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FCW : April 30, 2013
April 30, 2013 FCW.COM 21 TANT Even before sequestration, federal IT leaders were under pressure to closely monitor contracts and justify every con- sulting dollar spent. With both planned and arbitrary budget cuts now looming, it is even more important to make sure consultants earn their keep. A well-planned management consult- ing engagement can be part of the solu- tion to a tight budget because it can help agencies improve ef ciency and identify targeted cuts. After all, willy-nilly bud- get cuts can cost far more than they save, while a well-spent dollar can end up saving money and improving long- term results. "As an ex-consultant myself, I fully understand the value that management consultants can bring to agencies in helping solve both strategic and opera- tional issues," said Joe Jordan, admin- istrator of the Of ce of Management and Budget s Of ce of Federal Pro- curement Policy. "There are signi cant bene ts around bringing private-sector best practices and insight to solving public-sector problems. The key is to always ensure that the utilization of consul- tants or any pro- fessional service provider is to sup- plement and not replace the federal employees." From 2000 to 2008, agencies spend- ing on professional management sup- port services quadrupled, prompting OMB to set a goal of reducing that spending by 15 percent from 2010 to 2012. The effort was a success. "We were able to hit that goal and save $7 billion," Jordan said. Of course, saving money is only one way of demonstrating the bene t of a given project or course of action. When it comes to consultants, the challenge is to carefully manage every step of the engagement with the overall business goal rmly in mind. "You have to have a clear understand- ing of what is the problem you re trying to solve," Jordan said. Why hire a consultant? There are good reasons to bring in a management consultant to solve an ongoing and complex federal IT problem, and there are just as many bad reasons. The latter include hiring a consultant because you re comfortable with the person or because it is easier to terminate a consultant than a federal employee. On the positive side, consultants can bring new ideas, specialized exper- tise or deep experience with a given challenge, said Mark White, chief technology of cer for Deloitte Consulting s technol- ogy practice. Indeed, the current budget chal- lenges provide an excellent scenario for consulting expertise, said Michael Isman, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. "Instead of thinking about how you can reduce [spending], plan for the future and drive solutions that will result in long-term ef ciencies and effectiveness for the agency," he said. Patsy Garnett, who has success- fully used consultants for acquisition support as chief IT transformation of - cer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said it is important to clearly de ne the role of a consultant and refrain from turning over the gov- ernment role to an outside party. "We still have a responsibility to guide and direct, and they re just facilitating that action for us," she said. "Instead of bringing in more network adminis- trators and project managers, we really need to be bringing consultants in to build our skills around doing better contracts." She also stressed the importance of having consultants train, mentor and otherwise share their knowledge with federal employees. When Jordan was at the Small Busi- ness Administration, he brought in con- sultants to tackle a backlog of applica- tions and reduce the waiting time for companies to be certi ed under the His- torically Underutilized Business Zones program. By mapping all the steps and documentation required in the certi ca- tion process, the consulting team was able to identify redundant documents and reduce 40 pieces of information to 15 that satis ed the core eligibility criteria. That effort trimmed the processing time from nine months to fewer than 90 days while boosting con dence that no waste, fraud or abuse existed. "On every dimension we felt we had really improved the process and the out- comes through this re-engineering," Jor- dan said. "The greatest skill consultants have is tremendous pattern recognition. They can quickly come up with hypoth- esized solutions and test those out." Setting the right goal Possibly the most challenging part of hiring a consultant is clearly and fully de ning the scope of the project. And the most important thing is to state the requirement in terms of the agency s need --- not the type of system you want or the approach you think the consultant should take, Garnett said. In other words, rather than looking for a consultant to build a prede ned
April 15, 2013
May 15, 2013