“We’re Here to Help”
When you’re considering consulting with an engineer there are a number of things you’re probably wondering about:
How much will it cost?
Will the consultant really understand my needs?
How do I decide which consultant to use?
We can ease your anxiety by explaining how we work and how you can get the most out of working with us. Before beginning, it’s helpful to understand some of the basics about hiring with a technical consultant. If you have never done it before, the process can seem intimidating, but read on and you are likely to feel more comfortable.
Making the Initial Contact
If you are wondering whether an engineering consultant might help, do yourself a favor and call us. At OTO we are not going to charge you a dime for listening to your story and there is a good chance you will learn something that helps you move towards a solution. We’re here to help.
During an initial conversation we’ll listen to your concerns; sometimes we are able to offer suggestions right on the phone, other times we conclude that additional steps are needed. In cases where we think our expertise will be of help, we will talk to you about work we could do for you. If what we suggest is interesting to you, we will send you a proposal to conduct the work.
What’s in a Proposal?
Proposals explain the work that we are offering to perform based on our initial conversation with you and other information that may be available to us. The proposal explains costs and describes the terms and conditions under which we are offering to perform the work. The proposal becomes the written agreement between you and us when you sign and accept it. We’re happy to discuss any part of a proposal that you do not understand.
Defining the Scope of Work
A successful project begins with a well defined scope of work; this means we need a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve. Usually this is spelled out ahead of time in a written “scope of work” or “scope of services”, a key part of the proposal. You and we need to agree that the tasks described in the scope of services is the work that should to be undertaken. The scope should be sufficiently detailed that a third party could understand the work the consultant was being engaged to perform, but not so specific that there is no flexibility for modification to address unanticipated conditions.
In fast moving projects where the scope may change quickly as new information becomes available, there needs to be a level of trust between the consultant and the client. Changes in scope are best documented in emails or other correspondence. Budgetary impacts of changes should usually be documented.
Billings for Work
There are two ways that OTO bills for services: lump sum billings and time and materials (T&M) billings. When a scope of work can be well defined and changes are not expected, the project budget may be presented on a lump sum basis. This is a fixed price that the parties agree is fair compensation for the project. Usually lump sum projects incorporate a set of assumptions about project conditions and if these assumptions turn out to be incorrect, we may need to revisit the budget amount.
In cases where changes in the scope of work are more likely, billing on a time and materials basis makes more sense. In these cases our fee is based on the actual amount of professional time expended on the project plus the cost of materials used in accordance with our “schedule of fees”. Our proposal will provide a budget estimate based on our understanding of the project.
Terms and Conditions
The Terms and Conditions (the “T&Cs”) are an important, but often overlooked part of consulting agreements. The T&Cs describe the different obligations and responsibilities of the client and the consultant. You should make an effort to understand this part of the agreement and ask us questions if you see something you do not understand.
We try to keep our T&Cs balanced, simple and clear. We seek a fair distribution of responsibilities and risks between ourselves and our clients. We are always willing to discuss our T&Cs with clients and explain our perspective.