Over my twenty years as a business continuity management consultant, I’ve noticed that companies that are the most adept at collaborating with their BCM consultants also tend to have the strongest business continuity programs. I think this is because it takes the same skills to excel at both.
With this in mind, I thought it might be worthwhile to share a few do’s and don’ts on how to work effectively with your BCM consultant. The better you are at working with your consultant, the better your program is likely to be.
What BCM Consultants Do Best
Most business continuity consultants are experienced, knowledgeable, conscientious people who will do their best to help you meet your goals, strengthen you program, and protect your organization. I know that is true of the consultants who work for me.
However, BCM consultants are not superheroes capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. There are many functions at your company they are ill-equipped to perform.
The key to getting the most out of your BCM consultant is to have them focus on doing the things they are good at. Conversely, it’s best to keep them apart from issues and situations that are outside their area of expertise.
A lawnmower is good at cutting grass but not very good at trimming hedges.
BCM consultants are good at helping companies improve their ability to keep their critical operations running in the face of adverse events.
However, they are not well-suited for—to give one example—being compelled to play a part in company politics.
Unfortunately, this does happen.
What makes it unfortunate is, it takes the consultant away from the job he or she was brought in to perform in the first place: helping the BCM office protect the company.
The following list of do’s and don’ts should help you in collaborating productively with your BCM consultant, should you ever work with one.
- Do allow your consultant to focus on understanding and solving your BCM problem. Comprehending and devising solutions for BCM and IT/DR problems is what your consultant does best. You should let them do it. This is where the urgent need and best interests of your organization lie.
- Do use your consultant’s time wisely. At most organizations, the resources available for business continuity are limited. BC consultants can be expensive. Don’t squander a limited budget on peripheral matters.
- Do treat your BCM consultant as a partner, not a commodity. Your consultant is that wonderful thing, a human being. As a result, they have knowledge, experience, judgment, the ability to reason and recognize patterns: all the things you need for them to help you. They also have feelings and deserve respect.
- Do respect your consultant’s experience and knowledge. Let your consultant guide you. Whatever you’re working on, they’ve most likely dealt with it many times before.
- Don’t gratuitously countermand the consultant. Sometimes people countermand their BCM consultants for no reason except that they are insecure or want to show who’s boss. There are few better ways to waste money, undermine the engagement, and hold your company back. On the other hand, substantive discussions and reviews are welcome and essential.
- Don’t get the consultant entwined in company politics. Some companies are more dysfunctional than others. To the extent possible, the consultant should be shielded from the company’s inner turmoil. All it does is waste time and money.
- Don’t focus on minutiae. It doesn’t make sense to have your expensive BC consultant sit in on prolonged sessions where people talk for a long time about a forgotten comma in a report, but it happens. Such errors should be fixed, but the consultant should be reserved for discussions of substantive matters.
- Don’t ignore your BCM consultant. It is critical that you respond to your consultant’s emails, phone calls, etc. Yet, often, consultant emails and phone calls are ignored and the schedule for implementation falls behind as decisions and action items go unnoticed. Respond to your consultant; it will ensure your engagement will move forward.
- Don’t be a jerk. Business continuity consultants are by and large accomplished professionals who are confident in their expertise and comfortable asserting themselves to advance the interests of their clients. Few are wallflowers. That said, sometimes during an engagement, individuals at the client company come into a position of outsized power due to the size of the corporations they work for. Unfortunately, some of them take advantage of this and mistreat the consultant, for instance by repeatedly canceling meetings at the last minute. This sort of behavior is not just immature and disrespectful, it also undermines the engagement, hampers the BCM program, and harms the company.
The Traits to Cultivate
As I mentioned in the beginning, I have found that the companies that are the best at managing relationships with their BC consultants tend to have the best BCM programs. I think it’s because the same skills are required for both.
Those skills include the ability to focus on what is important, being realistic, recognizing and putting a value on competence, having a culture of treating people with respect, and keeping drama to a minimum.
In my opinion, these are the traits to cultivate in order to collaborate productively with a BCM consultant and to build a quality BCM program.
Optimizing a Critical Partnership with Your BCM Consultant
By following the Do’s and Don’ts for getting the most out of your BCM consultant, you can optimize the critical partnership I’ve been discussing in this blog. This will result in a greater return on investment for your BCM dollars and redound to the benefit of your program and organization.
For more information on working with your BC consultant and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:
- Good Client, Bad Client: How to Treat Your BCM Consultant and Why It Matters
- Whitewash: When Clients Try to Get Their BCM Consultants to Conceal Their Problems
- Dancing the Tango with Your Business Continuity Consultant
- 8 Oversights That Can Bring Your Operations to a Standstill
- Helping Hands: What BC Consultants Do For You
- Client’s Guide to Hiring a BC Consultant
- Help, I Need Somebody: 4 Times When You Should Hire a BC Consultant