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Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari

Consulting approach, an art we all need to master

We all need to switch between two hats in our work lives – One related to SAP Technical Consulting (to provide solutions to a given business requirement) and the other related to “Handling the Customer”. The later is most commonly referred to as “Consulting Skills”

They say, Consulting skills, cannot be taught. They say, there is no rule book which can lay down the consulting rules & guide lines. Well, it is said correctly. A consulting approach one should take depends on too many variables (mostly subjective in nature) like the persons (client) involved in the situation, the rapport we enjoy with them, the trust the client bestows in us, the prevailing situation, etc. Based on my personal experience, I thought it would be useful for the community at large, if I could spill the beans to some extent, demystifying it to the extent possible.Β 

These are the 10 attributes I would like to present, acknowleding at the outset that this is not an exhaustive list, for the simple reason that it cant be so

1. Be Process Oriented:- We often hear this phrase in our lives. And I believe we all understand its importance. So, i will quickly jump to a simple example to explain this

I personally categorize the consultants into 2 categories – For example, a FICO Technician and FICO Consultant. The difference between the two is:-

a) A Technician:- knows to put the soiled clothes in a washing machine, put the detergent, power on the machine, choose 1 out of several washing programs and press the START button

b) A Consultant:-

– checks the condition of the soiled clothes,

– seggregates them based on stains / cloth type (cotton, wool, etc),

– knows the relevance of each washing program,

– understands how each of the washing program works (i.e. how many times the machine washes and rinses the clothes in each program)

– And hence, understands which program is the right for a given type / condition of the clothes.

I deliberately wanted to bring out this distinction so that people can introspect which category they fall in.Β 

I deliberately wanted to bring out this distinction for another reason. Nowadays, when I take interviews, I notice that the CVs are no short of mentioning all the possible areas of their module. But the moment you ask them a question in any of the area, they start explaining what ticket (incident) they got in that area and how did they resolve it, with no or much weightage to the process at all. Everyone starts from being a “Technician”, but there must be continuous efforts towards becoming a consultant.

2. Timely communication:- From my experience, I can say that most of the escalations dont happen for the reason that consultant is not competent enough, but for the reason that communication is not flowing properly. It is very important that communication keeps flowing at regular intervals. This is especially important, because the SAP support industry mostly now works in offshore model.

The idea here is “Never keep the client guessing”. I see consultants trying day in and day out to resolve the issues raised. Some times it may take multiple teams to resolve an issue and hence the delay. But when the client is not aware on what is happening to their ticket, they naturally resort to escalating

One example I always give to my team is – Assume you lodged a concern with customer care for some issue and no body is giving you an update, though they are working very hard to resolve the issue. How would you appreciate this? Naturally you would get frustrated

We must understand that we, the SAP consultants, are working in similar service industry. The same response we expect for our issues from a customer care center, our clients expect the same from us. Especially, when you are working in a support project, keep updating the ticket log every alternate day. That would let the end-client sitting thousand miles away know that their issue is being worked upon.

3. The Art of saying NO:- Say ‘YES’ and the person at the other end is always happy. Troubles start when we say ‘NO’ and this applies to all aspects of life. Hence, the art of “When to say No” and “How to say NO” must be mastered

A typical example would be – Assume your client has come up with a requirement which you know is not possible technically. With my experience I have learnt that saying NO upfront hurts the ego more often than not. Though you might be right in saying NO, it diverts the whole conversation in a different route.

In the given example, the following approach has always helped me – “Let me check this and I will get back. As far as my knowledge about the system goes, this is not possible. But I would like to give it a try and see if I can make it possible for you”.

