The Secret Sauce, Ep. 06: Consulting Engagements That Work

Our Director of Professional Services Ken Rickard joins the Secret Sauce podcast today to tell us a little more about our consulting services, and what works and what doesn't with such engagements.

Our Director of Professional Services Ken Rickard joins our host Allison Manley on the Secret Sauce podcast today to tell us a little more about our consulting services.

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While we take on epic, end-to-end projects often, we also find that some clients don't need the long-term services. Instead, they need strategic help with a specific challenge, or perhaps require staff augmentation – in particular with Drupal projects – for a limited time. What works and what doesn't with such engagements? We always structure consulting engagements to ensure the work we perform adds the most value to your team and organization, based on a frequency (often weekly) that ensures your goals are being met.


AM: Hi, welcome to The Secret Sauce, a short podcast by, that offers a quick tip on some small thing you can do to help your business run better.


I’m Allison Manley, an Account Manager here at Palantir, and today’s advice comes from Ken Rickard, our Director of Professional Services, who is going to give a quick plug about our consulting services.

KR: Hi, I’m Ken Rickard. I’m the Director of Professional Services here at Palantir. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about our consulting services. As you may know, we’re a full-service web strategy design and development firm, but we also do smaller engagements where some of our clients need strategic consulting to supplement the staff that they already have.

In particular with Drupal projects, what we find in a lot of cases is clients that have existing staff who are very talented and very skilled, but don’t have a lot of direct Drupal experience. What we can do in that case is rather than do a big bundle of upfront training, what we put together is a consulting package, where you get to work with one of our experts during the life of your entire project. And it’s a very simple arrangement in which we spend a few days getting to know each other, getting the project plan together, and in particular structuring the build of the project so that you don’t have to learn all the parts of Dupal first. So we can start with some content modeling, then you move on to building out content types. Then you start layering in Views and Panels, and all the other things that make a site functional and exciting.

During this whole engagement, instead of contracting us or someone else to go out and build it, your staff is doing the work. And what we’re doing is having an expert guide you through that. So we do this with check-in meetings. We set these up as two simple meetings a week. Generally on Monday . . . first thing Monday morning we get together, we meet for about a half hour and review what are your goals for the week: are you trying to build out Events? Are you trying to build out Single Sign On integration with an LDAP service (which is a very typical thing for our university clients)?

As consultants, we walk through the problems and the challenges you’re trying to solve that week. We point out opportunities that you might have overlooked, we point out solutions that might already exist in the marketplace, and we look to the pitfalls that you might run into, such as, “if you try to do it this way you may run into this problem.” Or, “if you use this module, it may prevent you from doing this other feature that you’d like.”

That helps you plan out your week. It also lets us ask, “is there anything we need to do to supplement you this week? Do you need any additional research done? Do you need us to review any specifications?” or things like that.

Then we meet later in the week, on a Thursday or a Friday for about an hour, and review the work you’ve completed. It’s peer review. It’s the chance to walk through and see, “did it function the way you expected? Did you run into any unexpected bugs? If so, how do we troubleshoot those?”

Because what we find the value to this consultation is . . . I would say 90% of the time your team is going to get it right. They’re going to have the right answer. But there are two things: number one, they may not know that they have the right answer, and that’s really discouraging. It puts the project at risk and it puts the team in a very bad position because they are just uncertain. It’s very hard to move forward confidently when you are uncertain, so we can come in and help provide that level of certainty. The second piece is in the 10% of cases where they don’t get it right the first time, it’s generally because they’ve either misunderstood a fundamental concept that’s not well-documented or is peculiar to Drupal, or because they’ve run into a very deep structural bug that needs expert analysis.

So we’ve done several of these engagements with small clients and with large clients, and they are very very effective capacity builders. The other thing that they give you is a safety net, because if it does turn out that the project is bigger than your team can handle, we have someone positioned to step in and say, “ok, here’s what you’re going to need to complete this project,” and we can then ramp up a team to assist.

We’ve had great success with this approach with a variety of clients, and we’d love to work with you on it.

Thank you.

AM: Thanks for listening to this week’s Secret Sauce! For more great tips, follow us on twitter at @palantir, or visit our website at