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I am tempted to write on this topic as significant chunk of experienced consultants face this dilemma in terms of choosing next big step in their career path.

A sample list of title chart provided below for Consulting and Program Management tracks in Indian IT organizations.


What are the factors that determine for a consultant to continue in consulting or move over to program management? Are there any external factors that influence this decision or is this an individual choice? Do IT organizations provide opportunities in both these tracks or is this career path only on paper?

This is specific to India, as the approach is different in west. My observation is consultants in west tend to continue in consulting in their specialization area. Consider an experienced consultant in Financials (SAP FICO), he continues to focus on Financials with extended product portfolio like Advanced controlling, Planning & Budgeting, Consolidations etc.

India as an IT outsourcing hub has an increasing number of projects, thus creating more opportunities in Project Management space. A question might arise why not an experienced consultant continue in core consulting in an offshore project. This approach is not profitable for an organization to have experienced consultant doing hands on consulting work for an application maintenance project as the billing rates are lower than the cost of an experienced consultant.

What are the opportunities available in consulting path in India? This question can be easily answered for Project Management path. As you grow you tend to manage bigger accounts, multiple accounts and then move on to client account management. There are lots of opportunities within each organization for these roles.

Not the same case with consulting roles. Opportunities for growth seem to be limited. Experienced consultants get involved in pre-sales activity and Center of Excellence (COE) activities. These opportunities are limited and COE’s are treated as cost centers. Apart from this, if you talk about Technology consulting with specific to a tool/ product/software, these tend to get out dated in this dynamic economic environment, posing a challenge to upgrade skills on continuous basis. Organizations except for very few tend to invest in training for consultants to upgrade their skills only after securing a project.

Though organizations have career paths for both consulting and Program management, in reality there are not many opportunities in top layer of consulting path in India.

















 Differentiating Factors






Program Management



Skill set



Niche skill with experience in   domain area and functional consulting



Experience built up over the years   by managing small to large teams with PMP certification



Opportunities and Growth



Excellent opportunities till   certain number of years say Upto 8 -12 years



Opportunities exist throughout the   ladder / career path (Project, Delivery role and Account Management)






Stagnated at Middle management   level and need for constant upgradation of skills



Slightly Monotonous



Type of projects



Implementation and Rollout



Implementation, Rollout,   Application support / maintenance.


In my opinion in Indian context, organizational forces / factors seem to dominate compared to individual choices. I have seen some of my senior colleagues, though were excellent in consulting, moved into Program management as there was no clarity in consulting path and organization was looking for delivery / project management roles. If an Individual would like to continue in consulting, he will have to move onsite or start their own boutique consulting firm as there are limited or no opportunities at the top of the ladder. As an industry, are we not losing highly skilled resources by way of experienced consultants moving to Program Management?

IT vendors and customers can partner to explore the opportunities to utilize the experienced consulting professionals. In times of dynamic economic environment, customers need this skill set to address changing requirements proactively.

 It is time for out of box thinking solutions to address this issue. It will be interesting to know if any big consulting firms or any organizations for that matter addressed this issue.

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  1. Shabarish Vijayakumar
    In my opinion in Indian context, organizational forces / factors seem to dominate compared to individual choices

    I agree with you on this.
    There is no or less scope for excellent consultants to grow into Architects with the org. structure of most of the outsourcing firms. Billing factors/going by the numbers theory seem to be a big hurdle. Its not a matter of choice but due to lack of choice !


    1. Former Member
      Organizational forces / factors dominate in USA too.

      Even if individual choices override, that will only be temporary and corproate considerations take over soon.

  2. Former Member
    I feel Indian IT sector is now changing the focus to grow more in value chain , in terms of offering  .  With that happening there will be scope for the consultants to move to next level and their will be equal opportunity in consulting and program management .
  3. Former Member
    There seems to be a log of change when it comes to our off-shore projects.  We hire a consulting firm, and don’t keep the same technical resources.  Some of the technical resources are subpar. 

    So if I read this correctly, the better people are moving towards project management.  That’s sad.  And true here in the States as well – to a point.

