Sunday, April 8, 2018

Characteristics of a Successful Consultant

A few people outside of my field have often asked me about what I do professionally. My general response to them is that I work on solving enterprise client problems in the digital analytics space. I know this a general answer and can apply to different roles but this post aims to uncover what roles I (consultant) usually perform and what are some traits a consultant needs to have to do well.

So, let's start with a question. Why do companies bring in consultants? 

  • They bring in consultants to provide them with the necessary expertise on skills that they don't have
  • Identify problems that they may not be aware of
  • Bring about change as a consultant will provide recommendations impartially. This is an important one as a good consultant isn't scared of the repercussions if the recommendation is for the benefit of the customer.  

Now that we've discussed about the demand for consultants, let's take a look at some of the traits that make a "successful" (more importantly efficient) consultant which have have worked well for me (not in any order below). Note that this is a list based on my experience so these are in no shape or form a list that may work for you as every consultant is unique and successful in their own way.

  • Passionate about Client Service: In my opinion, this is the most important trait for any consultant to have. Whether a company is B2B, B2C or both, it's the client that every business services. As they say, client is king so consultants needs to understand customer goals, expectations, and vision by listening and asking good questions. Once consultants know that, they should strive to become advocates on behalf of their clients to accomplish these goals.

  • Dispassionate in Providing Recommendations: As discussed above, companies bring in consultants to have them impartially give their recommendations without any fear. A good consultant knows how to tailor the message in such a way that logically explains WHY the recommendation is good for them and if they can add some sort of a ROI to it, even better!

  • Think Strategically AND Act Tactically: Good consultants need to be strategic (long-term) and tactical (short-term) in their thinking. A good consultant is able to perform day to day activities while working towards the larger vision by defining processes that will benefit the customer in the long run.

  • Know the Audience: As with analytics, it's essential to tailor analysis according to the audience. Same applies with consultants when communicating with our stakeholders where they should be able to deliver tedious details to C level executives at a high level and go into the weeds with technical stakeholders.

  • Set Clear Expectations: Consultants are often asked to step into projects where expectations are generally unclear and they need to make sense of the craziness. A good consultant is able to navigate the choppy waters and logically define what success looks like. In such scenarios, consultants need to have the confidence to tactfully push back on unexpected asks and work on what will make the most sense for the success of the client and project.

  • Master a Skill and Yet Be Broad: Good consultants not only master a particular skill but are also well rounded professionals. In my case, my primary expertise is in Adobe Analytics (along with Google Analytics) but I also work on projects requiring tag management/little bit of programming (JavaScript, Tealium, DTM, Launch and Ensighten) and data management (Adobe Audience Manager) support. The good thing about having multiple skills is that you open up additional opportunities for yourself and set yourselves apart from others.

  • Wear Multiple Hats: Consultants know that no two projects are going to be the same and a lot of projects won't have any kind of structure. In such cases, consultants may need to play the role of a project manager to create a simple project plan, gather business requirements, create architectural designs, write code, QA the output and finally communicate the recommendations to the stakeholders.

  • Be Personable, Empathetic and Build Relationships: While working on tough and tedious projects, it's easy to get focussed into the weeds and not engage with your customer personally. It's always a good idea to take a step back and connect with your customers on a personal level as these relationships can last a long time and you want to leave a lasting impression on them whether you're on or off the project. Lastly, it's always good to put yourself in your customer's shoes. 

There some other traits that consultants should have aside from the ones mentioned above such as: 
  • Be proactive
  • Establish themselves as experts
  • Be willing to train other and share knowledge
  • Be prepared to step out of their comfort zones
  • Push themselves to get stuff done

I'm sure there are other traits that are not listed here and I'll appreciate your comments based on your own experience.

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