Advice to consulting firms

We asked six Canadian CIOs to offer their best nugget of advice to consulting firms for a better working relationship. Here’s what they said:

1. Grasp our meaning: Consultants must get to know their clients and their business needs as early in the game as possible, says Valerie Adamo of Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. “Spend the time up front to really understand the company and the issue they have.”

2. Add more value: Make sure you know what the value proposition is that your customers are looking for, and try to find ways to beat it. “If you continuously offer better than market value, you’ll prevent them from going back to the market,” says Matthew Anderson of University Health Network.

3. Bring smarts: It’s all about resources, says Fred Grigsby. Pricing is important, but the knowledge and processes to get the job done are most essential, says the CN Rail CIO. “Make sure you’re bringing the right intellectual capital to the game. That’s critical.”

4. Listen up: Joanne Kerr, CIO of XM Canada, says consultants should stay tuned in. “Listen to what your clients are telling you about their need, and the advice that they’re giving.” And don’t try overselling, she adds.

5. Work with us: Be flexible in crafting the statement of work and be willing to get off your soapbox and roll up your shirt sleeves, says Grant Schwartz, urging more active involvement and sharing of responsibilities. The Katz Group executive wants to see more accountability. “Don’t give me three alternatives; offer up the right choice for the situation. You are the expert.”

6. Tailor the fit: Your solution isn’t our solution. Canadian Tire’s Andrew Wnek says you have to take circumstances into account. “Understand our business, and understand us as a company,” he says. “It’s amazing how many consultants don’t do that. They don’t look at you. They’ve got a solution and that’s what they’re selling. They’re not selling it specific to you; they’re selling it to the fact that they’ve done it before.”