    I feel strongly that you have to do what you like to do.  If you don’t like project management you won’t be good at it.  So why change career paths.  (Keep in mind I changed to a project manager just for that reason.  Then I moved back to technical.)

    Technical skills are highly sought by companies.  We are starting to screen even our offshore resources.  The newer ones will not make the cut.

    So I think things need to change.  I’m not sure how they will.  But they should.

    FYI – US – my career path would stop at a Sr. programmer.  The next step is team lead (management).  And then on to the management roller coaster.  So we are not so different over her.

    Nice blog,


    1. Sreekanth E Post author
      Hi Michelle,

      Apologies for delayed response. Thanks for letting us know on this topic specific to US.


  4. Madhu B
    >>I have seen some of my senior colleagues, though were excellent in consulting, moved into Program management as there was no clarity in consulting path and organization was looking for delivery / project management roles.

    I completely agree with this.
    but my question is..
    How much successfully can the excellent consultants deliver in Project Management.

    I have a seen scenarios, like if there is an issue, a techie’s thinks at ground level and spends time in that.. where as the real PM concerns only getting resolved by someone.

    in my opinion consulting and Management are different ball games.. so lot of trainings/change of mindsets required if one moves from one area to another.

    1. Sreekanth E Post author
      Hi Madhu,

      I agree that both are different. Consulting is a skill that is acquired over the years with experience. But in case of project management, it is learning while you get on to the role.


  5. Former Member

    I really think that this is not something related only to India. This is a common situation around the Globe (also here in Brazil).

    I see three roles playing this situation (thinking on my reality):

    => Associate Consultant

    Consulting companies tends to let these guys handle the support and, sometimes, the implementation (cost reduction – teorically). I’m not saying that this is wrong, what I’m saying is that we can’t have only a team with JR. consultants. Here is where the Sr. Consultant should play a very importante role providing guidance. Not only guiding the JRs. beaviors but also in he technical side (hands on).

    => SR./Principal Consultant

    The problem is that this usually does not happen. The SRs. (or principal) consultants are “forced” to go through the management role.
    We can’t confuse “leadership” with “management”. While we grow in our carrer, it seems that is pretty common to you be a reference and this guides you to a leadership. The leadership is not only a role, but a reference professional. The one who can guide Associante consultants and provide a Quality review about the solution.

    => Project Manager

    This position must be only handled by someone who really wants to become a Manager. Going from Sr./Principal Consultant to Project Manager just because “it’s the way the market is going” is a risk. Technical professionals (I’m not talking only about developers, but functionals also) who do a great job in this role that doesn’t like to play the manager role can make a mess in the project, be uncomfortable, stressed and, mostly, improductive.

    The question should now be: what to do if I’m a Principal consultant but don’t want to follow the management career?

    Well, I’m all ears on this. Here in Brazil we are in the same situation.

    1. Sreekanth E Post author
      Thanks Daniel for providing us the scenario in Brazil, similar one to India and also as others have commented, it is global phenomenon.
  6. Former Member
    Why should we even care if we advance?  A strange thought, but one that just hit me.  I love what I do.  I love the technical aspects.  I love constant change.  I love learning new things.

    I’m pretty sure I’d never want to be a manager.  Things may change for me.  BUT I’m pretty happy where I’m at.

    I wonder what does the CIO of a company want to be?  What is the next step for her?

    Just my thought of the day!


  7. Former Member
    I like these popular quotes about ambitious, you need to have a ambition and goal whatever you do in your life…

    “The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.” – William Shakespeare

    “Basically you have to suppress your own ambitions in order to be who you need to be.” – Bob Dylan

    Amit Lal

  8. Former Member
    I agree with  the points clearly mentioned.Based on the ladder/opportunity to grow in any organisation, you need to take more responsibilities based on experience/exposure with in the system.

    If you are choosing only consulting,it will be monotonous and you will be stagnant and juniors will be your bosses and you will loos your growth and respect in the ladder and also implies some negativeness/lapses with you.

    So people has to judge & plan their career path and act carefully to grow.


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