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Ah, we need consultants.  We have to have them.  Our projects require them.  There is just too much work for our internal staff.   So we work with them.  A necessary evil or a wonderful experience – it can be one or the other.  PURE …. !!!  Or Pure heaven.  Or neither just a good experience.

I’m a developer so this list will lean towards the development side of things.  However, I believe a lot of this can be applied in any area.

I have worked both as a client and a consultant.  It can be frustrating both ways.  However, I’ve worked the longest as a client.  And this is my client side rant!

Great consultant

 My favorite, and it’s a pleasure to work with these guys  (Of course this list is + good consultant list) :

  1. Ask why.   There may be a great reason why something is done.  There may be a crummy one.  Because that’s the way we’ve always done it is a bad answer on my part.  So show me a new way!  I’d love to share.  Think outside of what is normally done.
  2. Follow industry standards.   MVC is a very good thing to know and understand.
  3. Share information.  It’s a give and take.  You DO know more than I do in different areas.  I probably know more than you in different areas.  The best time I have with consultants is when we can share our knowledge.
  4. Teach me something new!  That’s the best thing ever!!!!
  5. Spend time to educate me on what they’ve worked on for my company.

A good consultant list:

  1. Great communication skills.  Listen first, and then make suggestions.
  2. Admit when they don’t know something, and ask for help.
  3. Follow customer standards.
  4. Once there is a code review, correct all your code – even other programs prior to submitting for a new code review.
  5. MAKE suggestions.  Present your case.  But then if the customer – me – decides on a different approach take it.  Don’t spend days on debate.  The project needs to move forward.

And to the rant!

A BAD consultant:

  1. Thinks that they always know more than the client.  Yes, they might.  But they need to present alternatives instead of never changing.

  2. Do the exact opposite of all the things listed for a good and great consultant.

  3. Debate EVERYTHING!  Don’t let the small things go.
  4. Don’t listen to customers ideas.  Don’t take the time to understand their customer’s process.
  5. Write code that is hard to maintain.
  6. Don’t think about the BIG picture.  Re-useable code to them means that it is usable only for their project.  And won’t be used again.
  7. Don’t write re-usable code.
  8. Cut and paste instead of writing subroutines, function modules, and/or classes.
  9. Rush the code to try to finish by dates.  The rush code means rework for me.
  10. Use coding techniques that are non-industry compliant and then say it is simply a difference in coding styles.   There is really no reason for them to change.   AHHHHHH!!!!!
  11. Doesn’t share the information.
  12. Refuses to listen.
  13. Just takes a template and tries to apply it to every client. 
  14. Doesn’t take into account the client’s needs.  Some know very little about SAP. Some know a lot.
  15. Use the reason that they don’t know a way of coding as a good reason not to do it.  Don’t know it?  That’s OK learn it.
  16. Ask how prior to doing any research.  There is google.  There is help documents.  There is SCN!

I’ll take the less experience consultant every time as long as they take the time to listen.   Respect goes both ways.   Guess which consultants are asked back to work with me!

Oh and why write this blog?  It’s in response to a couple I’ve been reading and debating.  So if you have the time, stop and read these as well.  They are interesting and present some oppisite viewpoints.

Choosing the ‘best’ among good designs – an illustration

Thanks to Marilynn Pratt, I’m adding some more links.  I completely forgot about the BPX element.   However there are “bad” BPX folks just as much as “bad” technical consultants:

BPX Skills Webcast with Jon Reed for ASUG and BPX

BPX Skills Webcast with Jon Reed for ASUG and BPX Voice only – This will help anyone / everyone who ever thought about being a BPX person.  One of the interesting points is “Ability to work as the “liaison” or “missing link” with functional and/or technical teams from the opposite side of the aisle.”.  That person is usually missing from a consulting team.  That would be wonderful to have.  (And of course this point helps out my rant.)

BPX Certification – This is a WIKI on how to get the above skills.  Fun place to add your thoughts and build out a great resource for BPX.

BPX Community – And so – you think all of this sounds good.  Take a look at the BPX community.  Our missing link on most the projects I’m on. <We have some really good internal ones – not as many consultants. >

And check out Marilynn’s BPX- Skills Focus with Jon Reed – with all the above links.  Without my personal comments – of course 🙂

I couldn’t help it.  I had to add the BPX things to the end of my blog.  It just fit so well with what I was trying to say!  Enjoy.

