How much “Consulting” do we actually do as consultants?

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A candidate recently called me and mentioned that she thought the engagement opportunity sounded more like a temp job than a consulting opportunity. After thinking about it, she might be right, many of our opportunities are like temp staffing placements vs a true consulting role. As I think about our industry and the various roles I’ve filled for clients, I think I’m probably split on roles that were project support roles vs consulting roles. It really beckons the question of whether we are positioning opportunities correctly to candidates. But I also think we need to ask; are we filling temp roles to do the work or providing a higher level of service with a greater potential of deliverable outcomes?

Regardless of whether we are being placed in an analyst, testing, training, or go-live support role…we are being brought in for our expertise and knowledge. Our experience truly warrants a higher level of deliverable than simply filling an empty chair on a team. I always say that our primary responsibility should be transfer of knowledge. As consultants, we provide services that both help our clients hit their goals while also ensuring ongoing success once we depart. If all we are doing is the same work as their full time employees, we are not consulting, nor delivering the quality level of work that should be expected.

With that said, we do need to be aware of the client’s expectations of our role. Overstepping boundaries and self-appointing project work may not align with their needs. I once had a consultant walk into a leadership meeting, uninvited, and starting making suggestions to the group. The IT Director was, needless to say, not happy and asked that consultant be removed from the project. There is a fine line between providing consulting level services and actually “consulting.”

There are tons of engagements that are very much consulting roles. These vary from advisory services, vendor selection, assessments, performance improvement reviews, and project management type roles. While application analysts and builders don’t really fall under these types of services, there may still be opportunity to provide consultation on best practices. Certainly talk with your recruiter about the opportunity you are looking at to clarify the level of “consulting” the client is looking for. Client culture often dictates the type of role needed for the project and whether truly they are just in need of a resource to keep them on time for the project.

I remember my first day as a consultant. The client was going through a design session with Epic. All the consultants sat in the back of the room as Epic walked the client through various functionality and workflow designs for their implementation. A fellow consultant leaned over and told me to just sit in the back and don’t say anything…”they don’t want us to say anything.” I was surprised at this as I’m sure they did not just fly me from Boston to LA to sit in the room and say nothing. Needless to say, I didn’t just sit back and watch, I engaged both Epic and the client in discussion around some suggestions I knew would have a negative impact to the project.  Shortly after the client asked me to take on a team lead role. It was a great “consulting” project.

What have you seen at your clients? Share your thoughts and comments below.

2 Comments on “How much “Consulting” do we actually do as consultants?

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