Beware of Unscrupulous Consultants

No surprises.

That’s good although the probably unattainable goal for your ERP modernization / transformation. Unfortunately, sometimes a consulting engagement is the source of bad surprises. I have heard too many horrific stories of unscrupulous consultants with sneaky and unethical practices that hit the client hard with a seemingly endless string of unhappy shocks.

I want to help you identify some of the key tricks that unethical consulting firms will use and help you avoid a situation that could put your project and even your company at risk.

Often, a not-so-transparent consulting company will roll the value of their services into the engagement discussion giving you false confidence in their process. Later, after the paperwork is signed, you may find out that some key pieces of expected work aren’t actually part of the contract.

If you’ve been burned previously, you may already know where this is headed. The consulting firm can promise you the moon in the Statement of Work, with bells, whistles and stars. But unless those stars (not to mention the bells and whistles) are specifically laid out in writing in the Engagement Letter, you won’t get them.

But It’s In the Statement of Work…

It is common to verbally refer back to the SOW during discussions and negotiations. “Well, as you remember, that task will be done during Phase X as outlined in the SOW you have received” is a commonly heard response when you, the client is asking the prospective consultant about how they will help you with the ERP journey. They treat it like it is a given, a redundant fact, that, of course, they will perform that task, and in great detail. So, it’s natural to feel a greater and greater sense of ease and confidence in this consultant and/or their company.

Fast forward a few months. You have selected this consulting company and they are knee-deep into your project. There is no going back. As things progress, you notice some key deliverables are missing. You ask your consultant and are informed that it isn’t part of the project. They inform you in no uncertain terms that your request is not part of the engagement terms. But you know it was included in the Statement of Work. You look back through your document, and there it is, listed right there, between the moon and the stars in the SOW they had provided before you signed the Engagement Letter. The problem: The Statement of Work was referenced in the Engagement Letter you all signed, but not outlined specifically. There is nothing in your actual contract that states you will receive that deliverable. But of course, they can offer that to you for an additional fee.

Refresher: Elements of the Engagement Process

The Statement of Work (SOW) lists the specific tasks that the consulting firm will be expected to perform throughout the project and the costs associated with this. The Scope of Work should be included within the Statement of work.

The Scope of Work defines the full scope of the project, including project goals, the deliverables you will receive, timelines, and how success will be evaluated.

The Engagement Letter is the actual contract. In the end, whatever is in this document is the only one that counts. Once signed by both parties, it is the legal document that moves forward into the project.

It is absolutely vital to state every single detail of your SOW and its included Scope of Work in the contract you sign. If the consulting company waves off this request and tells you it’s all in the SOW they already provided, let those warning bells going off in the recesses of your mind ring loud and clear. If different options were provided to you before the final engagement letter was given to you, make sure the specific options you chose are listed clearly and with every expectation, task, and deliverable.

The bottom line is that no matter how much it has been discussed between you and the consulting team, no matter how much you like or trust your selected consultant, you must make sure the details of your project are matched exactly, word for word, across all documents, and that the Engagement Letter spells out every detail before you sign.

Unfortunately, the ERP industry is like any other industry. Unscrupulous people are everywhere. But there are also great consultants who will truly make your project better. Our goal is to help you understand how to find a quality consultant while being wary of getting trapped in a contract with a less-than-transparent or honest company.

Next time, I’ll cover other tricks that we have seen consulting companies use and discuss how to make sure you don’t get caught in their trap.