Transition from Solution Consultant to Business Consultant : What does it take?
This white paper attempts to discuss groundwork, experience required for solution consultant to play the role of business consultant. Paper is structured in such a way that it can be easily understood by a person working in any field. Keeping this factor in mind, understanding of the terms of white paper is discussed in first section. Second and third section deal briefly about solution consultant and business consultant separately. Fourth section discusses in detail about the transition from solution consultant to business consultant and final section provides brief conclusion about transition.
Consulting is a process of providing assistance to person or organization or country or department in analyzing/reviewing the as-is position and suggest solution approaches to attain to-be or desired goal. Doctor, engineer, psychologist, architect, management-gurus, and much more come under consulting umbrella.
Consulting needs expertise, in-depth knowledge as the group to which consulting is provisioned is not in position what is right, what is wrong and it just accepts what the experts suggest(so true especially in case of consulting doctor). It is the consulting group which decides, implements, suggests.
Solution provision is for issue/problem/context known by group seeking consulting. Solution consultant will analyze the specific context and implements solution. For example civil engineer, surgeon, software developer etc…Solution consultants develop expertise as they implement more solutions.
Solution development needs detailed planning of resources, timeline. Compared to business consulting, profit margin is lower in solution consulting. Solution implementation is controlled by the customer as he/she is aware of the issue and also solution approach taken by solution building team.
Solution consultant does not need expertise knowledge in specific domain. Solution consultant can work in any context irrespective of domains.
As per Wiki, business is an organization involved in the trade of goods, services. Consulting in the field of business can be for all phases (inception, operating, expansion, diversification, and acquisition), all types (retail, manufacturing, agriculture, real estate, financial, transportation etc…) and all forms (partnership, public, private). To be business consultant, pre-requisite is to understand how the particular business is run.
Business consulting unlike solution consulting requires in-depth knowledge of business as consulting in this area will be more of predicting, forecasting, developing strategy, frame problem statement itself when customer does not know the factors holding the organization back from achieving its goals.
Transition from Solution Consultant to Business Consultant
Transition from Solution Consultant to Business Consultant means transition from how-to to what-to i.e. help customer in realizing what the organization wants to achieve instead of providing solution to specific problem for which customer has come to solution provider. Business consulting is high-end job relative to solution consulting in terms of skills, education level, and ability to converse with customer in his business language and requires development of tools, methodologies, and expertise.
As discussed in earlier paragraphs, transition needs one to develop understanding how the specific industry business is carried out from end to end. This includes market(volatile, stable, growing) of customer, targeted customer segment, competitors, suppliers, promoting\marketing goods or services, legal aspects, culture of the countries in which enterprise is operating, distribution channels, innovation requirements, organization structure, historical factors, growth/ expansion plans, diversification possibilities, acquisition options and so on.
Nurturing the skill of communicating with customer in their business language becomes most critical part for business consultant. In this era of business, which is getting more and more globalised; every decision at management level requires thorough understanding of all the stakeholder’s requirements, dynamics of business that are changing on day-to-day basis. For business consultant, this throws big challenge in terms of developing expertise which is one level higher than customers’ understanding; otherwise customer does not bother to consult such business consultancy group. To build that kind of reputation, business consultant should be able to bring confidence in customer.
Solution consultant should start developing the skill of analyzing big picture of business in which the solution he/she is providing fits in. This helps in building acumen of business consultant in solution consultant. For this, one approach could be to understand customer’s business, understand how the specific solution being provided will help customer in his business. Sometimes, solution consultant may not be in position to understand the intricacies of customer’s business; in which case he can approach business consultants who are working or customer itself if good level of rapport exists with customer. Customer will appreciate the initiatives of solution consultant in this regard because consultant is able to talk to him in his language.
Solution consultant should understand the process flow of business consulting. Process of solution consulting is different from that of business consulting in following aspects:
- a) Factors to be considered
- b) Level of understanding required
- c) Complexity involved in consulting
- d) Number of stakeholders involved
Business consultant may need to give reasoning for the suggested move to all the departments and showcase the benefits for each department as a result of the move suggested. This requires wisdom of balancing of trade-offs one department against other, within the departments, managing power conflicts etc… This may need training to solution consultant on how to develop insight of an organization to which business consulting need to be provided.
Solution consultant should develop the skill of impressing customer in the first meet itself with the important facts and figures, recent developments in the business sector at country and global level, especially in those geographies customer is operating; which is cultivated by business consultants. This requires additional effort from solution consultant.
Being outsider to customer’s business and an opportunity to come up with solutions, growth plans, approaches to achieve unrealized goals of customer is biggest plus the consulting group gets. Solution consultant should realize this and develop knack of balancing outsider view and customer’s requirements.
Innovativeness quality is must for transition from solution consultant to business consultant. This is mainly because business consulting is all about innovative solutions suggestion to customer which customer is lacking and that is why organization has approached consulting group.
Diversified reading, taking active part in business consultants’ network (virtual, non-virtual) will help in ingraining qualities of business consultants in much better way. This requires developing interest towards business processes, communicating with business consultants who have proven track record.
Transition requires solution consultant to cultivate the skill of thinking by being in customer’s shoes i.e. wearing customer’s hat. This is equally important as benefitting from being outsider. If customer has to appreciate and get confidence in business consultant’s approach, plan; then empathy or wearing the hat of customer in suggesting solutions becomes critical success factor. For this, each of the departments of customer will have core goals like cost-cutting, on-time availability of required equipments, reducing SO days, increasing efficiency of employees, improving throughput etc… Solution consultant should recognize these and while providing solution core aspects have to be taken into account.
Understanding business in entirety is time and intellectual intensive. Solution consultant should not be weighed down by the large scale of information and complex processes of the business. To gain confidence in business solution processes, he/she should break down industry sector business into number of standard processes and sub processes and understand them in individuality and try to fit it in big picture of business.
Transition process is stimulating and a journey to be explored and experienced. It should be taken with right attitude, at right time, with right prior-experience, in right place (organization) and right preparation to complete successful transition. All the best to those, who are already in this path or those who are planning to take up this journey.