Sunday, August 19, 2007

Things I Believe: I (or your consultant) could get hit by a bus tomorrow

Many of my clients have heard me discuss my methods of computer consulting over the years, but for those of you who have missed it, I wanted to write up some short articles on my consulting philosophy. Mainly, this is summed up with the simple phrase, "I could get hit by a bus tomorrow."

Despite this depressing idea (especially for me), I think it shows something very fundamental about the way I work with all my clients, whether I am setting up their computer or network or helping them to get started with a web site, blog or podcast. Everything I do is meant to insure that the client could continue to work, and be productive, even if this theoretical bus and I had our fateful meeting the day before.

I began describing my actions in this way after countless consulting calls where I was following up after another consultant or staff member. I am often called in to complete, modify or clean-up projects that have failed for one reason or another, More times than I like to contemplate, this has involved starting over from the beginning -- mainly because the previous consultant never provided basic, extremely necessary, information to the client. Thankfully, most of the previous workers weren't hit by a bus, but even worse, they simply disappeared. They had simply abandoned the client for some reason.

For me, typical consulting situations involve network routers with unknown password or odd settings where no one remembers the reason -- lost, missing or forgotten ftp passwords which prevent individual and companies from updating their web sites -- domain names registered in the consultants name, meaning that my client can't update or change their web hosting company or move their web site -- missing software critical to daily operations and more.

After facing so many of these issues myself, I do everything I can to insure that anyone who follows me into a client's office will have all the information they need. After all, as I said at the beginning, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. (Of course, here in Los Angeles, I am much more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than a bus accident, but that is another story) Furthermore, if you work in any sort of consulting or IT role, you should do the same thing for your clients, for the same reasons.

I know that some consultants who are reading this are rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, "...But this is how I tie my clients to me to insure a steady income. If I give them all this information, they will just do it themselves." First, you're wrong. You develop loyalty in your clients by doing great work, not by withholding information. Second, you're also wrong. Most clients much prefer paying you to do the tech work than doing it themselves. Frankly, they would rather being doing the work they love, making money for their company and themselves, than fiddling with router addresses and installing software. Third, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, you're not really going to care about who is doing the work, anyway, so why make it more difficult for them (or me).

Finally, if you're the client, you should demand the same consideration from your consultants (and internal IT workers) that I try to give my clients. Do you have ALL the passwords you might need? Has someone documented the procedures for accessing and managing ALL your critical systems, including your telephone PBX, alarm systems, etc. Could your company continue functioning if you needed to hire someone new today?

If not, why not? If not, do it today! Otherwise, a bus with my name on it, might have yours, as well.

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