Hiring Consultants 101: Hiring an Expert

Will Shepler • Feb 03, 2020

Hiring an Expert

On our blog, we’ve talked about several aspects of what to look for when looking for delivery partners, and today we’re going to take some time to dig into what it means to “Hire an Expert”, and how to identify one. This is a critical skill that really needs to be sharpened if you’re going to be working with someone to facilitate and accelerate your projects. We’re going to look at why you should or shouldn’t hire an expert, and what makes an expert, well... an expert!

We Need Help (Resources)

You’ve decided that you need help with your project and that’s a huge step. The next phase is when it gets challenging. You have to find out WHO can help you. Do you need more resources to do more work or do you have bigger decisions to make? If you just need resources, you’re probably not looking for an expert. Don’t get me wrong, you may need very Sr-level resources with huge skill sets, but you’re looking for delivery and that means you’ll want to screen contractors or use a trusted partner to supply you with proven resources to get the job done.

We Need More Than Just More Resources (An Expert)

When more input is needed to your process than just solid delivery resources, you’re probably going to need an expert… at something. The What and When and Why of that decision is a topic for another post, right now we’re going to dive into what you’re looking for in an expert.

An Expert Is...

An expert is a thought leader, which means that they are well-equipped to engage in your process at levels broader than the nuts and bolts of delivery and can contribute meaningfully across a broad range of team activities. They also have three key characteristics that can make or break an effort:

  1. Experts can communicate with the team

    We specifically chose the word “communicate” instead of “talk” or “engage” because communication implies that the concepts that they are conveying are understood more or less intact by the team at all levels, so that aligning everyone happens naturally through the course of regular communication.

    Some teams are resistant to outside input, we’ve seen some pretty hairy conversations develop around hot project topics, but part of communication is wading into the mess and working to sort it out.

  2. Experts have opinions and rational, defensible reasons for them.

    An expert will present a cohesive vision for how delivery looks in their ideal world, be able to tell you why this is a good option for your business, and be able to answer the “Why” behind their vision.

    We’ve been in many situations in software development where someone has presented a path forward to me and given me options for two to three different implementation stacks, along with a nice list of pros and cons for each. That’s great, it really is, but doing research and pro/con lists for a tech stack is something we would expect one of our delivery people to be able to do.

  3. Experts will know (and tell you) when you don’t need them

    Sometimes the expertise doesn’t match the need or is at the wrong point in the process, or… whatever else. For some reason things just aren’t matched up right. An expert will come to you with these concerns and let you know when the fit isn’t right. In many cases they may even be able to recommend someone in their network who could be a better fit.

    This can be a hard pill to swallow on both sides, but it’s a matter of knowing where personal limits are and understanding that not everything can work out every time. When a mismatched relationship is forced, the stress eventually fractures the relationship, and oftentimes leaves the project in an uncertain state of success or failure. An expert will do everything they can to prevent that.

There are many, many more characteristics that make experts valuable, but the core value around it all is that they will all be dedicated to your success because they know that’s how they achieve success as well.

To Hire, or Not To Hire… That is the Question

Whether or not you need an expert is a highly situational and business-driven decision that will need careful consideration whenever it comes up. It’s important to make sure that when you do engage, that you maximize the value of your expert by taking advantage of their skills and outsider perspective and be open to the ideas they bring to the table. They are opinionated, but flexible, and can shed invaluable light on parts of your process or plan or implementation that we in the trenches are often too close to see clearly.