These lines mentally prepares the end client to receive the jolt and the NO later on does not come as a shock

4. Build personal rapport:- More than just the relationship for work, try to build a personal rapport with the client. It needs you to have the eye of eagle to not miss the opportunities in which you can build that personal rapport

Few examples here would be:-

a) Once in a while, drop a note to your client to check how they are doing and check if all is fine with regards to work and if they need some support from you.

b) Say that “if you need any urgent help, just give me a call. I will take it on priority”. I must say that after I did this, the client reduced raising P2 tickets. They give me a call and I get the work started and ask them to raise a ticket just to ratify the process. More often, what I get in this case is a P3 πŸ™‚

c) When you get a priority incident (P1/P2), make sure at the end you speak to the requestor and say that “We will ensure this never gets repeated. In future, if you need any assistance, I am just a phone call away”. But make sure, you just dont make these promises, but also fulfil them

d) When you provide a solution that is tough or under tight timelines, there is no harm in asking your client for a treat. These lighter moments help you to build that rapport

5. Know when to bow down:- They say “Customer is the king” and rightfully so in our industry. While many a times we do end up in a debate with regards to the deadlines, solution with our clients, we must know where to stop. Know the stake holders / senior personnel of your client and if the matter reaches them, it is often advisable to accept their word. Saving the relation with the client should be the utmost priority.

Depending on the situation, you can say that the timelines are not realistic and it is likely to affect the quality of the solution. They may not accept it, but will prepare them mentally again, to receive the jolt later on

Also know which side of the fence your managers are. Without their support, there is absolutely no point in a consultant fighting on his/her own. There are communication hierarchies in every project and it is important that the communication is routed through proper channels.

6. Desire to learn new:- As a consultant, it is very important to keep learning what you dont know, learn new technologies, new areas / sub areas in your module.

Subconsciously, we often create our own comfort zones and we dont want to step outside them. But soon we realize that things are not working in our favor and the reason we still dont make out that we are outdated with our skills. For us, it is important that we keep learning the new areas in our own modules, learn about the new enhancement pack features of SAP, learn new SAP technologies if possible or may be venture into a new module (fully or partially to know its processes)

I strongly urge people to participate in SCN (Preferably) or any forum relevant to you or whichever you like. SCN is one place where you can learn from others’ experiences. Even without actually working on an area of your module, you can still know a lot about it

7. Raise a flag when needed:- Though we may not want, but the requirements from the clients change too often, after the realization has started. As a goodwill gesture, we may accomodate a few small changes. But when things are going out of hand, it is important to raise a flag to all stakeholders and keep them updated.

If need be, have an issue log maintained wherein you capture the issues, when they were reported, and the way forward on them. This will help you to keep an objective progress of the issue with all data captured, to save your own Skin at a later stage

8. Give back:- When we grow, we dont grow on our own. We directly or indrectly take / get help from many resources. It is one’s equal responsibility to leave the footsteps for others to follow

Mentor those below you not just for SAP skills, but for other soft skills too. Share knowledge, help those around you self-lessly, for it helps to create a better community around you

Who knows, sharing knowledge in SCN forum today, you might be helping someone and that someone may become your team member in future, fully equipped with the knowledge and there by wil make your own life easy πŸ™‚

9. Customer wow:- The IT industry has transformed from where earlier we used to focus earlier on “Customer’s delight”, now the focus is on “Customer wow”

“Customer delight” is when you give them what they expect and “Customer wow” is when you give them more than what they expect.

A simple example would be – When you are asked to develop a custom report with some information, use your experience to assess how valid is the requirement, can it be adhered through some standard feature or workaround, or assess what additional information can be plugged into the report to cater to the growing business volumne

10. Work life balance:- While many would argue why this aspect has to be a part of the consulting approach, I firmly believe it should be

When you are balanced, you are relaxed. When you are relaxed, you are at ease. And when you are at ease, you produce the best out of you

Steal some moments from life, plan your vacations once or twice a year, even out of a tight business day – shut down your laptop to spend time with your family or old pals, be spontaneouos towards planning little moments of life and surprise people.

I wish all the readers of the blog a balanced life and hope these tips would go a long way in benefitting one and all.

