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How to hire an Excel Consultant

There are many Excel consultants and not all are equally qualified.  It is important to do your homework when trying to find someone to help you with your project.  Here are some things you should look for in a consultant…

Proof of Experience

Look for an Excel Consultant with experience.  They should be able to demonstrate their experience by providing a portfolio of projects they have worked on and references from past clients.  They should also be willing to give you demonstrations of past projects so that you can see their style and capabilities clearly.

Depth of Understanding

Find a consultant that has more than just programming Excel experience.   Odds are you will need help understanding and improving your processes.  Many programmers are great at programming, but lack the ability to look at a problem and find a good solution that fits your needs.  Look for a consultant that has work experience at real companies and has additional training or education in other areas.  You want to find someone who is capable of looking at your needs and recommending great solutions.

More than Excel

It is important to find someone with experience developing systems outside of Excel.  Better yet, they should have the capability to do non Excel projects as well.   This is important because Excel is not the best solution for all projects and it is important to determine this BEFORE starting the project. Excel consultants that only do Excel or have no experience outside of Excel may not understand this or may be motivated to recommend a substandard solution.

Hidden Costs

Look for consultants that have libraries of existing code they can use and verify that there are no hidden subscription or purchase costs for these private libraries.  A good consultant will have a library of code they use to facilitate projects and provide great customer service, not lock you into reoccurring expenses.

Free Consultations

A good consultant will provide you with a free consultation in which you can ask questions about their experience and review the needs of your project.  These consultations are a great opportunity for both parties to learn about each other and to ask questions.  Use this time to verify you have found the correct partner for your project.

Getting things started

Once you have found a good consultant and partner for your project, it is time to get things rolling.  Clear communication is essential for a successful project.  Here are some of the things you should discuss before starting.

Project Requirements

Put down in writing as much as you can about the project.  You may not be able to put an entire specification together, but you do have some details and information you can communicate.  This would include known inputs, desired outputs, limitations and concerns.  The more you can clear document and communicate, the better.

Look and Feel

If you have anything specific in mind about how you want something to look, function or behave, then mock it up.  This can be as simple as screen shots of similar systems, hand drawings or complex digital mockups. While the look and feel of the project may not be critical to the performance, everyone has personal opinions about how things should look.  This is your chance to express yours.

Budget

Make sure you discuss the budget and costs for the project.   Sometimes this occurs through formal quoting processes where a “Not to Exceed” number is provided and sometimes it is a less formal estimating process.  If you decide to ask for a formal quote, be prepared to give the consultant details and time to put a formal quote together.  Some consultants may not provide a formal quote if there are too many unknown details or risks in the project.

Contracts

If it is a fairly large project, you will want to get a contract in place that specifies deliverables and how and when payments will be made. This protects both parties and is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Finding a good consultant and partner for your project and getting a good start are essential to successful development projects.  Spending some extra time upfront can really pay off in the long run and save you significant headaches and frustration.

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