Selecting A Consultant

Selecting A Consultant

by Gloria Metrick

Published in Scientific Computing and Automation*, Issue 12 Vol. 14. (Now named Scientific Computing and Instrumentation)
Reprinted with permission.


Selecting a consultant to aid in the LIMS selection process, manage the project, or perform other tasks within the LIMS project is similar to selecting the LIMS products and services. When the word “consultant” is used below, it refers either to a specific individual or an entire consulting firm.

Creating a List of Consultants
To create a list of consultants, take similar steps as you would to select a LIMS. After all, consultants show up at Pittcon and the LIMS conference, as well as being listed in resources such as LIMSource. Additionally, consider these resources:

    • Ask other companies that have a LIMS if they used a consultant and what tasks they would recommend the consultant for.
    • Ask the vendor if they keep a list of consultants and what their relationship is to those consultants.
    • If you are fortunate enough to be at your vendor’s user group meeting before you need a consultant, ask other users at the conference who they use. This is especially useful if you are looking for people that need to know this specific product, such as programmers who would write code for the project.
    • If you are fortunate enough to be at your vendor’s user group meeting before you need a consultant, ask other users at the conference who they use. This is especially useful if you are looking for people that need to know this specific product, such as programmers who would write code for the project.
    • If you already have a consultant doing LIMS-related work for you, ask them if they could recommend someone.

    Unlike the vendor-selection process, selection of an appropriate consultant might not yield as long a list, depending on how specialized the services are that you are looking for.

    Get the consultant’s references. Ask the references exactly what tasks the consultant performed for them, the way the consultant did the tasks (e.g., what sort of methodology was used for the task) and how the consultant added value to the process, which is different from whether they did a good job. If applicable, also ask a consultant for professional credentials. Depending on the credential, these can be more difficult to check out than experience.

    The best situation is the one where someone suggests a consultant to you. In face-to-face situations where the consultant has not solicited a reference, the person is more likely to be a useful point of reference. It can give a better picture than the one you would get from calling a reference list. It suggests the person you are talking to has a definite opinion about what the consultant did. You can also get an impression of whether they understand what the consultant did for them and what their own involvement was.

    What to Look For
    Look for someone with experience in the task you need done.

    It is preferable that the person has experience in the LIMS industry. Keep in mind that a LIMS project is an exception-based project versus a from-scratch project. For most tasks, look for someone that has at least been involved with a project making modifications to some vendor’s software rather than those who have only worked on internally-developed software.

    If your LIMS requires custom programming using a proprietary programming tool, you need someone that knows that tool, as well. If the tool being used is not proprietary (e.g., Visual Basic, Smalltalk, PowerBuilder), you might still want to try to find someone that knows the LIMS product, so they understand the data structures and functionality of the system. Look for someone who has LIMS experience so that they will already understand the basic functions that most LIMS provide.

    Find someone who complies or can comply with your company’s rules. For example, some companies require the consultant to have a business license in the consultant’s home state or to have specific types and levels of insurance. This is mostly an issue when using single-person consulting firms.

    Compare rates with those of others doing the same types of work. If it is much more, expect something extra (e.g., a specialty, more experience, better availability). If it is much less, consider whether it is a bargain. Ask the consultant why there is such a difference.

    Get someone who is comfortable transferring their knowledge to your employees if that is part of your plan.

    In these days of telecommuting, it is increasingly important to contract with someone you can trust whether they are on or off your site.

    As with the vendors, you need someone experienced, trustworthy, reliable and professional.