Think of IT consulting having four dimensions:
- Technical knowledge
- Behavioral skills (soft consulting skills, interpersonal, presentation, writing, communication, collaboration etc.)
- Business knowledge (understanding the client’s domain/industry, terminology, processes, objectives, resource models etc.)
- Sales and Marketing knowledge (ability to represent and “sell” the value you and your firm bring to the customer)
As you will see in the above diagram most commodity consultants today really play in 1/4 of the pie only.
- They have technical knowledge but are usually not world-class experts in it as they tend to be more technically generic.
- They have limited behavioral skills (They can ask questions, fill in a status report and perhaps write a design document)
- They tend to be generic and not focused in a single domain (Healthcare, Finance, Capital Markets, Manufacturing, Energy etc.)
- Their sole sales and marketing knowledge is perhaps creating a resume and doing an interview with the client.
or they do have all the value-consulting skills but ….
- They have no idea how to communicate their value.
What helps in the transformation of a commodity consultant into a value-based consultant is:
- being highly focused and very deep in a specified technical area. Know it all and know it well.
- developing the soft client skills so not only are you effective working with your client but they truly like working with you
- understand more of your client’s business. I am not saying to work in Healthcare IT that you need to become a medical doctor. However, you should understand the domain. What is consent? Circle of care? Healthcare Information Privacy? Electronic Health Record? HL7 Integration? An ADT system ? An HIS system? LOINC? ICD-9? etc. The same is true is every domain. You need to be able to speak your client’s domain language.
- be able to understand and communicate your value. No one can do this except you. Get involved in your professional networks and build contacts. If you work through a recruiter as a value-based consultant, remember you need to convince them first as they will be the face to the prospective client until you get that first meeting.
My blog on consulting excellence will help you in 3 of the 4 areas of the the pie. Everything except technical knowledge. Technical knowledge will always be the largest part of what you do and who you are and it is up to you to figure out the best way to develop world-class expertise and depth. Let me assure you that taking and passing industry certifications is not enough. They are simply the price of admission. On a given day a large corporation recruiting for IT positions may receive thousands of resumes for a few available engagements or jobs. The ones that go to the top of the pile, have been referred by someone they already know; another consultant, an employee or a trusted (key word) recruiter. (*) They will then sift through the pile for mandatory requirements (5 yrs with MCS* and C#, or PMI certified). If you don’t have the basic qualifications then you will be relegated to the “we’ll look at this pile if we can’t find our candidate in the first one” pile. How do I know this? I’ve done it for literally hundreds of hires.
(*) A recruiter that is trusted by the client is worth their weight in gold to the client and to you. They only present candidates they know are a good fit because they have taken the time to meet with the client and the consultant and ask the right questions about the role and expectations of the value to be delivered. Working out of Toronto Canada for a portion of my career, I can state that there are likely over 100 IT recruiting firms in the city. I trust 2 of them (Planet4IT is one) and I know their clients also trust them because I have been a client. If you are going to use a recruiter be very selective and check their references carefully. Without you, there is no them. The reverse is not true.
Industry certifications are just the starting point. It is the bar by which the administrator in the HR department, who is not necessarily familiar with the detailed project requirements of the role, is set. They will process your resume accordingly. Now you get an interview and need to show more. Everyone who got through to an interview by definition fit the mandatory requirements. Now it’s time to differentiate.
To differentiate technically, you need extra expertise that is relevant to the client’s project. Stay current. Read the technical journals and understand the best practices, the tips and tricks and understand the pitfalls of certain approaches. Even if you have not done that specific thing yet on a project, by researching and being able to talk about different approaches you are differentiating yourself from the others. For me, on a normal week, it’s a minimum of 5 hours added to my weekly work schedule. It’s just part of earning and retaining the title of professional.
Your technical knowledge will always be the foundation of why you are engaged. However your total value is the sum of technical know-how + consulting skills + domain knowledge/experience and the only way you can get that value recognized is to learn how to communicate it.
Go for a bigger slice of the pie.