How many times have you engaged an external specialist or consultant after quickly briefing them over the phone or in a short meeting, then they failed to achieve the outcomes you expected? If we’re honest, we’d all probably say that the effort we put into briefing external consultants sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Often we’re in such a rush to get the work started, we brief on the run as the engagement unfolds. The other extreme could be burying everyone under a 50 page tender document to satisfy procurement, only to lose sight of what the real requirements of the engagement were!
Extreme examples I know. However, briefing consultants properly at the start of an engagement is essential for both parties to ensure the experience and outcomes achieved hit the mark. Done well, you'll avoid heartache, ensure the right outcomes are achieved, at the right time and at the right cost, enabling you and the consultant to celebrate brilliant outcomes together.
I’ve spoken to many people who have either engaged specialist service providers over many years, or been engaged by organisations to deliver services. Their advice on how to prepare a flawless brief is remarkably similar.
8 steps to help you Prepare a Flawless Brief
So, we pulled this advice into 8 steps to help you Prepare a Flawless Brief and ensure you get the right external consultant and achieve the desired outcomes:
Articulate the Problem you need addressed or the service provided. Be specific. For example, if it’s to find a facilitator to run your Executive Team Strategy Planning offsite describe the agenda and the outcomes your CEO is after
Specify the Deliverables or Outcomes you expect from the consultant, ideally measurable. Summarise them in clear point form,
State particular Requirements you expect from the consultant, such as pre-meetings, attendance at certain briefings, meetings with certain stakeholders etc.
Set out the Qualifications and Experience you require the consultant to demonstrate to successfully deliver the requirements specified.
Request any particular Indemnities, Insurance cover other requirements you expect to identify to appoint the consultant.
Ask for 2 to 3 References from other organisations attesting to the ability of the specialist to achieve the requirements outlined – and take the time to check them!
State the Time involvement and Duration of the assignment to ensure availability and avoid any doubt as to the time commitment necessary. Specify a start date and finish date and key milestones or availability requirements in between.
Provide a Budget estimate to manage the expectations and provide the opportunity to discuss any misalignment. This will ensure specialists who put forward a proposal are committed to working within your frameworks and not waste yours or their valuable time.
Setting out a proposal that addresses these 8 points will ensure you start off on the right footing to find the external specialist you need for the piece of work. Importantly, not a 50 page document – that’s ridiculous! It can be covered in a short template form in one to two pages. Setting these expectations and deliverables will provide clarity on who has the requisite capability to fulfill the engagement and ensure those who pitch meet these requirements. A more formal statement of work can be prepared once these minimum requirements have been met and you have accepted these head of agreement terms.
Finally, not withstanding the great job you have done in setting out the requirements and outcomes sought from this engagement, its more than likely, in fact inevitable, that those looking to pitch for the engagement will need to clarify areas to ensure they are fully appraised of your needs. This is actually a great opportunity to assess their organisational fit for the assignment. In other words can the business work with them? Do they have the agility and presence to be successful in your organisation?
Narrowing the gap as far as possible, ensuring you’re both on the same page, sizing each other up to ensure the partnership can work and clarifying expectations all goes to making sure you are set up for success from the start of the engagement and well placed to achieve Brilliant outcomes together.