Why would a company consider hiring a consultant to help with an IT project?
The Nordic consulting market grew strongly in 2017, reaching a market value of €2.77 billion on the back of a healthy 5.7% growth rate. The consulting market growth rate of every Nordic country has accelerated compared to the two years previous, with Sweden posting both the fastest growth rate and the highest revenues.
IT consulting market
Sweden’s consulting market has put in the strongest performance, posting 6.9% growth and reaching revenues of almost €1 billion. The Swedish consulting market grew from €800 million in 2015 to reach €944 million in 2017 – accounting for over a third of the Nordic market.
Like other mature consulting markets, growth in the Nordic consulting industry was fuelled by digital transformation, technology consulting was the largest area and a major touchpoint for public sector consulting as a result of the switch to e-services.
Technology consultants are hired by clients to support them with using information technology to meet business objectives or overcome problems. The type of work can range from strategic (such as developing a new IT strategy or cybersecurity strategy) to tactical (such as the selection of an IT system) to highly operational (such as the development of a mobile or web application).
The IT industry itself is diverse with a number of ways that as a consultant you can develop your career, in different industries and sectors. As an IT consultant, one of the greatest benefits of being independent is the ability to choose the type of work you are interested in.
Increasingly consultants define their objective as not just recommending solutions but also helping a business to introduce more effective management processes to deploy recommendations made.
An IT consultant is expected to be able to recognise the requirements and scope of the business that hires them. Able to develop a plan of action with time scales and resources required and in effect learn rapidly on the job.
It’s difficult to parachute a consultant into a business unless they have a sound understanding of what the client’s business is about. Making clear past experience and any preference for particular industry segments or sectors can be a big help in landing the gig you want.
What are the benefits for an organisation to hire a consultant?
Hiring a consultant comes with many benefits:
- External consultants are seen as independent players as opposed to internal advisors
- If a company is struggling to keep up with the continual changes in the business environment, then hiring a consultant may be exactly what is needed to help bridge the gap
- It makes economic sense for a business to hire consultants when their specialist skills are needed rather than hiring and training under-utilised full-time resources
- The ability to act as a change catalyst, unaware of internal morale issues, not sensitive to a client’s corporate culture or other points of friction, you can try things that others would not in the same situation
- Able to provide much-needed objectivity, a third party with a fresh viewpoint – an outsider looking in approach
- A consultant is able to do the tasks that nobody else wants to do, or that are not core for a business and frees up time for a limited resource to focus on higher yielding activities
- Look at things in a new way, without knowing the history or boundaries of what you can or cannot do, big picture thinking is what is needed to stimulate innovation
As IT has continued to become a more important enabler of business and digital goals, it has forced consultants themselves to both broaden as well as extend their technological capabilities.
Why would an organisation hire a consultant?
Perhaps the most common reason for seeking outside help is to obtain and make sense of information.
A company may want a consultant to provide the latest in specialist information and insights or because they themselves lack the resources to develop the data internally, so need help to extract and analyse it.
A key trait for a consultant in this scenario is the ability to ask searching questions, to ensure you understand what you are being asked to do and the issues your client is facing. Because often the client has not thought through what they will do with the information once they have it, or taken the time to assess how to make better use of relevant data that they already have access to.
Consultants need to understand why the information is being sought so that they can supply useful findings to provide much-needed objectivity, a third party with a fresh viewpoint – an outsider looking in approach.
Solving the right problems
Companies often give consultants difficult problems to solve. But the consultant also has a professional responsibility to ask whether the project that they have been given is the primary problem that needs solving.
Very often the client needs help in defining the real issue, and the consultant can help explore the context of the problem. It can be an easy trap for a consultant to fall into who accepts without question the client’s initial description of the challenge and ends up spending a lot of time studying symptoms without ever uncovering causes.
The most effective approach is to manage the project focusing on the client’s stated concern at one level while on another level explore related factors that may be ignored because the client is well aware of an issue but has difficulty discussing with an outsider. As the two parties work together, the problem may be redefined as you shine a light on these issues.
The advantage of the consultant is that they can look at things in a new way, without knowing the history or boundaries of what you can or cannot do, big picture thinking is what is needed to stimulate innovation.
Thus, a useful consulting process involves working with the problem as initially defined by the client and as the engagement proceeds and trust grows, other challenges will crop up and opportunities to assess what may be the real issue at hand.
Since it is human nature that people in general don’t want to admit that they need help with their most important problems, the situation nobody wants to be in is to have a solution to the wrong problem.
Being able to diagnose competently what the problem is requires more than just an examination of the situation, familiarity with the tech, business performance insights and the level of staff morale. The consultant must also be bullish and ascertain why certain choices were made in the past, based on what circumstances.
Clearly, when clients participate in the diagnostic process, they are more likely to acknowledge their own role in a situation and implement corrective action without having to wait for their consultant’s formal recommendations.
The consultant’s ability to act as a change catalyst, unaware of internal morale issues, not sensitive to a client’s corporate culture or other points of friction, can help you try things that others would not and bring transparency to historical decision making that can be addressed.
Recommending actions that can be implemented
In any successful engagement, the consultant continually strives to understand which actions, if recommended, are likely to be implemented.
Any engagement’s usefulness to an organisation depends on the degree to which stakeholders agree on the nature of problems and opportunities and on appropriate corrective actions. Otherwise, the consultant’s diagnosis won’t be accepted and any recommendations won’t be implemented.
So the consultant needs to develop a process through which they can identify whom it is important to involve and how to interest them to contribute to the overall process, finding those amongst an organisation that are supporters and dissenters.
Learning during projects is a two-way street
IT consultants like to leave behind something of lasting value, so teaching the skills that you have mastered to a client workforce can add value to what you bring as a consultant. This means not only enhancing the clients’ ability to deal with the immediate issues you were brought in to address, but also helping them learn methods needed to cope with future challenges. And consultants can facilitate this learning process by including members of the organisation at appropriate times in the project.
The consultant can also learn on the job how to promote the overall effectiveness of what they recommend. Listening at each stage of the process to a client’s concerns and relating them to what’s happening elsewhere in the company means that the consultant can consider what other possible challenges exist that need to be addressed.
So why join the Brainping network?
Whether you’re just starting out as a consultant, or a small consulting business looking to bolster your resources, we’re here for you at every step of the way.
Let us know if you have any questions about Brainping, and how we can help and advise you to make the most of your consulting experience.
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