One of the most important reasons for using the services of a consultant is to receive completely unbiased and objective advice. Most installing companies have preferred products for very sensible commercial reasons. It is natural therefore that they should present these in the best possible light. It can be very difficult for a customer to differentiate between the claims of competing salespeople.
A professional consultant is employed by you and has no incentive to promote any particular product or system. Most consultants keep up to date on the performance of various products through experience with installations and trouble shooting. Not all products that appear equal to the layperson are necessarily so, the consultant can steer you away from products with a poor track record for performance or reliability. The pressure on the customer to differentiate between competing proposals is eliminated.
Most business people these days have little enough time to spare and will be directing their efforts into running and sometimes, the survival of their company. The old saying that time is money to the businessperson has never been truer; the cost of a consultant can frequently be repaid by the extra time released.
Most people have had experience of the wide variations in price between competing quotations for apparently the same specification. Unlike the purchase of machines or standard products, CCTV or access control systems are likely to be a new venture by many companies and local authorities. They simply cannot be expected to have the experience and detailed knowledge on which to judge differing proposals.
Technology moves rapidly ahead these days, with many ways of increasing the effectiveness of both new and existing systems. Multiplex recording, video transmission, colour cameras, detection of movement, etc. are all very much more advanced than only one year ago. Even so, products with apparently similar specifications to the layperson can differ dramatically in actual performance under particular circumstances. This is especially true today in the case of digital recording and so called digital cameras. Here again, objective advice can be invaluable in the selection of the right equipment for the job.
The best starting point would be by referral from an associate or contact who has used the consultant for a similar project. Alternatively you could approach a trade association. Whatever route you take to find a consultant or list of consultants, you should then establish the following main criteria.
Having these documents, you will have a feel for the level of professionalism they apply to a project. These days there is no excuse for a consultancy not to have as a minimum, a CAD system, a project planning system and the usual word processing and spreadsheet programs. They should also be able to produce budget costings for a proposed system in their preliminary report.Finally, you must agree the fee structure and basis for payment. It is important to enumerate the tasks that the consultant should undertake and the associated costs. The following table lists some suggested headings and structure of a fee proposal. This, of course, can be varied to suit a particular project and scope of work. It does though provide a formal basis for agreement, and if necessary, variations to the contract due to unknown circumstances that may arise during the project. This would be especially important if you intend to obtain competitive tenders for consultancy. It means that all tenderers compete on a level playing field.
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