Implementation consulting 101
My 16 years as an implementation consultant has been an exciting journey filled with its share of highs and lows. The path has been paved with a lot of learning experiences – the full list would fill too many pages, but I’ve found three common themes have risen to the top:
- Develop strong relationships: Developing strong relationships with colleagues and clients is extremely important to excelling as a consultant. As a new consultant, building relationships with colleagues who can show you the ropes, and clients who understand that you are learning them, is the first step to climbing the ladder successfully. As a seasoned consultant, strong relationships are equally vital to avoid slipping back down – having a developer who is willing to burn the midnight oil for you, or a client who has come to view you as an important part of their team is invaluable.
- Know your craft: Strong relationships can only take you so far – to excel as a consultant, the bottom line is you have to know what you are doing. With differing client environments, multiple products, and new features constantly emerging this can be challenge. However, if you are willing to put in the extra time and effort, you can not only survive, but thrive.
- Stay humble: Knowing your craft a bit too well can be dangerous if it takes away your humility. Few consultants will ever forget their first project and all the butterflies that likely filled their stomachs. Saving a few of those butterflies for each new project and each passing year, isn’t such a bad thing. A humble consultant is more likely to be one that not only nurtures their relationships with their clients and colleagues, but also keeps refining and improving their skill set.
One of my favorite stories to share (that happens to tie all these themes together) is with one of my first accounts. I was assigned to work with an IT staff that was getting increasingly frustrated with a growing list of things with the product. As I heard the list of issues, I started tossing red and white flags onto the floor. After the initial panic subsided, I wound up making one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career, and that was to be completely honest with them: “I just started with the company last month. I believe I can help you through X, Y, and Z, but on some of these issues I’m going to need help from other people on my team.” When I arrived that Monday morning, the IT Manager had taken the time to separate their issues into 2 piles – “Issues Frank can help us with” and “Issues Frank will need help to help us with.” What could have been a disastrous situation (with me being shown the door), turned out to be one of the most enjoyable accounts I’ve ever worked with.
Sixteen years later, I still enjoy what I do and I still find it challenging. So much has changed in that time to help make things easier, but at its core so much has remained the same – the same things that helped me survive those early days still help to refine and improve what I do today. I now look forward to the road ahead, and look forward to sharing the journey with you.