Contracting or Collaborating? How to Best Utilize Business Intelligence Consultants
For organizations that struggle to interpret or comprehend their data, accurate analytic conclusions or reports are difficult to create. In these situations, data can often become a distraction. Fortunately, organizations can utilize business intelligence (BI) consultants in ways that greatly aid their data reading endeavors. Specially trained and educated, BI consultants help organizations better understand their data. Depending upon the needs of the client, consultants can either directly assist with the completion of tasks or can participate in a more advisory role.
Consultants as Contractors
For clients who lack their own in-house BI staff, BI consultation is a great method to implement BI strategies. Instead of developing a full BI team, clients rely entirely on consultants to complete BI projects. This also applies to clients constrained by either scarcity of team members, resources or experience, but who do have an in-house BI team. In these situations, BI consultants can cover all of the needs of a project. Consultants would supply both the project management and perform all necessary analysis, documentation, scoping, testing, and training of databases. This allows for clients to establish BI systems and strategies without making the significant investments of either forming a team of developers or training their own team in BI.
This method of consulting, however, can be expensive for clients. BI consultancy teams that complete all of the necessary tasks for a database require a much larger staff and budget than projects that require fewer tasks. Clients who rely on outside consultants to develop their databases may also become dependent upon consultants to modify or maintain their systems.
Consultants as Collaborators
For organizations that do possess in-house BI staff, consultants can act as advisers. In this role, consultants work in partnership with a client’s team rather than directly performing the work for a client. Consultants in an advisory role commonly educate staff on best practices, assess designs, and review project development. In cases such as this, although in-house staff may be knowledgeable in BI, they may need an expert’s eye in looking over issues and designs.
Using consultants as educators can also be cost-effective for clients. Consultants engaged as advisers usually do not need to complete much of the scoping, documentation, and testing of the database. In-house teams may also provide for their own project management. All of this commonly leads to a much smaller footprint for advisory consultants, reflecting in a lower cost.
Fitting the Client’s Needs
Neither one of the two methods is objectively better than the other. For clients who do not have in-house staff, consultants must complete all of the necessary tasks within a project. For clients with in-house BI resources, consultants may instead provide only assessments and reviews. In either case, the client’s needs will be the best determinant for which method of consulting should be used.