It may seem like hiring an engineering consultant firm to take on some extra projects would be a breeze. However, if you're pressed for time or have never hired a consulting firm before, you might miss out on asking important questions that can make or break the success of your project.
Typically, there are two overarching questions that you should ask yourself: can the firm do what you want, and can you work with them? To decide your answers to these questions, you want to ask your potential consultant the right questions.
1. Has your firm successfully worked on similar projects?
Determining whether the engineering consultant has worked on similar projects can give insight into whether the company has the expertise and the experience to get the job done efficiently. No two projects are exactly alike so having an idea if the consultant has several similar projects on their resume can help give you peace of mind that they're the best engineering consultant for the job.
2. What kind of engineering degrees and how many years of experience does the staff have?
Again, for many companies, experience and expertise are key indicators of the potential success of your project. Make sure the consultant has someone on staff with the expertise you need.
3. Who are your previous clients?
When making a purchasing decision, consumers are relying more and more on their friends and reviews of others before buying. The same can be said for businesses. Requesting a list of former and current clients and the types of projects the engineering consultant has done is a great way to gauge the firm's chops.
4. How is your communication process? How often should I expect communication from you and what's your typical response time if I have questions?
If you decide to hire the engineering consultant, you'll probably have questions and want project updates along the way. Being clear about your expectations and understanding the workflow of your consultant are important things to discuss upfront. If the firm provides monthly updates and you'd like to speak with someone once a week, you want to negotiate that before the project starts.
5. How flexible is your work process? Can you accommodate changes in scope?
Projects, engineering included, change and evolve. If you foresee potential changes in the project, such as scaling up or changing direction, it's best to be upfront and ask if the consultant has the flexibility to handle whatever changes you foresee. Knowing more about their work process and how they handle changes can help you make a decision about fit.
6. What types of software tools do you use for this type of project?
Many engineering projects are dictated by proper technology. Most engineering consultants will have expertise in the software your project needs, but making sure that they have access to the hardware and software to solve your problem in a timely manner is helpful.
7. How do you articulate findings to your clients?
You're hiring a consultant because you either don't have time or don't have expertise. Getting a sense of how the engineering consultant informs their clients of findings will help you decide if the firm articulates findings in a way that you'll understand and if the company would provide further insight into your product or process.
8. What do you bring to the table that other engineering consultants don't?
Hiring an engineering consultant is like hiring any other consultant or business. Asking for key differentiators can help your make a better decision about what firm fits best with your company. Feeling comfortable with someone who will essentially be in charge of your company's work is essential.
Hiring an engineering consultant, like any hiring, takes a lot of thought and time. Making sure you know what you're looking for can help you make a better decision about picking a firm.
Do you have any specific questions you ask before hiring an engineering consultant? Please share in the comments!
Portions of this post were informed by Desktop Engineering.