Five reasons to fire your system integrator

Although consultants make easy scapegoats when projects go wrong, there are definitely times when you should replace the incumbent. Here are five good reasons to get rid of your system integrator.

Today's post is written by guest blogger, Phil Simon, an independent systems consultant and author of the excellent book Why New Systems Fail.

Although consultants make easy scapegoats when projects go wrong, there are definitely times when you should replace the incumbent.

Here are five good reasons to get rid of your system integrator:

  1. The consultants are difficult to work with. If their attitude isn't helpful then antagonism arises and the project will suffer. However, don't mistake "being difficult" with being honest.
  2. The consultants are inexperienced. No consultant knows the answer to every client question. However, if their answer to the most basic questions is routinely "I'll have to get back to you on that," then show them the door. Be wary of SI's that promise you rock stars but give you trainees.
  3. The SI's management is not responsive. Excessive turnaround time from the project or client manager exacerbates delays and causes problems. Give the consultants an opportunity to cure the problem, but if they don`t then cut the cord.
  4. The SI churns your account. Don`t haggle over inconsequential sums, but overcharging is a cardinal sin. Do not ever accept an SI that works inefficiently just to rack up billable hours.
  5. The SI's travel expenses are unreasonably high. Travel is a necessary part of business, but excessive travel is bad news. In today`s economy, every consulting company should consider ways to reduce travel costs with remote access, collaboration software, and other tools.

Client-consultant relationships rarely sour over a single isolated incident. More often, a pervasive pattern of suboptimal performance and poor communication leads to a gradual deterioration of the union.

Although replacing your SI is the sometimes the right move, changing consultants mid-stream can be expensive and disruptive. Ideally, address relationship with your SI while there's still time to repair the damage. Hoping things will magically improve significantly increases organizational risk and only prolongs the agony. Don't let dissatisfaction with a partner linger for a long time; it's far better to address the situation directly and early.

Before making a change, perform thorough due diligence on the replacement. Otherwise, you may find the new SI is worse than one you just fired.

While it's tempting to blame the system integrator for all project hassles and differences of opinion, introspection is also worthwhile. Before pulling the plug, evaluate your own role in creating the problems you experience. The more accurately you understand each party's contribution to the negative situation, the better you can solve the problem.

Firing your system integrator is a last resort, but sometimes it is indeed the first step toward getting a troubled project back on track.

[Image via iStockphoto.]