The Value In Hiring A Consultant

Job Completion - Time

After 30 years in education, I now work as a consultant to mostly educational institutions. I am hired to provide staff training on using educational technology with innovation, purpose, and to help make education relevant to students. Many of the projects on which I focus are workflow issues. Recently I have helped districts develop the following:

  • A Human Resources solution to help with an online Job Application process - a process that involves sending a completed form PDF to the applicant as well as automatically organizing the application in a single GDrive folder for easy access to the managers.
  • A calendar solution to send a push notification to groups of people that need to know of a change in an online calendar - an athletic director looking to notify coaches, students and parents of major changes to the athletic calendar.
  • A dashboard project that helps institutions visualize constantly changing data such as attendance and enrollment - a tool to extend what a typical SIS is able to graphically display to administrators about the state of the district's attendance and enrollment
  • An attendance system for an online school in which the current system could not accommodate the different attendance that an online school uses - before I began working on this project, each teacher had their own way to collect attendance data with no master system to aggregate all the data automatically
  • Book reading logs - a simple form for students to fill out daily and help a teacher track minutes as well as what students are reading.
  • Grade books - a grade book with a builtin dashboard to assess how students are doing
  • Etc, etc.....

What I have found in trying to work with the staff that want these products is something about which I am very familiar, from my own 30 years of experience within a school district. There is never enough TIME! The nature of an institutional job does not lend itself well to the kinds of development projects on which I now work. I now have the time to focus completely on the projects on which I am working. I am not distracted by numerous meetings, phone calls, work that others need me to do. Once I begin a project it is my focus. The district employee on the other hand has too many other irons in the fire, and the development work often falls through the cracks. As a consultant I have the time and interest to find the absolute best solution to the problem.

When I was an IT director of a 2500 student district, my array of daily tasks was overwhelmingly large. I did the best I could, but I mostly described the position as one of just putting out fires. When I dreamed up a great workflow solution to a problem, there simply was not time in the day in which to devote resources to the task, and many were started and went unfinished. The call of duty required other things to manifest ahead of project development.

As a consultant I can see that this is very different for the institutional worker bees. Employees find it difficult to complete the follow up on new projects that is required to bring a project to fruition. In my case, I am given a task by a district, deliver my product, and then see that those responsible to take over or adopt the project have no time to do so. They are simply too busy. If I can deliver a project that does X and they want it to do Y, they have no time to look at it and develop it for themselves, but I can have it be my only focus, and deliver the result quickly. I can work on just the one project refining it, modifying it, solving programming issues with it, until it is just what is wanted by the client. Generally someone working within (especially Education) institutions, these projects are a small subset of what they are expected to do within a days work. Unless they are the kind of employee that overworks, the projects are not completed. There simply cannot be the focus on the deliverable as there can be with a consultant.

In some circumstances, I have built and delivered the product, but the implementation stalls due to the overworked nature of the workers in the institution. So the institution is paying the salary of the employee, the contract costs of the Consultant development, but lacks the skills and funds to bring the completed project to fruition. So in the end it behooves districts to contract with consultants to deliver finished projects with guidelines and training for the institution employees to learn to maintain and build on the solutions.

A consultant has the time to solve the problems and provide the solutions. Give us a chance, we are definitely worth the risk!