How to Work Effectively With Consulting Engineers
Government departments and private companies must work with consulting engineers in order to complete projects without exceeding employment constraints. A common misconception is that consultants are hard to work; however, a successful consultant/company relationship requires extra communication, patience and understanding of the project. You must understand how a consultant works, and adjust your communication to avoid problems and solve them before they become large. Find out how to work effectively with consulting engineers.
Understand the reasons for contracting with an engineer, rather than hiring.There are some inherent frustrations caused by working with someone who is new to your organization and works independently. However, if you are also aware of the advantages, you may find it easier to deal with the disadvantages.
- Consulting engineers are hired and paid for delivering a completed project. An engineer will have greater incentive to complete a project within a specified length of time. These engineers are especially motivated to deliver quality work.
- Consulting engineers bring fresh ideas and experience into the equation. Studies have shown that changing teams and infusing a company with new talent can make them solve problems more productively. Your consulting engineer may have different ideas than the company generally uses, and that might be a good thing.
- Engineering consultants are often experts in their field. An engineer who works by contract must be organized, excellent at problem solving and have a good track record.
- You don't have the overhead required for employees. Consulting engineers are paid according to their bids based on the project scope. They usually require payments at intervals decided by their contract, which don't include the overhead costs a regular employee would produce.
Keep 3 important things in mind:budget, scope and schedule. These things should be outlined in the contract. Before you communicate with a consulting engineer about a new aspect of a project, ask if you are changing 1 of these variables.
- The budget for the project should be set and discussed with the engineer. You should outline a process to approve additional costs.
- The scope of the project is the definitions within which the engineer must act. Read the contract and the project descriptions before working with the consulting engineer, so you know what fits into the scope of the project and what does not. For example, your company might be working on a project to create a parking structure. If lighting the street is not within the scope of the project, the engineer should not be asked to undertake it without additional expense.
- Create a schedule together. Someone from the organization and the engineer should sit down and write up a schedule that both sides can agree on. When there are changes in budget and scope, this is also likely to affect the schedule. There should be milestones, periods of review and progress reports included in your schedule.
Communicate frequently and personally.Do not abide by the same communication rules most employees use, where email is the only mode of discussion. Consultants often have more than 1 project, so you should call the engineer when you need to speak, in order to be more efficient and let them know you have something to discuss.
- Poor communication is 1 of the main complaints people have with engineers. Text and email communications are easily ignored and misconstrued. Phone and in-person meetings are the best way to address important topics because there is less of a risk of misunderstanding.
- Request and review progress reports at regular intervals. You should ask for a short update from the person every week, 2 weeks or month. You can review the scope, budget and schedule at milestones once you have a feeling for changes in the project from these reports.
Address staffing concerns immediately.Create a staffing plan for larger projects with your consultant. Some engineers do not have a large staff, so you should ensure that they can cover the hiring of new employees.
Be a leader.Make your importance on the project known, if you are the main contact. It is your job to come forward, suggest ways to meet, communicate and work together effectively, since this person has most likely had contact with many different people in the company.
Ask questions.Since you come from different environments, you should not assume anything. Don't allow anything to be left up in the air concerning the project, dates or budget.
Give constructive criticism.It is normal to ask consulting engineers to revise something; however, it is your job to deliver this news in a professional manner. Establish what you like about it and what changes you would like to see without using personal digs or suggesting someone is at fault.
Create a trusting environment.Respect the person and be professional and courteous so that you get respect in return. If there is a problem, figure out a way to address it together, rather than blaming that person for your sake.
Address problems immediately.You may not be working in the same environment or on the same schedule, so always communicate as soon as you notice a problem. They should be dealt with early, before too much time and money is spent with problematic work.
- Don't skip over the planning stages. Invest time and budget money into creating a well-established project. You are more likely to have failure on a project if you and your consulting engineer are not in on the planning stages.
Video: Download How To Select and Work Effectively with Consulting Engineers Getting the Best Project 2012
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