Monday, September 29, 2008

The Five Fundamentals to be a Good Consultant

As we know, from working with auto mechanics and plumbers, dentists, and tax advisors, that technical expertise alone doesn’t make one a good and trusted advisor. We’ve all had experiences with good and poor consultants. I’ve had doctors who walked in the room staring at a clipboard, asked a couple of questions in a mechanical tone, ticked off a checklist, and only then glanced up to see who the subject of the interview was. I often wonder whether these advisors cared whether I was a man, a woman, or a horse. I’ve also had experience with doctors who took the time to know me, my preferences and personality, and the way I feel about my medical condition, and then prescribed therapies that I might actually implement. Good and poor advisors may be equally competent in their subject matter. It’s their ability to give personalized advice that influences the client’s perception of the experience and the ultimate success of the relationship.

All professionals, whether lawyer, doctor, or architect, must use some process of interviewing, documenting, analyzing, recommending, and communicating to be an effective advisor. Many professionals have learned this process through trial and error, as it is not typically a subject covered in depth as part of their training and certification. For the skilled practitioner, advising becomes an ingrained and instinctual skill that is rarely thought of as a separate process.

For the less skilled, it is a hit-or-miss process that often leaves crucial factors undiscovered, or critical decision criteria poorly understood by the client. I see in my practice as an advisor to IT consulting firms an epidemic of unstructured, inconsistent, uncoordinated activities that are called

IT consulting. Both the IT professionals and their clients are often left wondering how a simple technical project could get so fouled up. Everyone understood the technology, but nobody managed the relationship or the delivery process.

The Five Funda,s of Consulting

Five basic concept which build the advisory process in IT field

-->Focus on the relationship: Identifying who the client is, and understanding the motivations, culture, history, fears, and goals of both the human being and the organization he or she represents, is one of the most difficult tasks in consulting. Your success in this task has much more bearing on the success or failure of your engagements than the technical discipline involved.

-->Clearly define your role: Setting the expectation with the client regarding exactly what you are there to accomplish, what tasks you are making a commitment to perform, what tasks you expect the client to perform, and where the boundaries of the relationship lie, is a key success factor for consultants.

-->Visualize success: It is the consultant’s central role to help the client draw a mental picture of the desired result of the engagement. Failure to do so results in the dreaded scope creep, in which the engagement never concludes because the expectations keep changing. Visualizing a successful result creates a common goal that all participants can agree upon and strive for together. Like the championship ring for a sports team, it is an unambiguous and motivational endpoint that clarifies the effort and helps clear away extraneous issues and barriers.

-->You advise; they decide: One of the most difficult tasks for consultants is to cast aside emotional attachment to their own advice. Many technicians fall in love with a particular solution or technology, and then lose interest in, or respect for, the client if he decides to take another approach. We must always remember that the client understands the complexities of his own environment, and that he lives with the result of his decision, while we move on to the next assignment.

-->Be oriented toward results:Consulting is more than advising, it is assisting clients to reach a goal. While some advisory relationships are strictly informational, most clients want us to not only recommend solutions, they want us to help implement them. Politics is often described as “the art of the possible,” a good definition for results-oriented consulting as well. By considering implementation issues throughout the engagement, such as corporate culture, readiness to change, training requirements, and corporate communications channels, we keep our eye on the realm of possibility, avoid getting sidetracked into the theoretical, and prepare the client for the real-world issues of implementation and system operation.


Mayank said...

I feel following two may be added to the five you mentioned and make them Seven :)

>>Know your Client
>>Know the Work Dynamics

So what do you say

Mukesh Kesharwani said...

Sure ..

Appreciate your comments and like to add your suggested points ..