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  1. Kumud Singh
    Hi Michelle,
    How about consultants who do not want to give their 100% to the object they work? I have many a times seen people who are not passionate towards their work. It is very difficult to cope up with them.It agitates the other person as to why he/ she did not make a perfect try? Such people would only say “OH I HAVE TRIED THIS FOR 50TH TIME NOW”. But look at their try, they are just PESSIMISTIC TRY.

    More attributes of good consultant:
    1. OPTIMISTIC
    2. PERSEVERANT
    3. Faith on their coding skills
    3. PATIENCE WITH PEOPLE AROUND AND NOT TAKING SPUR-OF-THE-MOMENT decisions.

    This calls for another blog Michelle…
    1. WHY DO PEOPLE WORK?
    2. WHAT MAKES CONSULTANTS EFFICIENT AT WORK?

    Thanks,

    With Regards,
    Kumud Singh

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    1. Michelle Crapo Post author
      Love it!  I would agree with all of this.   What a great addition.

      Why do people work?????  I have yet to know the answer to that question.  I can say why I work.   It makes me happy.

      Thinking about it some more…
      Enthusiast would be a great trait.

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  2. Stephen Johannes
    Michelle,

    I think a great consultant realizes that they are only at a client site for a short-term and needs to deliver a sustainable long-term solution before they leave.  It’s very important from a customer perspective that the consultant provide a solution that is sustainable once that consultant leaves the building.

    I also think a consultant should try help make the client self-sufficient when possible.  This means that when a consultant leaves, the client should be able to function without them on site.  Sometimes this hard to achieve, but should always be a goal.  Unfortuantely the goal of way too many consulting firms is “camping” or turning the client site into the Hotel California for their resources. 

    On a lighter note a great consultant performs random acts of kindness towards their client to keep the client team happy. It’s a lot harder to get rid of someone who is pleasant to work with, than a grumpy person.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Michelle Crapo Post author
      Perfect!  I have more to add to my blog:

      ”  Ability to work as the “liaison” or “missing link” with functional and/or
      technical teams from the opposite side of the aisle.
        Change management skills (process-driven approach often means
      organizational changes).
        Project management skills and methodology know-how (lean
      manufacturing methodologies, Six Sigma, project management
      certifications, SAP implementation methods, including new business
      process methodologies): https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/bpx-implement

      Sad but true that we need ““liaison” or “missing link” with functional and/or
      technical teams from the opposite side of the aisle”

      I’d advise anyone and everyone to stop and listen / read Jon’s Webcast.

      Michelle

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  3. Kevin Wilson
    A great little read… I was a client many years back before jumping ship. My experience of great consultants was exactly as you mentioned. I just ignored the bad ones and focused on the good ones open to sharing info. I’ll be meeting up at ASUG this year with the GREAT consultant that taught me Workflow 16 years ago now… Now that is a sign of a GREAT consultant.
    Also I want to share a thought around consultants in general. We all know that there are great SAP implementations and then there are bad ones. The common part is the software itself. They both have the same software… so the differentiating factor is the system integrator / consultants putting it in for you (assuming the client is open to change) Choose wisely.
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    1. Kumud Singh
      Hi Kevin,

      I would like to add here few points going by the example you have highlighted:
      1. Don’t you think the recruitment team and the interviewers have to look beyond, ONLY the technical and analytical skills of the candidate.
      a)The attitude
      b)Learning skills
      c)Interpersonal skills
      d)Passion towards work and why does he want to work?
      e)How organised he is in his day to day work.

      2.HR team have to play a much bigger role than they are playing currently.They have to make the environment of organisation employee friendly and motivating. I have seen many people loose interest in work and in that organisation because they are not motivated.

      This is just a thought…The list can get extended and extended.

      Thanks,

      Kumud

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  4. Alex Campbell
    I’ve noticed though that when I talk with the consultants about these types of shortcomings, usually they tell me that many other companies “just want the job done on time” and aren’t such sticklers for code quality as we are. Of course, I’m dubious of this excuse, but I still have to wonder: Are there actually clients out there who don’t care about code quality?
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    1. Michelle Crapo Post author
      Surprisingly there are!  But they soon learn that getting it done fast is a HUGE problem.

      When we first went up on SAP, we didn’t know what we were doing.  We had to rely totally on consultant’s knowledge.   And deadlines were important.  We didn’t understand the quality or lack of quality.  We paid for it.

