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Consultant vs. Clients and new technology

<p>Learning about new technologies – been there, done that, wrote a blog already…  But now assume you know the technologies / or don’t.  What’s the difference between a consultant and client?  Or is there one?  I’ve learned through responses from my blogs that there is a difference.</p>h3. History

<p>I VERY brief history of what I’ve done.  I started as a client.  I then went into consulting.  Then back to a client.  Then back to consulting.  And now I am a totally happy, home loving client again.</p>h3. Consultant

<p>First a quote </p><p>”We don’t have consultants who can maintain this”.  What was this?  It was simple ABAP OOP.  No consultants who can maintain this.  But…. But… Why?  And then I thought back to my consultant days.   I rarely went to a training class.  When I did it was with a client in mind.    So of course I was using “older” technology.  Even if one person on the team used something new, that would make us cringe.  How could we support it?  The answer, sadly, is that we couldn’t unless we followed up on SCN or actually took a class.</p><p>When I was a consultant, the idea was to get in and out of a client site as quick as possible.  (On fixed bids)  This meant some of my code wasn’t even what I could call good code, new technology?  No way.  We just wanted in and out.</p><p>OK – all of you consultants are thinking, boy what a bad consultant she was.  For those of you thinking that – A BIG, HUGE THANK YOU!   When I was not on a project, and not on a fixed bid, I could write nice code using any technology that the client liked.   That was a nice change.</p><p>And now I ask you – you who work for consulting companies to think to yourself – not reply.  How often has that happened?   A project has gotten to the end and you had to slam the code in there?</p><p>Now you unlucky people have to deal with the client side.  Do they know those new fangled things – OOP?  If not again you have to take a huge step backwards to write what they can support.  AHHHHH!!! How frustrating for you.</p><p>So what happens?</p><ul><li>You are perpetuating “bad” coding techniques</li><li>You may get let go using something that is non-supportable</li><li>You don’t have the training to use anything new</li><li>Your “mentor” in your company for a new employee may not use the newer techniques</li><li>Your co-workers can’t support your code.</li><li>Because no one understands your code, they cut and paste it.  Instead of using the class/method.</li><li>You lose all the things you’ve learned because you can’t use them.</li></ul>h3. So – what to do?

<p>Here’s what I say.  Come work for places like Perrigo.  You can use OOP, Adobe, Webdynpro….  We want to build our repository and have some examples we can learn from.  These clients are out there.  And I know there are more than just us.  Waiting for that consultant that can provide examples.  Those consultants should have good communication skills to pass what their program(s) due to the client.</p>h3. And now where I’m at now – the client side

<p>OK – you’ve heard a lot I’ve had to say – basically the idea is to LEARN!  Learn as much as you can.  Not bleeding edge but the tried and true new concepts.</p><p>Stopping consultants from writing code you don’t understand?  Really?  Why?  I love it when they code a GOOD example.  I do take a step back and make sure I know what I’m code reviewing.   If I have questions, I <gasp> ask them.  I don’t really care if the consultant thinks I’m clueless.  I am when I ask the question.</p>h3. Reality

<p>Do I practice what I’ve written?  You better believe it.  We’ve had consultants in here.  Lots of consultants in here.  We have a lot of projects going on at the same time.   I know nothing about Adobe.  No one from the technical team knows anything about Adobe.  However, we now have Adobe forms on our system to support.  Hopefully some great examples.</p><p>Way back – Way back – you know like maybe 2 years or something like that.  We had consultants in that wrote OOP.  I knew 0 about OOP and so did the technical group.  We did not stop him from writing in OOP.  The examples we got were OK.  But not exactly top of the line.   That is OK too.  It pushed me to learn more about OOP.</p><p>Now say it’s someone in your consulting firm who is pushing you to write structural code.  That I can’t help with.  Our site has old code, new code, and even – like most sites – SapScript.</p>h3. The consultant The client

<p>Very different worlds, the consultant has more than one boss.  That drove me nuts when I was consulting.   I was always consulting with a consulting firm.  I was / am too afraid to be an independent.  Independents – still – by the way has two bosses sometimes if they subcontract.</p><p>The wonderful part about being the customer, I get to go to one training course a year.  (I usually try for SAPTeched)  I get to research and use newer techniques.  AND I get to learn from the CONSULTANT.  A huge bonus.</p>

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  • Michelle,

    I normally tend to describe the difference between a consultant and client side is how much do you care about the long-term impact of what is done.

