According to an industry report by Deltek: “Insight to Action – The Future of the Professional Services Industry”, the biggest challenge for professional services is maintaining the trust of clients. What role does trust play in consulting, and what are your best practices?
To earn trust, you have to be competent. Competence is based on reliability, both in terms of time and quality. Deliveries that are made within the deadline, but do not satisfy the customer, are not effective. In addition, competence means taking the customer by the hand, putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and accompanying him according to his needs. Because every company is different and has different requirements. And that is one of the greatest challenges in IT consulting: You have to be able to understand your customers.
Customer satisfaction is also the keyword at Actonic. It is the most important quality benchmark. What are the problems when you want to deliver added value to all stakeholders? What are the solution strategies?
The issue is often that the customer himself does not really know which solution fits best to his wishes and requirements. This is a fundamentally human concern. People often crave an immaterial value, some feeling, and hope to achieve this with a certain method or status symbol. Excellent IT consulting consists of actively listening to the customer, performing a precise requirement analysis and then developing the exact solution. This challenge is mastered by clearly defining the customer’s expectations, because 50% of success lies in the first 10% of the project.
What are your experiences with deadlines approaching? Do you have any tips for dealing with time pressure and high/changing demands?
Self-organization is the keyword. You can’t manage projects if you can’t organize yourself. Agile project management and agile companies only work with structured self-organization. In the past, there were managers who organized you. But the new generation wants to work in a self-determined way. However, many forget the other side of self-determination, namely responsibility. Freedom always means responsibility, and many IT consultants fail at this challenge. Therefore, it is important to focus and set priorities.
And how do you set priorities in IT consulting?
In consulting, you are often responsible for many complex projects. A better overview is achieved when large projects are broken down into more manageable part goals. Then, priorities can be set, and delivery dates can be met. It is important to think realistically and to be able to judge yourself well. Self-reflection is the be-all and end-all. What you set out to do, stick to. When you set a goal, go for it. If you set yourself 100 goals, you are already doomed to failure. Organize your thoughts, write them down, get to know your full potential and unfold it.
IT consultants are the interface between managers, engineers and developers. What are the challenges of this interpreting job?
In long discussions with development, you have to be able to explain everything down to the code level, but with stakeholders, it has to be short and to the point. Here, you have to translate the technical jargon into the language of the customers. To do this, of course, you need outstanding technical and industry knowledge and should be excellently trained both classically and agilely. Communication skills and empathy for the customer’s perspective are also essential here.
As an IT consultant, you also have to be able to present expert knowledge in a visually appealing way. Do you have any tips against stage fright before a training session?
Nowadays, I no longer feel stage fright … but I used to have it too, of course. Preparation is everything. That’s why it makes sense to clarify expectations in a preliminary meeting with the client. The better I know something, the less (unfounded) fears arise. In addition, you should also prepare yourself professionally. At Actonic, for example, no consultant is thrown straight into the deep end; we do dry runs before the first training session so that our colleagues feel confident. Because as soon as you are confident, you also radiate competence. And finally, good preparation is also a matter of respect for the customer. Nervousness is certainly part of it at the beginning of your career. Then it’s no problem to say: “I’m very excited today, there are so many people here.” On the contrary, such a statement is often an icebreaker.
What role do certifications play in consulting?
In my opinion, you should prove yourself by proving yourself. Since Germany is a very bureaucratic country, things are proven here by presenting certificates, for example. In the USA, things are different. There, visible successes count as a quality indicator. In this country, certificates are the decisive factor.
Finally, do you have any extra tips on how to overcome the challenges of IT consulting on a day-to-day basis?
If your goal is mediocrity, you will always be below average! Only if you want to be one of the best, you will deliver high quality work. Set yourself the goal to advise your customers like family members. For friends and family, you become an expert, even on things you don’t know much about. But you also have to understand the market. Or have the ambition to fill in gaps in your knowledge. After all, you can learn everything – but not how to understand customers. This soft skill must never be overlooked in everyday life. Listening is generally very important, even when it comes to criticism. You shouldn’t see criticism as a destructive slight on yourself, but as a constructive opportunity to improve yourself. Because if you accept constructive criticism and learn from it, you’re invincible – who’s going to stop you?