Discovery and Roadmapping Engagements for Hiring Consultants

Working with consultants can be great. We've always hire consultants to help build egghead and had a lot of success with that.

Hiring anybody is risky, and "doing business" is an iterative exercise in risk management on many levels.

Broadly, you can divide collaborators into two columns, contractors and consultants:

The distinction is subtle, and it's not a binary classification so much as a gradient, but for the sake of discussion these two labels are important from a hiring perepective.

If you're hiring a contractor, you need to make sure that the work is well scoped, clearly defined, and be ready to manage pace and output directly. This is often called "staff augmentation" or "staff aug".

You've got a pile of well-defined work to be done and you need somebody to get it done. The solution is (should be 😅) obvious.

When you hire a consultant generally speaking you've got a goal and they have the skills and experience to help you get there. Instead of a well defined solution, you've got a business need and want help not only solving it, but often defining the fuckin problem.

With consultants the more you present a solution up front, the further the consultant<->contractor gradient moves towards contractor. Even simply presenting the problem can muddy the waters and eliminate interesting potential collaboration.

Another side of the coin is the barber shop paradox where the consultant insists that you provide a problem space, and even a solution. 🚩

With consultants, it's important to iterate on the collaboration, and there's one approach that has worked very well for us at egghead:

The Discovery Engagement for roadmapping projects as a consultant

Project discovery is something I first learned about when I worked for an agency as a consultant. Generally it's part of the sales process where you are having meetings with an organization to fully understand their domain, problems, and identify solutions.

This is also called roadmapping, and is essentially a paid service where the consultant engages in a fixed priced product where the goal is to learn about the company, identify immediate recommendations, and suggest 2-3 well-scoped "next steps" projects to work on with the company.

The budget is usually $1500-5000 depending on the length and depth of the engagement.

During this discovery process the consultant receives full access to:

  • all appropriate team members
  • communication channels
  • information systems (github, notion, etc)

The keys to the kingdom!

The engagement lasts 1-3 weeks and includes meetings, emails, chats, documentation, and collaboration to really dig into the context of the company from the perspective of the clients expertise.

The final product brings all of the work into a concise summary that includes recommended immediate actions the company can take to improve their business today as well as a small handful of iterative next steps collaborations that the consultant wants to collaborate on.

The truly fantastic side of this is that even if the company and the consultant don't collaborate on any of the next steps projects, the company receives value and the consultant gets paid for their time and expertise.

If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, and even if it is a total wash the risk and loss from the company perspective is minimal (relative to the potential loss of a long drawn out contract).

My friend Kai Davis has a great Quick Start Roadmapping course that I'd recommend if you are a freelancer or consultant and would like to add roadmapping services to your offerings.

It makes me smile when I see it.