Be the Consultant

Posted by on Aug 31, 2010 in Jobs & employment | 0 comments

Most of you reading this are IT professionals.  Most of you have spent years in school, at the head of your class toiling away to acquire the technical skills to get you where you are.  Most of you have worked aggressively to continue to update your technical skills to keep up with the rapid changes in technology.  What more could anyone want?  You’re the star.  You’re the bomb.  This is the path to consulting greatness, right?

Unfortunately, that’s just the entry fee.  That just gets you in the game.  Being a consultant rather than a programmer requires that you develop a whole new set of skills. The additional skills are:

  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Process Skills
  • Business Skills

Interpersonal Skills

Clients don’t necessarily judge your value by how tight your code is.  In fact, they are probably not in a position to really appreciate its brilliance.  That’s why they hired you, because you’re the expert.  If they really understood all the details of great software, why would they need you?

Clients usually rate their satisfaction with your work based on proxies for your code.  They rate your performance by the quality of their interaction with you.   If they can’t judge your code directly, they indirectly judge it based on things that we’re all qualified to assess.  If your client feels belittled or ignored, they will naturally assume that your code does not reflect their needs or wishes.

That’s why you have to first and foremost work on developing your interpersonal soft skills.  Top IT consultants interact with both clients and code.

Process Skills

We all know that developing and deploying information systems is chaotic at best.  The act of creation is a messy business.  Being a consultant means being able to bring structure and order to the ambiguous process of creation.  It means developing your process skills.

Whether you work on projects alone, or as part of a large team, your work must proceed in a coherent manner.  The more people that you work with directly, the more important detailed, explicit process becomes.  Programmers structure code.  Consultants structure ideas and work to provide solutions to client business problems.

Strong IT consultants understand how to specify, organize, and sequence tasks to estimate and deliver complete systems.  Developing a clear understanding of what needs to be done and in what order is essential.  Moreover, developing a clear understanding of what does not need to be done in a given situation makes you a valuable expert. There are no simple or universal methodologies for delivering economical and high quality systems.  Being the expert means knowing when to follow the book and when to throw it out.

Business Skills

No one hires an expensive technology consultant for anything that isn’t somehow important to a business.  If you’ve been hired to deliver a technology solution, somewhere there’s a compelling business reason for you to be there.  Figure it out.

Understand the business of your clients.  Understand how they make their money.  Understand the client’s political environment.  Ask business questions.

Once you understand the business context of your work, you are ready to begin thinking creatively about your client’s business and how technology enhances their business.

Developing into a strong consultant requires that you develop all four of these critical skills: technical, interpersonal, process and business.  Understanding this will put you head and shoulders above the crowd of those who would call themselves consultants.  Being able to apply that knowledge will make you a true consultant.

For more information about how you can leverage geeks to get the technology you want, contact or call 310-694-0450.

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