compromises employee productivity and negatively impact a company’s bottom line. Nevertheless, some managers exhibit an unwillingness to pay for in depth needs assessments and instead prefer that a computer consulting firm implement solutions from a more superficial standpoint. In most cases, a manager’s reluctance to opt for an needs assessment results from the belief that the money would be better invested in specific remedial sessions, which leaves a computer consulting firm with two options: give the company what they want, even if it won’t result in the long-term benefits that the company desires, or insist on the importance of conducting a needs assessment in the face of losing business.

In addition to these two scenarios, some computer consulting firms take the approach that, if they give a client what they want, the client will return for additional consulting after discovering that the consultant was right about a needs assessment. However, the likelihood of a company returning to a consultant that didn’t implement an effective solution the first time is risky at best, even as the poor results came from stubbornness on the part of management. The optimal outcome for implementing complex solutions depends on two things: the consultant’s remaining set on an in depth needs analysis and management’s willingness to balance start up cost against long term cost savings and profits.

When a computer consultant dialogues with a company whose solutions implementation involves a variety of concerns, the consultant becomes a guide and mentor in addition to a technical specialist. Whereas management is usually in the position of asking questions and considering answers, its role is usually reversed in the case of large-scale computer solutions. In addition, because computer consultants are expensive and management’s job is to cut costs, the reluctance to perform an in depth needs analysis is understandable. Nevertheless, having a reputable computer consulting firm perform a thorough needs assessment is one of the most critical investments a company can make.

Managing External IT Consultants Effectively

One of the most commonplace complaints encountered within professional IT Departments working as part of a larger organisation is that they have somehow ‘lost control’ of a group of external consultants originally introduced to assist with a particular project.

The problem

There are many excellent IT Support Consultancies delivering real benefit to organisations.

Yet sometimes someone within the in-house IT Department (or the wider business sponsoring area) designated to ‘manage’ the external consultants’ activities suddenly finds that he or she has been bypassed in the management chain.

The reality becomes that the consultants are now de-facto reporting directly to someone at the top of the organisation on the business management side. This relationship is often at a senior partner level within the consultancy and executive sponsor level of the client organisation. The link is often built by a consultancy under the Trojan Horse auspices of ‘executive level relationship management’.

This can effectively blur accountability and result in nobody really being able to hold the external consultants to account for their activities, decisions, productivity and cost-effectiveness. The reality is that multiple communication channels are opened up to the client’s executive sponsorship level and the in-house project manager has become someone who can be easily bypassed when required.

The result is that the in-house PM becomes not the controller of the external consultants but rather an ‘administrative facilitator’ to assist with their largely independent activities.

Worse, blurring the lines of management accountability is sometimes used intentionally by consultants with a view to providing opportunities for cross-selling their services to other areas of the organisation.

Given that very significant numbers of major IT projects fail and post mortems often cite a contributory cause as being a failure to control and integrate external consultants, it’s imperative that organisations should be aware of this potentially very serious issue and address it accordingly.

What can be done

To ensure that the project remains under tight control and to reduce the chances of failure, the following governance steps should be taken:

1. It should be recognised that many external consultancies will naturally have an unspoken and usually unacknowledged objective to avoid being controlled and held accountable by senior management anywhere in the sponsoring organisation.

Their intention will usually be to secure an executive-level relationship with the sponsoring company whilst notionally recognising the project manager’s authority.

2. The governance structures of the client organisation should understand this to be ‘business as usual’ but also something which is fundamentally in conflict with basic project control disciplines and the need for the project manager to be the focus of communication and REAL total resource management.

3. If a senior partner in the consultancy wishes to have a direct engagement at relationship management level, the sponsoring organisation should insist this is through their appointed project manager. Insisting upon this will typically result in the consultancy’s senior partner rarely, if ever, appearing on the scene.

Removing exclusive project manager control of external consultancy communications and their engagement/relationship management with his or her own company effectively undermines the PM and removes his or her ability to totally control external consultancy resources on a daily basis.

To ensure project success, there should never be any doubt as to who is ‘in charge’ and that person should be at a senior operational management or junior executive level within the sponsoring organization.

Of course, it should also be recognised that controlling highly-professional and very well-qualified external IT consultants demands the highest calibre of internal project management. Asking someone with relatively little experience of managing a major project to deliver it safely and to take control of powerful external provider organisations in doing so, may be unrealistic bordering naïve.

However, even the most experienced and capable project managers must have the full and unqualified support of their executive level if they are going to successfully manage and rein-in those occasionally difficult-to-control major external consultancies.

Five Tips to Choosing the Right Business Consultant

Do you wonder how professional athletes keep in shape? How an actor keeps up on his or her ability to be a consistent entertainer? Have you ever wondered how YOU can become good at something? The answers are practice and coaching. A Business Consultant is a coach for your business, who should be able to help you practice the traits needed to be successful in your business.

How you choose a coach is a matter of personal preference. You can choose an online entity, a company in town, or an individual consultant. It does not matter, as long as you understand the requirements a consultant or business coach should have, prior to making a final decision. The fact is that you cannot accept everyone or every company at face value, especially in today’s volatile business world. This premise is exceptionally true for business consultants and coaches, because the entity you choose could ultimately be holding your livelihood in their hands. So, with this understanding, there are a few things you should know about any potential consultant, coach or firm prior to engaging them within your company.
The very first thing you should measure a coach or consultant on is his credentials. Any true quality consultant or firm will have their credentials available to you at any time. In fact, most reputable firms will already have the permission to use a cross-section of their clients as marketing references, giving you a glimpse of whom has hired them to date. It is very important that you contact a client or two, making sure any information given was accurate.

Second, you need to make sure your consultant has some experience, or is at least managed by someone who does. Many times, firms will introduce new consultants into a business, without letting the clients know they are new. You do not want to pay fees for an inexperienced consultant, to help train someone’s staff. Further, if you are going to allow a less experienced consultant work in your business, you want to know that an experienced mentor is working with them to make sure your company is successful.

Third, accreditations and reputation. Hiring a firm that has a broad experience base and has backed that experience up by joining industry groups, associations, public groups like the Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau; show some integrity in their approach toward their own business. Also, industry specific training, that shows an investment to learn more about an industry or consulting, will always be beneficial to a business.

Fourth, beyond reference checking, meet some of the stakeholders who will be working with you. You can gain a lot of information by having a conversation on the phone, or even an email exchange with your potential consultant or coach. One thing you can ask is if you will be working with more than one person and if you can speak to more than one of them, which creates an opportunity to learn about the team.

Fifth, do they have a structured plan? It is an undeniable truth that organization and communication will make or break any business. Having a consultant that does not approach each client with a plan, will most likely cause a failure in your business. This does not mean your business will fail, but the objective of the consultant is to fix something, this cannot happen without a structured approach. Make sure that each firm or consultant being considered presents a plan that is clear and concise. There are no shortcuts to learning new things in your business.

Choosing a consultant is a big step for any business owner or manager. There are so many areas within a business that can be affected by multiple issues, many of which are third party or seemingly uncontrolled. By engaging a coach or consultant with a structured plan, you and your company will have the practice it needs to react consistently to business issues, over the life of your company.

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