    Most consultants are by nature short-timers, whose focus is on getting the job done and making sure their invoice is being paid within the contracted terms.  The next group of consultants are what I call campers and they are responsible for project failures.  Their goal is to see how long they can last with a client and how much "value" they can extract.  My general rule is that true consultants should not be on any project for more than one year or otherwise you pickup the "employee syndrome".  That is the point where you merely become a contractor for a company unwilling to hire permanent staff.  There are exceptions to this rule if the project lasts for two years, but beyond that I consider the lack of project changes a minus if offering different viewpoints as a consultant.

    A great consultant while using some of the new technologies a build a solutions that their client can support(not their company) and is production quality as much as possible.  The client shouldn't call you back to fix your stuff, but rather for new work.

    So at the end of day beware of "campers", and remember that your best consultants are watching those invoices being paid and hoping to move on to their next project once they get the job done for you.

    Take care,


    • Oh - Another Great response by you Stephen.  YOU know the consulting side much better than I.

      Campers - well if they are not on a project, they are easy to catch.  At least from an ABAP point of view.  Also from a project point of view... We hold the internal project manager to dates.  Sometimes too much to dates.

      Get their job done and use some new technology for support!  Yes, I like that.  I think we can support any GOOD code.  Comments, etc.  Right now, well no one knows Adobe.  But it seems easy enough to pick up.  That was one of our push backs that we didn't win to the consulting firm.

      Long term consultants - more than one year.  That just means we love them.  We have a consultant that we move from project to project as he knows how to do our mountains of paperwork.  His solutions are impeccable and he knows our system.  He also consistently turns down employment.  Should we cut him loose?  No way.  Not as long as we have projects that can use him. 

      "Short-Term" guys - we watch them like hawks.  Why?  Because unfortunately we have run into short-term guys that slam the code into the system.  Cut and paste masters that don't think of long term effects.

      Unfortunately we have to do the same thing for outside project teams.  We ALWAYS have an internal resource involved for easy transfer of information.  Sadly when all code reviews go through one person - you end up with a filter effect.  Then some of the nasty code gets into our system just because it has to make the project move forward.  The nasty code is performance efficient and does provide the right result.

      Ah but I'm totally off course.  You got me on a rant!!!!!  Not good. 

      For this blog I was thinking about the consultants that want to learn something new.  Do they have a harder time than the clients?  I think so.  Because if a client can't support it, a consultant usually can't write it.  If you don't use it, you lose it.

      So my feelings went out to the consultants.  I worry about the future when the clients - like me - are looking for a resource and can't find one.  Web Dynpro - we had a project for that about a year ago.   We could find people that could spell ABAP Web Dynpro.  But no one who knew more than my coworker or myself.  At least no one who was available.  That was a problem because we were looking for help and some examples.  We had been to the ABAP Web Dynpro class, in fact we brought someone in-house to teach it.  I went to e-learning here on SCN.  So we stumbled through the project.   We still don't know if we are doing things right.  (We have the book too on WDA!)  But it's like when we started ABAP.   Not quite as bad as learning ABAP.  But enough of a difference that when we look at the code 2 years from now, I'll think "what was I thinking, this is bad code!".

      And now I've written another blog.  As always you get my brain jump started in the morning.  Almost as well as the coffee I drink!

      Thank you,


      • Michelle,

        The only question I pose to you is how do you let your consultant learn new things?  Most clients I experienced that had long term consultants wanted them there 52 weeks a year 24x7.  That's my argument is that consultant can not provide different points of experience or may not be able to be up to speed on new stuff when they are at any project for more than one to two years.

        That's the point where the consultant has the most risk of the stockholm syndrome.  My point is that the consultant is no longer a "consultant", but rather a contractor to do the work.  As long as you are paying "contractor" rates it shouldn't matter whether you call them a consultant or contractor.

