Sustainable Consulting in a Changing Business Environment
The current blog is to help consultants in evaluating their ever-changing roles in a fast-evolving business landscape. Though I don’t see myself as an expert, things discussed here are close observations made at workplace, few witnessed through mentor-set examples and a select few being personally put into practice. Also, some of them are perspectives developed post discussions held with experienced consultants followed by deep-introspection.
To set the context, SAP consulting, as a profession, is rapidly changing in the way the business perceives the role of a consultant coupled with the increasing degree of expectations that are built around it. Starting with-in, SAP itself has seen a world-of-change in the recent past through multiple modules shaping around sun-rise applications viz. Cloud, Data, Mobility etc. (not exhaustive)
Coming to external environment, in the last 3-4 years itself, business has undergone a real-time metamorphosis of sorts in the way it is done, who all it considers as its key stakeholders, the pace at which it learns/unlearns new things and more importantly, the manner in which it questions its very-basic premise leading to many new time-relevant corporate philosophies.
With so many transformations happening with-in (SAP) and outside, it is truly vital for a consultant to assess his position not just to ensure longevity in the trade but more so to make optimum use of his valuable consulting knowledge in catering to dynamic business requirements. The fact still remains that, good consultants are always a rare-breed and so to get the best out of this community, it needs big investments both from personal as well as organization stand-points. (Read ‘his/her’ synonymously as this blog is not gender-centric)
This self-adjustment process of assessing ourselves as consultants can be aided through the lens of below 7 parameters:
1. 1. Question your Relevance:
No matter how critical the module you are working for, however lucrative the client you are serving is to your organization, there is nothing like an Evergreen-Arrangement. Try frequently questioning your relevance to the engagement as well as the company in terms of the value-adds you have brought in the last quarter or two, re-skilling you have undergone to align yourself with changing business realities, productivity gains you have achieved against the roles you have climbed. The point is, you should get a satisfactory ‘yes’ to the question ‘Am I making contributions fitting to my current role?’. If not, it is time to find where your true passion lies.
2. 2. Interest Vs. Opportunity
Most of us feel that we should jump into the bandwagon of upcoming modules/technologies/applications with an intension to grow along with potential assured for these opportunities. Though their scope and room-for-growth is never under question, before making a switch decision, consultants have to seek matter-of-fact replies to the below queries:
a) Where are the next-big opportunities located?
b) What are my core-interests and strengths?
The point I would like you to drive home is, we should seek a healthy balance in matching the opportunities we pursue with the interests and strengths we have built-in over years of consulting. At the end of the day, passion can only be instilled in those pursuits where our true interests lie.
3. 3. Don’t try emulating your past success
We often try to correlate our current assignments with the successful goals/projects we had accomplished in the past. Though it is not completely wrong, we
can’t get the same return by doing the same thing again. This may be due to multiple factors like changed industry expectations, delivery mechanisms or changes with-in the organization in terms of values realigned, roles redefined etc.
Any effort, when repeated, can only bring a diminishing return. This is very relevant in a competitive landscape where the end-users are growing on awareness, organizations are looking at more ways to appraise their employees and even consulting itself is adding more dimensions than perceived earlier.
4. 4. Brand or Commodity? (Find your ‘Niche’)
Jack Trout’s famous philosophy of ‘Differentiate or Die’ finds its relevance in consulting as well. Every consultant seeking stellar success should see himself as a Brand purely in terms of the unique value he can bring to the assignment, skills (technical/domain/soft/etc.) he mastered, consistency with-which he can deliver on his promised and chosen attributes.
To simplify, if you are in a normal support assignment handling a module with no challenging tickets, still, you can create ripples in your support community by making yourself a single-point-of-contact for any support issues pertaining to your module across clients/projects. (Subjective to personal opinion as I believe Support, Implementation or Upgrade whichever it is, every project brings its own challenges along with many unique learning opportunities)
We have seen this great practice being put to good application in our SCN itself where consultants across modules have made a name for themselves in addressing many issues reported under various threads routed to their domain.
To summarize, find your ‘niche’ and make peace with the fact that, in a time-changing environment, nothing can stay ‘niche’ forever. The trick lies in becoming a Brand which is flexible enough to evolve as per the current-day business expectations.
Though a world can be said on this one trait, in the context of consulting, when it comes to value-delivered to client, knowledge gained/shared, excellence achieved in meeting business expectations, building a sustainable advantage in terms of shaping future-oriented teams etc., be your own judge through an honest assessment of your performance.
Don’t wait for your boss to show where you stand in the evolved scheme-of-things. Effectively, nothing can reveal your core-self better than a transparent mirror.
6. 6. Set your Processes
Having worked in organizations which stand for their process excellence, I had learnt a thing or two in identifying the importance of being process-driven. As our role becomes bigger and broader, there is a growing need to bring consistency, accuracy and reliability in our deliverables.
Since it is a given that consultants handle complex assignments involving large, diverse teams constituting varied skill-sets and multiple ways-of-working, it is equally imperative that with-out well-laid-out processes, it is almost impossible to drive the project to a clear and successful trajectory. To begin with, organizing our own work-day can bring big positive changes to the things we can accomplish.
7. 7. Eternal Optimism
ERP Consulting or any other profession for that matter, thanks to the myriad technological/business innovations, the roles which are perceived as vital today are becoming irrelevant in no time. As change is here to stay, with continuous learning, willingness to align to adjusted business realities and above all, with a firm belief in one’s core skills coupled with a positive outlook towards change, we, as professionals, can sustain our pursuit of staying relevant and in-demand in our chosen business arena.
Though some of the above points might have an unintentional-yet-preachy flavor, this is only an attempt to help practicing consultants (like the author himself) in addressing few real-time issues we may encounter while plotting our journey of consulting.