Over the last ten years I have worked at Open Box, I have been fortunate to have been involved in conversations with many IT and Real Estate thought leaders. Recently I have seen a large focus in companies looking to reduce head count, whilst still providing comparable, or even better services to their company. Lowering head count and increasing service levels seem to be in direct competition with each other, and in many cases, this holds true. This got me thinking back on how many of my clients have defied the odds and managed to reduce, or simply not increase, headcount whilst still providing good service. In many cases, the saving grace was the contracting of one or more consultants. Let’s unpack how leveraging the right consultants for the right projects could play out:
Scenario 1: Lacking in-house skill set
Many Real Estate executives look at an IT budget and ask the ever-familiar question “why do we, as a Real Estate company, have such a large IT budget?”. For many companies, this is simply a result of having a large IT team. The large IT team is usually a result of perpetual hiring in order to cover a company’s expanding IT eco system. The real question becomes, do you really need an extra member of staff to work within an environment with fluctuating demands? Your exec team may need a couple of changes made to their reporting pack, do you a.) hire a new member of staff to make the changes, or b.) bring in a reporting specialist with years of experience in exactly what you need without another line item on payroll?
Scenario 2: Lacking in once off / temporary capacity
At any given point in time, a company is usually understaffed in one form or another. A great, recent example is a client of ours who had their in-house ERP specialist resign and simply needed a month or two of support coverage whilst they looked for a replacement. He ideally needed the space to make sure he was finding the right long-term fit, without the immediate loss of specialist knowledge impacting the IT department as well as the wider company. His problem was solved by bringing in the right consultant who could immediately step in, fight the fires and cover the employee with very little ramp up time. Once the replacement team member was found the consultant carried out a structured hand over and the company was back to business as usual.
Scenario 3: Best practise / prior experience
You have decided to implement a new accounting and property management system. You currently have a well-structured and efficient internal IT team that is servicing the business and has enough capacity to take on the project, but has your team ever undertaken a project of this size? Do they know the right questions to ask the vendor and do they know where the “skeletons in the closet are”? Odds are they don’t. Consultancy allows you to find one or more resources that have already undergone what you are about to embark on and are therefore able to add huge value in being able to identify and plan for issues before they even have time to surface.
Don't get me wrong, I am by no means saying that consultancy is the silver bullet for all your worries. A quick search on the internet for “management consulting” or simply “consulting” will provide a plethora of consulting companies, many with very impressive resumes. What you won’t find however are very many companies that offer both deep business focussed Real Estate knowledge coupled with a strong technical delivery team. I want to take a second to clarify what I mean my technical delivery team. I am not talking about someone with a technical background who will be able to tell you want you should ask of others, I am talking about a company that has in-house resources able to analyze, document, design and develop software systems and integrations.
Bringing this into the real world, maybe you’re looking to build out functionality to create PDF lease agreements from your system of record. Imagine trying to explain New York stabilized rent requirements to someone outside of New York, let alone outside of the Real Estate industry. Now imagine an alternate scenario where you’re working with Gregg Haverstick, our Principal in New York, who not only has 15 years of experience in New York Real Estate but also 6 years’ experience in running IT for one of the biggest multifamily complexes in America.
So, what am I trying to say? Consultants have the potential of adding huge value to your organization if you have taken the time to choose the right consultant(s) and the right project(s).