Selecting Management Consultants

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					                      Section 3: Village Operations
    Chapter 12: Selecting and working
             with consultants
Today, villages need to consider delivery                 •   master land use planning,
options for information and services not                  •   grant application preparation and
even contemplated during the 1990s. Both                      oversight,
small and large villages will find themselves             •   subdivision plan reviews,
in situations where, due to a lack of                     •   short and long term strategic planning,
available personnel or to a lack of expertise                 and
in a specific area, they need to seek outside             •   recreation master planning.
professional assistance. Often a consultant
can provide the required staffing and                     Common types of consultants
knowledge.                                                and professional services
     Consultants are defined as those with
                                                          The most common types of consultants are:
training and experience in a specific field
                                                          • engineers,
who offer others their expertise. Why, when
and how a community retains a consultant is               • planning consultants (land use and
an important policy issue.                                     zoning),
                                                          • strategic planning consultants,
When to use a consultant                                  • attorneys – general counsel, labor/
                                                               employee relations, environmental,
No one can be an expert in every aspect of
                                                               insurance claims, bond counsel,
local government. Consultants are typically
                                                               litigation/special counsel (example: tax
retained for one of three reasons:
                                                               tribunal cases) and real estate
1. to provide specialized service not
    available through existing staff
    resources;                                            • human resources/training/safety
2. to supplement existing staff in                             consultants,
    completing projects and/or doing                      • property assessors,
    planned projects when the existing staff              • information technology experts,
    does not have time or the expertise to                • privatization of services consultants,
    complete the project; and                             • auditors and financial advisors,
3. to get a second opinion from an outside                • pension plan administrators and
    source on a possible project or to                    • retired village/village management
    review, provide input, analyze data and                    professionals.
    conclusions reached by the villages                        Retired city and village managers are
    though other studies.                                 valuable resources for communities of all
    Consultants are retained for many types               sizes. A municipality might call one for
of projects and services. For example:                    interim management services during
• street construction,                                    recruitment of a new manager or to assist the
• water, wastewater and storm sewer                       staff in managing specific projects or
    projects,                                             functions.
• information technology support,
• labor relations,

Handbook for General Law Village Officials – Chapter 12                                                 55
Published by the Michigan Municipal League, August 2006
Chapter 12 – Section 3

How to retain a consultant                            the scope and cost of the project is
The first step in retaining a consultant is to        negotiated with this firm and the project
establish criteria and guidelines. Items to           proceeds.
consider in formulating your guidelines are:
• whether to designate an individual or               Request for proposals (RFP)
    committee to be responsible for                   Under an RFP the village provides firms
    retaining the consultant,                         with a specific detailed description of the
• who will be planning, monitoring and                project and requests that the firms submit a
    scheduling the project or service,                proposal addressing the manner in which the
                                                      project would be completed and the cost of
• what the scope of the project or service
                                                      the project. From the responses, the local
    will be, and
                                                      government selects the consultant based on
• what base qualifications will be required
                                                      two criteria: cost and responsiveness to the
    for firms or individuals to be considered.
    These should include:
                                                          The method for selecting a consultant
    • professional and ethical reputation,            using an RFP should follow many of the
    • professional standing of the firm’s             steps outlined below in the RFQ process.
         employees (registered, licensed,
         certified),                                  Request for qualifications (RFQ)
    • ability to assign qualified personnel           Unlike a RFP, the RFQ provides the
         to the project and to complete it            opportunity to select a consultant based on
         within the allotted time and                 the needs of the community and
    • experience in providing the services            qualifications of the consultant, not low bid.
         or project development.                      In July 2002, the State of Michigan enacted
                                                      legislation (2002 PA 504) requiring state
Selection process                                     agencies to use Qualification Based
Michigan, unlike many other states, does not          Selection (QBS) methods to select
have a state law requiring local governments          consultants. While this legislation does not
to establish procedures for purchasing of             apply to local governments, it emphasizes
goods and services or the selection of                the advantages to using QBS in selecting
consultants. Local charters and/or                    consultants.
ordinances usually establish the consultant               For more information on the QBS
selection procedures. Since the general law           process, visit or call 517-
village act does not address this, each village       332-2066.
must come up with its own procedure. If the               In preparing the RFQ the following
project will be funded in part or in full with        elements should be included:
state or federal monies, check the                    • a type of consultant being sought
requirements for consultant selection                 • a brief outline of services desired
procedures. Those responsible for the                 • date and time the sealed qualifications
selection process need a working knowledge                are to be submitted to the local
and familiarity with the purpose and general              government, and
nature of the project to be performed.                • optional, but recommended, elements:
                                                          • expected date of completion or
Sole source                                                    length of contract, and
If the village has experience with one or                 • anticipated end product such as
more consultants, preference may be given                      reports or designs.
to continuing the professional relationship               These elements will help the consultant
with these firms. If you are not required by          and local government determine the
jurisdictional policy or ordinance to send out        availability of resources.
requests for proposal or bids, you can hire
the consultant directly. An agreement as to

56                                                 Handbook for General Law Village Officials – Chapter 12
                                                  Published by the Michigan Municipal League, August 2006
                                              Chapter 12: Selecting and working with consultants

