How to choose the best consultant for your ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation

Can you remember a situation when you “hit a wall” and didn’t have a clue what to do next? So many options, but which is the right one? What to do next? Making the right decision could mean the success or failure of your implementation, and highly influence your future projects or, maybe, even your career.

It’s not always easy to do everything by yourself. There could be many reasons, but the fact is that sometimes you need someone to help you. When we talk about ITIL or ISO 20000, which could be quite challenging to implement, the person who can help you needs to be a subject matter expert with lots of experience. Consultants, usually, have those characteristics.

Why do you need one?

No matter whether you are a SME or a large company, there are a lot of reasons why you might decide to hire a consultant. Sometimes, you are not experienced with the topic (ISO 20000 or ITIL, in this case) and you don’t have time to gather experience, i.e., know-how. Or, it could be that you can’t manage to fulfill your daily duties and implement ISO 20000 or ITIL processes and/or functions in parallel. Lack of time would cause double issues – your daily duties will suffer because of the implementation project, and the implementation will not get your required attention because you have enough daily activities. And, let’s be honest, half-way implemented ITIL processes/functions will not provide the desired results (e.g., implementation of managed IT Service Management processes), and ISO 20000 implementation that is not done correctly can cause an unsuccessful certification audit. Can you imagine a moment when your managers ask you to explain these (negative) results?

So, to increase efficiency in implementation, you decide to hire a consultant. Let’s see what you should expect from the consultant’s engagement.

The expectations

Of course, there are consultants, and then there are consultants. You will not find two of them who are the same; but, generally, they have some common characteristics. A consultant is someone who has knowledge you (or your company) don’t have. So, it’s logical that you will reach for someone who will fill the (knowledge) gap. Consultants are (usually) experienced in working for a variety of customers. That experience is what you need, because many people I have met and who have been working for the same company for a long time are missing breadth of knowledge; i.e., they are limited in scope. So, consultants can fill in the gaps. Further on, besides telling you what to do and how to do it, consultants will (if you have such agreement with them) write all necessary documentation, lead the implementation, and train your people.

How to choose one?

There is no magic formula that will tell you which (or whether any at all) consultant is the right one. But, there are some parameters (as I experienced with many clients so far) you can use to make the choice easier:

  1. Define your own decision criteria – The price that a consultant will charge plays a significant role in your decision making (whether to hire or not to hire a certain consultant). But, I would suggest – that shouldn’t be the only one and primary criterion. Quite the contrary – focusing solely on price will blur all other parameters that are (usually) more important.
  2. Talk, i.e., communicate – You can, particularly if you doing the hiring for the first time, set decision parameters that will help you choose the right consultant who is the best match for your requirements, but, from my experience, direct communication is the best way to get a feel for a consultant’s appropriateness for your needs. Have a meeting or two, maybe more, and you will get a pretty good feeling about the consultant’s competence, experience, social skills, etc.
  3. Ask for references – That’s always an excellent step you can take. Check the consultant’s previous work. But, be careful while evaluating this element of a consultant’s appraisal because, when describing previous projects, descriptions can sound extremely attractive, but the real work can be questionable. To be on the safe side (what did previous projects really include?) – use the previous option; i.e., talk to him and ask for direct, precise information. Listen carefully to the answers, observe the consultant’s body language while he is explaining, and even talk to his previous customers (if possible).
  4. Education – That’s certainly not a knock-out criterion, but it can help you to evaluate a consultant’s subject matter knowledge. In the case of ISO 20000 you can look for a Lead Implementer or Lead Auditor certificate. If you are implementing ITIL, then some of the intermediate qualifications would be a minimum requirement, but I would, certainly, ask for the Expert level.
  5. Evaluate – Now you should already have enough information to create your own opinion about the consultant, based on your own criteria about his subject matter knowledge, experience, general approach, price…

The experience

Consultants can be both a positive, as well as a negative experience. But, that also depends on you. Besides the above-mentioned criteria to choose the right consultant, I quite often see that companies take the cheapest offer. Be careful with that, because you need a consultant to fill in the knowledge gaps and take over some load from you. The cheapest consultants usually don’t have enough experience.

Although consultants speed up the implementation and (possibly) increase the quality of the implementation, that doesn’t mean that your duties, and particularly your responsibilities, are significantly changing. After all, the result (ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation) is your responsibility. Having a consultant, you are getting a great chance to speed up the implementation and use the consultant’s expertise. So, use it as best you can.

Use these free checklists:  List of questions to ask an ITIL consultant or  List of questions to ask an ISO 20000 consultant to prepare yourself for talking to your potential consultant.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.