      Now – some of you know – I was a consultant for a while.   Yes, I did care about quality.  I worked for a consulting firm.  We were implementing SAP.  Again the customer had no idea about quality.  

      So…  You guessed it.  Dates where the driver.  I ended up working LONG – very long hours to get the quality in the code.  That could lead to me missing things in my code.  I don’t know if I did or not.  We did not have a code review.  If the code worked, it was good enough.

      It left a bad taste in my mouth.  I ended up moving back to the customer side of things.  Was the above the reason?  No.  I hated the travel  🙂  Guess I really needed to be on the customer side.  And I know how hard the balancing act becomes from both sides.  However, I believe the consultant has a harder time with it.

      SO – yes, I do understand cutting corners.  As a customer, that’s not a good enough reason.  I tried not to do it as a consultant. 

      Nice response,

      Michelle

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  5. Tobias Hofmann
    You have to differentiate between consulting companies and freelancers.

    Some of the points listed in the bad consultant are what consulting companies sell every day to their clients, that’s how they work, that’s part of their business. In case of the own methodology the client may sometimes even benefit from it. Managers from companies arrive to work with 2 objectives: make the client happy by delivering exactly what is written in the contract and sell the client a new contract (Bad code, slow performance? Can be fixed by a maintenance contract).
    Freelancers act differently, knowing that when the contract ends they have to search on their own, depending heavily on the clients review of their last work. A bad freelancer consultant is the one that won’t share anything, trying to prolong his contract ad infinitum. This rarely will happen with a consulting company, as they tend to rotate their consultants. If that’s good or not, …

    You can find good and bad consultants in both categories, it’s the task of the client to identify the good ones before hiring them.

    br, Tobias

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    1. Tom Cenens
      Hello Tobias

      I think the difference between a consulting firm and freelancing can be summed up as “it depends”.

      It all depends on what a person has experienced so far which makes the point of view in the end.

      I like knowledge sharing and I also like giving my customers a gift now and then because I like what I do. I want my customer to benifit from having me around and even better to be happy I am working for them.

      Obviously giving them no good reason not to prolongue my contract.

      Why would I as a consultant not care about my contract? My current customers are geographically closeby, have interesting work for me and I have a good relationship with them. I do my best to keep those contracts alive.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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      1. Michelle Crapo Post author
        Tom,

        Again I agree it depends.  BUT who actually hired you the consultation firm or the client?  If it is the consulting firm – you have a huge amount of pressure to make dates.   Quality can be cut when the dates are getting close.

        Good / Great consultants may kill themselves to make the date and get the quality.  BUT that is a very hard thing to do.  As a customer – I have the same problem.  At times my hours sky rocket when I’m trying to hit a date and get good quality.   Then when I’m tired, I miss things.  I’m really glad for the technical review!

        Michelle

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        1. Tom Cenens
          Hello Michelle

          I work for the consulting firm and the customers hire me through the consulting firm but I already work for the same customers for years now.

          The internal employees at those customers are also my colleagues really and I feel at home.

          This sets the scene for my work and enables me to not only do what I’m supposed to do but also enables me to look around, see things that can be improved and collaborate with other people.

          I love introducting new features, products or ideas at my customers and they are receiving those ideas well.

          I leverage SCN to gain and share knowledge and in the process of doing that I can do interesting work at my customers.

          Kind regards

          Tom

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          1. Michelle Crapo Post author
            Yes – but that is kind of different.  You have been placed at the client.

            What about when a group of consultants for a firm comes into a company with a strict deadline?  Do you think quality doesn’t suffer?

            I know it does in my programs.  Not on purpose, but because I’m tired when I write them.  Luckily code review catches most of that. 

            But if my company did not have a code review process, would the quality of a consulting firms code be the same?  Would the date drive them to push back on the code reviews?  Would that happen to a consultant or a long term consultant who works at your firm?

            Just something to think about.

            And YES – I really do agree it depends.  Just using my experience on my thinking…  Also depends on what you were hired to do.

            Michelle

            I do think there are some GREAT consultants and independents out there.  🙂  Hence even though I’m ranting – I have seen the good and the great ones too.  There probably are more good than not so good consultants.  They just get rehired in until you think of them more as employees than consultants.

            I love the BPX angle.