Do share your feedback. It encourages me to do better πŸ™‚

Β 

Br, Ajay Maheshwari

Β 

PS: Tagging various forums to cover a larger audience

SAP ERP Financials – Controlling SAP ERP Financials SAP ERP FinancialsΒ  – Asset Accounting

SAP ERP – Logistics Materials Management (SAP MM)Β Β  SAP ERP Manufacturing – Production Planning (SAP PP)

SAP ERP Sales and Distribution (SAP SD)

Assigned tags

      173 Comments
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      Author's profile photo John Graver
      John Graver

      Hi Ajay,

      Would you mind if I translate your 10 Commandments πŸ˜‰ to Czech and publish on my private blog (no deal with SAP - I just ocassionally publish some tech bits)? Original source & author will be referrenced, of course.

      br,

      John

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi John

      It will be my pleasure... please do that

      Knowledge should have no copy rights πŸ˜‰

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      The concept you presented is good and there no expire for this concept...

      Thank you,

      Bala..

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      THank you Bala, for such nice words!!

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Kumar Akshat
      Kumar Akshat

      So well said.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Kumar!!

      Author's profile photo Sanil Bhandari
      Sanil Bhandari

      A very simple but invaluable advise. Thumbs up

      Regards

      Sanil Bhandari

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Sanil

      Its nice to hear such words from an expert himself πŸ˜‰

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Jyothi Pammina
      Jyothi Pammina

      Hi Ajay,

      Well Articulated. 

      Thanks for sharing your toughts & Experiences and this document enlightening us in many aspects.

      Your responses/replies on Asset Accounting Module are awesome.

      Thanks.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Jyothi for the wonderful comments and feedback

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      It's very useful blog.

      Thanks and Regards

      Ravi Kumar

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Ravi

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Krishnam Raju
      Krishnam Raju

      Dear Ajay.

      It's fantastic article,like it ...You are really expert  :- ).

      Regards

      BK Raju

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Krishna for the comments

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Good One to improve further in consulting

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Raj Kumar!! πŸ™‚

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      Excellent Blog and very good article and above given tips are really great.  This will help me to grow up in consulting world.

      Thank you!

      Regards,

      Umamageshwaran.S

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Uma for the nice feedback!

      Author's profile photo Pankaj Pareek
      Pankaj Pareek

      Hi Ajay,

      Thank you for valuable imputs. The content is well structured, easy to read and contains lots of valuable inputs for one. Thank you again for sharing it with us.

      Regards

      Pankaj Pareek

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Pankaj Pareek for taking time to share your feedback

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      It's such a wonderful blog stating all the necessary skills for everyone to become a great consultant. Keep Posting like these blogs. πŸ™‚

      Regards,

      Gokulkumar RD

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Gokul for the nice comments

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Mr Ajay,

      I'have come across your blog very first time and I personally felt the points and its impact explained by you really very worthy and productive in SAP support domain as well as in any other service industry profile. Thanks for sharing such a great experience and knowledge in respect to art of  consultancy.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Sunita

      Thanks for the nice feedback

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hello Ajay,

      Very nice blog. Thanks much!

      Regards,

      Leelendra

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi LA

      Thanks for the comments

      Br. Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      Great guide!

      Thank you.

      Regards,

      Srilakshmi B

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      It was very nice reading this blog. Thanks.

      Regards,

      Nikhil

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      It’s really very good Blog, thanks for your valuable tips to become a good consultant.

      Regards,

      Ravi

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay ,

      Nice Blog...

      Thanks

      Sandeep Chennoju

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hello Sir,

      Its good to have words of wisdom from seasoned practitioners like yourself. Thanks al lot for your inspiring words and helpful tips. I will be eagerly waiting for your next blog.. πŸ™‚

      Regards
      Rohit

      Author's profile photo Siva kumar Devana
      Siva kumar Devana

      Hi Ajay,

      Very Helpful and everyone need to know for a smooth career.

      Regards,

      Siva kumar.

      Author's profile photo Koen Hesters
      Koen Hesters

      great stuff I will be thinking about this in the future, many many thanks

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Koen,

      Many thanks for the feedback!!

      Br, Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      I would like to appreciate your wonderful blog. You have tried to sum up your experience here and tried to continue learning process.