        After spending several years being a consultant and only getting to use "consultants" sparingly to supplement my work, I tend to look for my consultants to be someone who can do the work and provide a strategic impact when doing that work in order to justify the rate.  If I just need someone to code, then I will get a contractor.

        However the contractor vs consultant was/is another blog for debate.

        Take care,


        • Well, this one is funny because we don't normally do it.  But we had some open seats when we brought in an SAP instructor for ABAP Web dynpro.  The consultants did not get paid.  They did however have the experience of learning something new at no cost to them.  Pretty cool.

          OK - Now normally...  Do you really think beyond SAP Teched or my one class that my company pays for me to learn?  It is rare.  If I can prove that I will use it soon.  Of course they will.  Time on SCN, time on e-learning, Webexes, Idea place...  I am getting up pretty early in the morning to do these things.   So my natural curiosity has me looking at and learning new things.  To advertise it some more - I'm going to try to create something cool for the HANA Innojam on line.  That will not be on company time. 

          SAP HANA InnoJam Online, SAP's new developer competition

          "That's the point where the consultant has the most risk of the Stockholm syndrome. My point is that the consultant is no longer a "consultant", but rather a contractor to do the work. As long as you are paying "contractor" rates it shouldn't matter whether you call them a consultant or contractor." 

          You will have to help me with that one.  I tend to use the words interchangeably. 

          And now consultant or contractor - I think - as usual I am probably wrong.  I think that they both should start to learn a little bit about the new things out there.  There are many different things to learn.  Once they feel comfortable, they can suggest new solutions that will save their client time and money.  This will make them more desirable.

          Now if you work for a consulting firm, I would hope they try to keep you up to date to charge higher dollars.

          Happy Holidays!


  • Hi,

    I don't know if this is how it works in your country but this is not how it works in my own country (France). Consultants who behave like that will quickly have a bad reputation. The SAP world is very small and everyone knows everyone else.

    I've been working for months and years for the same clients on different projects and it can be very interesting. When the client knows and trusts you then it is easier to be a real consultant and give your client good pieces of advice. And then you can start exploring new options and using new technology to solve problems.

    I don't know if it's just me but I know a lot of good consultants who only want to help their client solve their problems and "have fun" while doing that. Usually these consultants work as independents or in a small company.


    • Perfect!  I love this answer.  We keep our "good" consultants as long as we can.  We move them from project to project.  "Have fun" - most of our new projects are fun.

      Good vs. Bad.  Originally this was simply how hard it is for a consultant to learn new technology.

      I would guess - know from experience - the good ones that we are keeping around, they learn from maintaining code.  Then where we all learn, Google, SCN, e-learning...


      BTW - two of our consultants were invited to attend our in house training when we brought in an instructor from SAP to learn ABAP Web Dynpro.  It was free to them as we had extra seats.  However, they didn't get paid while training.

  • A consultant (let's just assume we are talking about the good ones) that wants to learn something new ...
    Think about it, and be honest: you won't hire him and I'm almost certain that your company won't even consider him (or her).

    How many times have you seen the following job description: searching for a highly motivated consultant that wants to learn something new. We will pay for the training and absolutely no previous experience in this area (hence: new) is required.

    Won't happen. So when you get a consultant that is trying something new, it's because he got sold on his/her first project. That's how the big consulting firms are working: sell high, pay lower. And before the client recognizes that the consultant is doing it for the first time, take him out of the project.

    An alternative are small consulting companies that give their employees time to learn, pay for training and let them go to events. But they also cost more and because they stand out of the masses clients tend to hire them. Makes it unlikely you'll see one at your company.

    Learning new things. You can do it on a long term contract, short term contracts live by: get it done, yesterday. What counts is that the clients signs of the deliverable. It depends on the company if you have time to learn something new and get used to it.

    It needs time to learn i.e. SUP, Gateway, but still you can already see Gateway experts coming around the corner. How? The product is only available since a few months. Hire one of them and you'll get a consultant that is still learning (but won't admit it).