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            1. Jarret Pazahanick
              Hi Michelle

              Thre are good consultants out there but the trick is to find them and thought you might find these two articles I wrote interesting if you havent seen:

              Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant
              Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant

              3 Ways to Sabotage Your Next SAP Consultant Hire
              http://www.asugnews.com/2011/02/08/3-ways-to-sabotage-your-next-sap-consultant-hire/

              On a side note I dont believe there are more good consultants than bad consultant especially given the cost companies have to pay so it is important tto spend the time to get the right one. (my rant) 🙂

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    2. Michelle Crapo Post author
      Tobias,

      I completely agree!  There are some good and bad ones.  BUT it seems like the freelancers fall into the good/great group a lot more often than the firms.

      Of course we do our own technical review prior to hiring an independant consultant.  The firms we get whatever / whoever they give us.  

      I guess that is a whole different rant.  Again it depends on the firm and it could be a CLM for me to rant about that one.

      Thank you for the VERY true comment – at least in my experience.

      Michelle

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      1. Tobias Hofmann
        “The firms we get whatever / whoever they give us”

        That is not necessarily bad:
        – Bad consultants will stay for some time, but you already know: in 4 months they are off to another client.
        – Clients often use consulting companies as “free” hiring company: the expensive process of selecting and training (<-if) people is done by the consulting company, the client can check the consulting for 3-6 months and than hire him directly (fluctuation rate).
        It gets problematic when the client spends a significant amount of time checking the work done by the consultants or dealing with the consulting company <-> client culture. After all: the client is paying money to get rid of problems, not to pay for them.

        Also, many good consultants one day started as a new hire from university. Best way to enter the market is by working for a big consulting firm.

        And even when we don’t see it, the managers responsible for the contract are very good in giving some nice presents to make the client forget the last missed deadline: lunch, free SAP event tickets, special high profile consultants that help out from time to time.

        About the quality and the own methodology: that’s another story; there is a reason why SAP said: use ASAP.

        Tobias

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  6. Jarret Pazahanick
    Hi Michelle

    I really enjoyed this article and thought the items you captured for each of the categories were spot on.

    I think what many consultants dont seem to understand is by sharing your knowledge not only are you doing your job, you get to learn, it is easier to establish a great working relationship and you tend to stay around longer (if that is your goal).

    One thing that is very true is when you said “I know more than you about certain areas” which is a great point. I learn each and everyday and to if you come accross a consultant that feels he knows everything about everything chances are he doesnt know very much at all.

    I also thought Stephen “On a lighter note a great consultant performs random acts of kindness towards their client to keep the client team happy” was a very good peice of advice as well.

    One last point is that over the years the consultants I have worked with that have the confidence to say “I am not sure…let me find out” and come back with the answer are typically very strong. I personally would rather get the right answer than the quick answer and companies that have been through a lot of consultants respect that.

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    1. Michelle Crapo Post author
      Jarret,

      Fist in the air!  You get it.  I’d much rather have the I’m not sure… let me find out answer.

      I usually CAN tell when someone really doesn’t know the answer.  BEWARE of the clients that need the answer, but know when the consultant is just talking around the issue.

      Great consulting words.  Stephen’s comment rang a positive cord in my mind as well.  

      This blog is making me feel a lot better.  Of course, I know there are great consultants out there.  But it’s fun to hear the thoughts from some of them!

      Michelle

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Michelle, Jarret

        I definitely agree on the I’m not sure .. let me find out answer.

        There is no point in pretending you are almighty and you know everything because you don’t.

        It’s not an issue either. What matters is what you do with the questions your customers have.

        Kind regards

        Tom

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  7. Tom Cenens
    Hello Michelle

    I like this blog and many of your other blogs as you already know.

    You make some good points there. I cannot really say much about the development points because it’s not my area.

    For me an important point is the relationship with my customer. I want to feel at home and I want my customer to be happy that I’m around or working them remotely in that matter.

    I also like giving a gift from time to time (not planned) because I like doing my job and it fills me with joy when a customer is really happy about something I introduce, do or did.

    Like comments that fuel bloggers to keep going I thrive on having a similar feeling from customer satisfaction.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Michelle Crapo Post author
      Tom,

      You may not know how much the relationship – communication makes a difference.  Then again you might.

      It means so much – to me.

      For you and all the others with such good ideas.  (Like making the customer happy.  AND understanding it isn’t just the end user, but the technical customer as well.)

      THANK YOU!

      Michelle

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