There comes a time in every consulting project when the project ends for a consultant, normally known as “rolling off”.
Consultants are, by nature, temporary workers. The end of the gig will eventually come. There is always the possibility that the client will ask for you to come back for another project, but at some point, the project ends and you go to work for another client or to sit on the consulting “bench” waiting for reassignment.
Leaving with mixed emotions
I’ve always faced rolling off of a project with mixed emotions. On one hand, one of the things I like best about consulting is the variety of experiences. This includes going to different clients, working with different teams and implementing a variety of solutions. Rolling off of a project means moving on to another exciting opportunity.
On the other hand, one tends to develop relationships with client personnel and leaving means cutting those ties. Today’s communication and social media technology make it much easier to keep in touch with people, but nothing replaces seeing people in person every day.
Make sure your project ends smoothly
But rolling off should be more about the client than the consultant. It is important to make sure that you leave on good terms and the client is able to function in your absence.
So when you roll off your next project, consider these 7 tips before you leave.
- Make sure the client identifies at least one contact to transfer your knowledge. Make sure there is one contact person that you meet with for a handing over of the baton. It is best if this person is your replacement and will be fulfilling the same role you filled. It should at least be someone who has some familiarity with the project and will be available after you leave to answer questions anybody at the client may have.
- Update the client’s document repository. Make sure to leave behind any documentation that rightfully belongs to the client. If they have a standard repository, whether it’s SharePoint or a simple shared drive on their network, copy whatever they may need in the future in a logical and appropriate location.
- Document the transition. Leave behind a documented summary noting where key documents are stored and the final status of anything left undone. Share this document with any interested parties to ensure everyone has a good idea of the status of anything you worked on.
- Don’t burn bridges. Regardless of the situation around your leaving the client, there is nothing to be gained by destroying documents, relationships – or furniture, for that matter – as you walk out the door. Always take the high road.
- Say goodbye. If time allows, make sure to make the rounds and say goodbye to the people you worked with. It’s also nice to send out a short email to anyone you worked with. Tell them that you’re moving on, that you’ve enjoyed your time working with them and leave your contact information. Make sure to keep it brief. This is not a forum for emotional goodbyes or to opine on your philosophy of management.
- Turn in all equipment, badges and client property to the appropriate source. If the client gave you a PC or a laptop to use while you were on-site, make sure to turn it back in to the department that issued it and that they verify that it is in acceptable shape. Turn your badge into the client manager you reported to or to security. Any property that the client issued to you should be returned.
- Connect with your client colleagues via LinkedIn. There isn’t a more powerful way of keeping up with people than LinkedIn. Connecting (linking) will insure you are accessible to them, and vice versa, for future networking opportunities.
Sometimes a consultant’s roll-off is planned with plenty of time to prepare. In others, it can be abruptly announced, effective immediately. There is not always time to leave things is perfect order. But doing everything in your power to reduce confusion after you leave will do the greatest good for the client and for your reputation as a consultant and a professional.
Have you ever had someone leave without following these tips? What was the result?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.