      Three points are very well said to be a good consultant.

      1. Art of Saying 'NO' : This is the most important point when the most of the consultants and industry people are fighting with this issue. It is always important to make client agree to disagree when it is most needed as a point of view of consultant.

      2. Build personal rapport : This is the point which I liked most. It always helps when you connects with client and creates personal rapport. It will remove communication gap between company and client and helps to increase mutual understanding.

      3. Give Back: You are damn right at this point. Today what we are is always been a part of knowledge shared by everyone in past n present. Spreading knowledge always helps community in either technical or other way. I want to say few words on this point.

      To make our community always best of its as technical or by other aspects always.

      Just "Learn it, Understand it, Communicate it"

      Again thanks for this blog.

      Regards,

      Jalpesh Lakhtariya

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Jalpesh

      I liked your last line  "Learn it, Understand it, Communicate it""

      Br, Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Manu Mohandas
      Manu Mohandas

      Hi Ajay ,

      Thank you for writing an Excellent Blog .

      Thanks ,

      Manu

      Author's profile photo Madhava Rao Basava
      Madhava Rao Basava

      Hi Ajay,

      Thanks for the blog. This is something special. I would like to thank you for such a valuable points which everyone needs to keep a note of it.

      A wonderful document to read and to implement.

      Thanks again.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Madhav

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Dear Ajay,

      Thank you for taking your time writing this excellent blog.

      Gabriela

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Gabriela!! I am honored that you found it useful

      Br, Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Fatima Tavares
      Fatima Tavares

      Very good! Thank you for sharing this!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      It's on me to say thank you for your valuable blog, working 10 years with SAP modules I see my future in consulting.

      I can only agree with everything you wrote.

      All the best

      Gabriela

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Excellent Blog.  I really enjoyed this

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Sue,

      Thanks for taking your time to give the feedback

      Br, Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Prem Kumar
      Prem Kumar

      Excellent Blog...Really helpfull for us.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Prem

      Thanks

      Br, Ajay M

      Author's profile photo Atif Farooq
      Atif Farooq

      Fortunately i practice all of above recommended traits in consulting profession  πŸ™‚ .

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      As a brand new junior SAP BI consultant, who is soon to be sent on his first mission at the client's, these are indeed words to live by πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your tips !

      Regards,

      Thomas.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hey Ajay,

      Great blog, something many consultants, new and old, can relate to πŸ™‚

      Kind Regards,

      Nick Lakasas

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Nick for the feedback

      Author's profile photo Andreas Zusann
      Andreas Zusann

      Thanks for this funny, but serious minded article. I'm a seasoned consultant and absolutely agree with this discription compared to me own experience.

      Best regards

      Andreas Zusann

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajay,

      Thanks for sharing practical information to transform into consultant in SAP.

      Best Regards

      AJ

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks and Salaam Jabbar!!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Ajaj,

      Nice blog, thank you Ajay for such a valid info.

      Ravi

      Author's profile photo Hidyath pasha
      Hidyath pasha

      Hi Ajay Sir Superb  blog i have ever seen)

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi HIdyath,

      Thanks for the feedback

      Author's profile photo Shubham Srivastava
      Shubham Srivastava

      Good document..

      A small input from my side..

      Every consultant should stretch his/her limits beyond core domain expertise and go cross functional ,techno-functional & cross modules.

      This will help customers in interacting with a single person for multiple queries.

      For consultant , it will add tremendous weightage to personal work profile.

      It is a bit challenging but the fun is going cross functional!!!

      Shubham

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Well said, Shubham!!

      Author's profile photo DAIRO LEONARDO LOZANO RODRIGUEZ
      DAIRO LEONARDO LOZANO RODRIGUEZ

      Great blog.  To be a consultant takes lots more than mastering a tool or a module.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Author's profile photo Sagar Tajanpure
      Sagar Tajanpure

      Great Blog !!! actually cleared a lot of questions regarding consulting approach.

      Author's profile photo Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Ajay Maheshwari SAP Trainer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Sagar