Saying Goodbye

January 2, 2011
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Just last week, I finished  a successful consulting gig for a large bank. I more than met goals set forth by my client–and at a lower cost than originally anticipated. It’s funny how the initial resistance at my hourly rate (i.e., “you cost too much”) quickly disappeared when I showed results. It just goes to show that you get what you pay for, although that’s the subject of a different post.

Just last week, I finished  a successful consulting gig for a large bank. I more than met goals set forth by my client–and at a lower cost than originally anticipated. It’s funny how the initial resistance at my hourly rate (i.e., “you cost too much”) quickly disappeared when I showed results. It just goes to show that you get what you pay for, although that’s the subject of a different post.

In today’s post, I’d like to address the day that every data management consultant always reaches: the end of the assignment. I’ll cover five major things that we consultants face as we march onward and upward.

Recapping

I always find it useful to cover exactly what the client hired me to do. At the same time, I attempt to identify any missing or open items. This formal or informal sign-off may take place in the form of:

  • email
  • meeting
  • phone call

I’m also big on asking questions and soliciting feedback. I like to know what I did well and what I could do better. Of course, if I had been actively involved over the course of the project, then there shouldn’t be any surprises here.

Documentation

This is huge. I like walking away with anywhere from 30 to 100 or more pages of documentation on what I built, did, or modified. Most clients realize that you can’t possibly document everything, especially the entire world of SQL, ETL, or data management. However, a “starter’s guide” is often useful. In my guides, I like to include:

  • background of the project
  • disclaimers
  • troubleshooting
  • additional resources
  • FAQs
  • warnings and cautions

Intelligent clients realize that this is money well spent, not a “nice to have” item that can be created at a moment’s notice at a later point.

CYA

This is consultant-speak for “cover your ass” and I’ll be totally honest here. I try to focus on what I needed to do and, if I get the feeling that my client is on my side, don’t worry too much about CYA. On the other hand, if the project is particularly contentious, I make sure that I’m covered in the event that things break bad. Even when I am friendly with my de facto boss and get a generally positive vibe from my client, I make sure that I’m covered. The last thing I need is a lawsuit or billing problems because of a miscommunication or difference of opinion.

Realizing that the end is usually not the end

Rarely do I think that my phone will never ring again. Sometimes, things happen and, despite my best efforts to transfer knowledge and document key processes, people need to talk to me to solve a problem. I honestly don’t have a problem with this (subject to the next point). I realize that I have a key set of skills for which the client was willing to pay. No organization is going to keep me around indefinitely in the event that a problem arises.

Setting expectations

Am I happy when my phone rings with a question? That depends on what I am doing, the nature of the question, and the requisite turnaround time. My clients need to know that, once I walk out the door for good, I have other clients at the front of my queue. That means that I am unlikely to provide instant, drop-everything-I’m-doing access. As long as they understand this, I am typically able to provide assistance within 24 hours. What’s more, I prefer it when my clients tell me that there’s a big upcoming event, such as month-, quarter-, or year-end closing. That way, I can plan appropriately.

Feedback

What else do you expect from consultants as they move on?