Feb 23, 2010

Characteristics of a good consultant

In my opinion, an ERP Consultant should have the following personality traits.

1. Listening Skills: The key trait that separates a good consultant from an average consultant is his / her listening skills. A good listener will be able to pinpoint the issues being raised by the customer and thereby provide the solution to the real problems of the customer. A good listener will most often use the 'Why' word a lot. A consultant who is not a good listener will most often end up in providing generic solution rather than providing specific solution to the issues faced by the customer. An average consultant can be heard using the phrase 'This is how the product works, you have to change the process'.

2. Closure skills: Most of the average consultants will provide almost complete solution, but fail to close the issue. This will lead to festering issues which will come to haunt you in the most critical times. Most of the time the closure can be achieved with a simple three line minutes of the meeting. However, I am surprised at the number of consultants who lack closure skills. Lack of closure skills is related to the third aspect of a good consultant, which is communication skills.

3. Communication Skills: While listening skills play a very important part in the initial stages of the project, this is only a part of the overall communications skills. There are three aspects to the communication skills. They are Listening Skills, Presentation Skills and Idea Selling skills. Presentation skills can be oral and written presentation. The communication skills should not be confused with ability to talk confidently. Communication skills relate to the ability to separate data from information, coming to very common sense root causes, and finding innovative solutions and finally convincing the customer about the strength of your solution. I have seen many very good consultants fail in this aspect.

4. People Skills: ERP implementation is nothing but a people management process. In the beginning of the project you have a skeptical and probably scared user from the customer side. It is the consultant's duty to make the user confident in the product and the solutioning so that at the end of the day he / she can add significant value to the implementation. Many a consultant fail in this aspect since they do not put the necessary time and effort to understand the customer user.

5. Business Knowledge: It is a no brainer that the implementation consultant should have the knowledge of business. What does this imply? It implies two aspects. One, knowledge of business, industry, statutory regulations etc and two, the detailed knowledge of the customer's business. Many a times the consultant goes thru a 10 months of implementation without having a clue on the customer's business or products. And that will lead to a bad implementation. I normally ask the following questions to understand the customers business. How many plants do you have, Which plant produces the most? What is the spread of production load between the plants? What product groups do you have? What is the most profitable product? Who is the most profitable customer? Who is the customer with most revenue for you? What are the raw materials? How do you do production planning? How do you manage inventory?. The idea is to understand the key pain areas of a business and try to address those pains in your implementation.
These are some of the skills that I think a good consultant should possess. What do you think?


Gitonga Munyi said...

Well researched article. Important attributes omitted include: Leader ship skills, solid moral & ethical values, valuable experience & knowledge.Not forgetting "open minded aspect"

Gitonga Munyi said...

Quizz: Is a consultant any different from an entrepreneur? If yes, in which aspect?

Ramaswamy VK said...

Hello Gitonga Munyi
I agree with you that the skills you mentioned are also very imporant. I liked your point about moral and ethical values. I think it is very significant.

Pl. keep writing further. You make some valuable points here...


Brett Beaubouef said...

I do not believe ERP software vendors are the guardians of best practices. Nor do I blindly subscribe to the notion that the customer is always right. What I do know and believe is that a good implementation partner will balance customer needs and wants with the fundamental value proposition of the ERP software to ensure customers have relevant information to make informed decisions. The following blog posting will discuss some practical guidance that implementation partners can utilize to vet business requirements.