     There are three options for establishing                 A courtesy letter should be sent to each
the cost of services:                                     firm that expresses interest in the proposed
1. negotiating the cost with the consultant               project, informing them of the outcome of
     selected,                                            your decision.
2. listing the anticipated range of fees in
     the QBS, and                                         Project management
3. having the consultant place the                        Once you select a consultant, you need
     estimated fees in a separate envelope.               to design a process to manage the contract.
     This envelope would only be opened if                These elements will help ensure the
     the consultant were selected and would               successful completion of the project:
     be used in contract negotiations. When               • appoint a project manager,
     the contract is signed with the successful           • establish a work schedule (including
     firm the remaining fee envelopes should                   milestones) for the project,
     be returned unopened to the                          • cross-check the consultant’s work, and
     unsuccessful consultant firms.
                                                          • determine and evaluate the final work
     The QBS process allows the local
community to select one or a small number
                                                               While these elements are components of
of consultants to interview. This selection
                                                          good project management, the extent to
should be based on the number of responses                which each element is used will depend on
to the RFQ.
                                                          the magnitude and scope of the work. For
     During the interview, ask who will be
                                                          example, a small project may only require a
the key personnel assigned to your project.
                                                          project manager and an evaluation of the
The proposed project manager should be in
                                                          final product, without a work schedule.
attendance at the interview. The scope of
                                                               The project manager is essential to any
services should also be discussed in the                  consultant contract regardless of its size.
interview, but fees should not.
                                                          This municipal representative administers
     After the interviews, check with recent
                                                          the contract, including but not limited to
clients of each firm and determine the
                                                          monitoring the work, approving payments
quality of performance that each client has
                                                          for the work and accepting the final work
experienced. Try to include clients in                    product. The project manager should be
addition to those specified by the firm.
                                                          given enough authority to ensure that the
     After the interviews, rank the firms
                                                          village receives maximum benefit from the
using criteria such as location, reputation,
                                                          consultant’s work.
compatibility, experience, financial
                                                               Establishing milestones will tell the
standing, size, personnel availability, quality
                                                          municipality when each stage of the project
of references, workload and other factors                 should be completed. Failure to meet these
specific to the project. Decide which firm
                                                          milestones could be an early indicator of
you consider to be best qualified, and initiate
                                                          possible delays and/or trouble with the
contract negotiations.
                                                          consultant’s work product. This gives the
     If an agreement cannot be reached with
                                                          project manager an opportunity to correct
the first firm selected, notify them in writing           the problem or it could serve as a reason to
to that effect. Meet with your second
                                                          terminate the consultant’s contract.
selection, going through the same process.
                                                               Identifying deliverables in conjunction
When you and the consulting firm agree on
                                                          with the milestones will provide the village
all matters and charges for services, the
                                                          with another tool to evaluate the consultant.
selected firm should submit a written
                                                          Deliverables, for example, might include a
contract for both parties to sign. Make sure              draft chapter of a master plan, a grant
your attorney reviews the contract before the
                                                          application or securing certain permits. The
village signs the agreement.
                                                          type and extent of the deliverables depend
                                                          on the size and scope of the project.

Handbook for General Law Village Officials – Chapter 12                                              57
Published by the Michigan Municipal League, August 2006
Chapter 12 – Section 3

     In addition to milestones and                   Lou LaPonsie served as manager of the
deliverables, monitoring the work can                Village of Cass City for more than 25 years
involve regular meetings with the                    until his retirement, and consulted with the
consultant, visits to the consultant’s office,       village on special projects. He served as
telephone calls, e-mails and faxes.                  street commissioner of the Village of
     The larger the contract, the more likely        L’Anse and worked for the Michigan
there will be a need to amend the contract.          Department of Transportation’s Road and
In large projects, unforeseen delays can             Bridge Construction Division. He is a U.S.
make it necessary to amend the contract.             Navy veteran, having served in the Korean
The contract amendment should be included            War.
in the original contract.                                 Mr. LaPonsie is a past trustee of the
     The success of any project is determined        Michigan Municipal League, was a charter
by the process and resources allocated to the        member of the Village Management
effort. Using consultants can be a valuable          Committee of the Michigan Local
tool in the management and delivery of               Government Management Association and
services for our communities.                        is a past chairman of the Tuscola County
                                                     Planning Commission.
About the authors . . .                                   Currently Mr. LaPonsie is serving as the
Reid S. Charles is the manager of the City           manager of the City of Sandusky.
of Mt. Morris. For the past 35 years, he has
served in various management and planning
positions in local government. He has
lectured and taught courses on planning and
municipal finance and contributed to the
book Financial Handbook for Mayors and
City Managers, Clark, DeSeve & Johnson,
1985 and City Money: Political Processes,
Fiscal Strain and Retrenchment, Clark and
Ferguson, 1983.
     Mr. Charles holds a BA and MA from
Wichita State University in Political Science
and Public Administration. He is a member
of the International City/County
Management Association and a charter
member of the American Institute of
Certified Planners.

58                                                Handbook for General Law Village Officials – Chapter 12
                                                 Published by the Michigan Municipal League, August 2006

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