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#399: Consider an Engagement Charter as a Consulting Best Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 23, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Most consultants use the engagement letter as the basis of their project plan. Is this enough?

Sufficiency of the engagement letter to guide (both managerially and legally) the project depends on the complexity of the project, how predictable it is, and the detail provided in the engagement letter itself. Engagement letters can be quite simple and, as such, may not provide clear guidance.

Something that consultants use with project teams may have value in laying out the relationship between the consultant and the client manager. Project charters are critical to create consensus on authorities, roles and responsibilities, resource requirements, timelines, satisfactory performance, work products, and performance outcomes. Mutually developing a client-consultant charter is extremely useful in driving how the principal consultant and principal client representative will interact, who occupies what roles and how project disruptions will be resolved.

Let me be clear. A charter goes beyond the typical engagement letter or even the internal (often quite detailed) project plan, which describes an arms length set of protocols. The charter, thoroughly discussed withthe client team, should include expectations of how much time the client will devote to the project, how (and how quickly) guidance will be provided and deliverables approved, and how emergent risks and mitigation activities will be dealt with.

Tip: Once you and the client have worked out the details of "what" will be done by consultants and client staff, a charter (even if not shared with others) represents the commitment between you and the client as to how the two of you will personally assure that the project stays on track.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  consultant role  customer understanding  engagement management  goodwill 

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