    • Hi Tobias,

      Yes these consultants usually work for small companies (from my own experience anyway). And I think these small companies can be really successful if they focus on the new SAP offers and new technology. They need to hire these consultants to compete with the big consulting companies. Their only chance in fact is to focus on these niche markets.

      And regarding your GW example : yes, this consultant is not a GW expert. But as you said there are no GW experts anyway so let's hire the guy who is at least familiar with the topic. I've worked with a few clients that are not afraid of trying new stuff and participate in ramp-ups. And these are the most interesting customers in my opinion. As a consultant I was keen on working with them.

      So well I guess it really depends on the consultant, the company and the client. Maybe I've been really lucky to work within a good company for good clients and with great colleagues. 😉


    • Wants to learn something new... No I would not hire them.  Not if that's what they said to me in an interview.  Now later on I would hope they would learn while viewing other code on our system - if it isn't something they don't know.  Working late if they want to.  Etc.<br/><br/>Now big firms sell high / pay lower.  Yes, I have seen this.  In fact we have seen this too much.  So we do a technical interview on all of our Developers.  Even the ones on the big firms brought in for a specific project.  Ahhhh... you say, but what about that technology you know nothing about.  Now that is harder.  We ask questions we don't really know the answers to, and see what kind of response we get.  We dig into their background, asking questions about older projects.  Did they do what they say they did?  We catch and stop a lot of developers that are coming in that way.<br/><br/>Consultants vs. Clients... Really so different?  When there is a quite time at work.  Ha!  I laugh here.  I can learn new things.  Or when I'm starting a project that needs the newer skills.  However, really?  I spend a lot of my own time trying to find the "newer" things and bring them back.  The trick is making sure that I do not come across as someone who just wants to use a new toy.  And I do that a lot, simply because I have learned about something new.    I need to make sure I justify the time with real reasons to use the newer technology.  Otherwise -

        it is not something I get to do. 

  • Hello Michelle,
    Before my comment tag gets misinterpreted let me explain:
    We cannot deny the fact that ABAPers start their journey with more of copy+paste,repetitive work and you know the rest.(Ok, I have faced this and see this around except very few exceptions! How can anyone trust a beginner with the skills soon after college?)
    At that naive stage, I did not even realize that what I am doing is not adding value.But no sooner did I realize than I moved up. Gradually, I have reached a stage that unless I get the full background/functional knowledge, I would not (or try best not)do that if urgency permits.
    For me definition of consultant would be to get end to end knowledge of the object that I work on. It is ok if I get it gradually and not immediately at the first stage.
    Also now with the statements 'Developers are the new kingmakers', I somehow feel hidden consultant there! What do you say?


    BTW I have read your blog on HANA and still wondering 'Would I be able'?

    • I completely agree!  I hate my first programs.  But some of them are still out there. If it is not broke don't fix it.

      "Developers are the new Kingmakers" - Perfect!  The consultants / contractors are the new kingmakers as well.

      HANA - in case you have not heard about it and are reading this.  The HANA online innovation has started.   Now I am on the Developer side of the house, not the HANA, BASIS or BOBJ.  Hana is simply another tool to use.  And so I challenge ever one of you to put an idea in idea place for a HANA experiment. 

      SAP HANA InnoJam online contest, new start...

      It will be fun.  AND if you are like me you will learn.  I will be doing this on off hours as my company is a long way off from buying / using HANA.  The first 100 ideas submitted will automatically be a part of the competition.  So you just have to have a general idea.  Someone like me may ask questions about it.  I just like clarification on the great ideas out there!

      There are only 39 submissions!!!!  It will give you time to get in on the fun.  So anyone thinking about this, just give it a try.  I am.


      As far as starting somewhere, we have interns that work here.  They learn something and we get low cost help.  I can honestly say that if a basic - new consultant is paired with a person who has been doing development for a long time, and there is NO COST to the client.  Then why not?  We would be open to it.

      Now that is a benefit of working offsite with a good consultant on-site.  The on-site consultant can send the work back or correct it.  However, at the end of the project, the onsite person is getting so busy some of the "interesting" code goes to us for code review, and I start tearing my hair out, because I do not have time to send it back either.