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When Consultant Becomes Client

While recently having building work done on my house, I became very aware that the way the building project is run is very much like an IT implementation project. There are many different people involved who each hold different skills and methods of working. Also, unpredictable things happen that result in deadline and cost implications, but all everyone wants is a completed solution at the end, on time and on budget of course. There are several things I have learned being on the client side of my building project which I can related to my professional world.

Consultants like to say Yes, as do my builders, and while the yes is often backed up with possible solutions, unusual requests will have time and cost implications. While something may be possible, this doesn’t always mean it is sensible or practical to complete. Yes, I want the all singing and dancing extractor fan neatly in my ceiling, but on further investigation what was a yes, turns into a ”kind of”’ as we find the ceiling joists are in the wrong direction. No one could have known this until we took the ceiling down and, like a request on a project, what in theory is possible may be hindered by infrastructure limitations or data simply not being available once further investigation takes place. But, I am still getting an extractor fan that looks great and most importantly works, just not in the first way I envisaged. Therefore, we work with experts to get their experience, confidence, and advice to reach a solution when obstacles appear.

The joiner knows the wood, the plumber knows the pipes, and the electrician can manage the switches and sockets, but they might not know what everyone else is doing. Our planning and design was done with the owner of the building company, and we assumed all information was being trickled down to the team. This was not always the case. If it’s not written down, it may be forgotten. Everything needs to be on the plan so everyone can be aware of the project as a whole and their parts within that plan. This removes any ambiguity or assumptions. I have learned that if it’s not on the plan and hasn’t been communicated to the correct person, it’s likely that it’s not currently considered as part of the project. This leads nicely onto the next point.

As a client, I forget to mention things or make assumptions that people know what is in my head (I assumed an outside water tap would be obvious). This is human. But I have learned that if I don’t raise the issue, I cannot assume that it’s going to be covered. Raise anything you think has been omitted. There is no harm in repeating a point as it could be missed from the scope accidentally or there may be confusion over a request. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t assume someone will think of it. Speak up, and the change may be squeezed in. The worst case is it’s not possible or is extra time and cost. But at least people are aware, and the point is considered.

Some delays are unavoidable, and this is from both sides. As a client, if I delay picking my flooring, the builder cannot order it and lay it, which delays when the kitchen is fitted. This may be delayed further if the kitchen fitter is no longer available at that time. In the same vein, as I client I order the flooring on time, but there are delays in supply to the builders which delays timelines, this may impact the client’s availability to aid with next steps. 

The key point we all know is communication. Problems arise, delays happen, there are unexpected forces of nature, and they all have implications. It is important to keep both sides of the project aware of events as they arise as it leads to a much happier, cohesive project.  Professionalism and friendliness also go a long way. Of course there have been account delays, misunderstandings, and missed points. These aspects occur on many projects. It’s how they are dealt with that reassures me as the client.

DW Reporting

Based in London, DW Reporting is an independent finance systems, business intelligence, and reporting consultancy that specializes in practice management and reporting/management information solutions within the UK and international legal sector. With backgrounds working for international law firms such as Hogan Lovells, Mayer Brown, RPC, Simmons & Simmons, Olswang, and BLP, its team of consultants are able to provide a unique blend of agnostic system and legal market expertise in a single service. Its extensive knowledge of the legal financial and management information landscape ensures that we are able to advise, guide, assist, and enable law firm teams in the successful delivery of business change and growth within increasingly complex business environments. Click here for more information.

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