“As experts, we would suggest you to plan your implementation strategy as..”
Often in the role of a Consultant and an expert in the domain, we (as in my company and equally true for me as an individual) do recommend and support our clients who are in the process of evaluating or implementing reporting solutions. The typical process in any consulting assignment (done by any firm) is to first understand the requirements of clients, their current state of affairs, and expectations for future. Then based on the experience, current trends in market and the outlook for future, recommendations are made to clients.
The success of the assignment or the implementation does depend on how well the consultant has understood the requirements, the experience they carry and flexibility on the client’s end to accept changes /enhancements which in certain cases could be contradictory to the original requirements.
As part of my job, I have dealt this for years. And have learnt a couple of things, some hard way and some in business-as-usual form. There is one experience that I would like to share and have attempted to put forward the same as a comic. If I keep aside my core area of work, in all other fields where I am recipient of the service, I happen to be the client. So let’s see how the interaction and action happens when a client (that’s me) goes to an expert for a haircut.
As they say, a picture is worth thousand words am sure what this comics was able to describe, I wouldn’t have been able to do it so nicely. A huge thanks to Make Belief Comix Team for coming up such an easy to use interface.
Coming back to our story, I was sharing this haircut episode with my friend and she was of the opinion that a visit to parlor is a demotivating experience. That’s because the hair experts keep on giving (unsolicited) advice that makes you feel there’s something grossly wrong with your hair. So now she doesn’t prefer going out to a parlor. It was her opinion that made me think, introspect and also a reason why I am writing this post.
Our’s (as in my organisation) is a very niche area of work. After interacting with so many clients, regulators, government agencies across globe, I have realized the ultimate needs of everyone are only a handful and more or less similar. The most common ones are good quality data, efficient, low cost and easy to maintain systems, ease of use for other stakeholders and business intelligence. The means to achieve these are dependent on the underlying technologies, infrastructure, market readiness and budgetary constraints. [These are not comprehensive requirements /factors]
Given this experience of ours, we give our recommendations to our clients and also open up to them possibilities which they had not considered. Every client teaches us something new. And so has this haircut experience of mine and the conversation with my friend.
Correlating and comparing the haircut experience and consultant-client role in general, here are a few observations and learning –
- As a client, I was not clear in giving my requirements. Had I clarified the purpose of short hair earlier, may be the expert would have given me some different advice. A point worth noting here is that, at times consultant has to take the lead to extract information from clients.
- As a client, I accepted the recommendation of consultant and was happy as I got the same result what consultant had predicted. I got good feedback. However this was not my original need. And so soon I started facing issues. Lesson here is that as a consultant you always need to understand purpose behind the requirement in order to give the right direction.
- As a client, when I went for the second visit, I was adamant about my requirement. After seeing the end result, my hairdresser admitted that her opinion did not prove correct in my case. Lesson – Consultant needs to accept and take responsibility of the actions suggested. If course correction is needed, so be it.
While these were some things I realized from the haircut experience, in general working as a consultant, some key observations I would like to share.
- As a consultant, you have to read between the lines . At times, what is being said or asked for, is not the actual need. An open dialogue discussing the possibilities and experiences of other implementations, other countries,market trends etc. might be useful in such cases.
- Make it clear that there would be technology (and human and any other) limitations. While nothing may be impossible in future, in the present and near future, one has to work within these constraints.
- To achieve the purpose, at times radical changes would be needed. So if you are a client, and your consultant is suggesting you so, be prepared for it. If you are not ready for the big change, you may not leverage the benefits to the fullest extent.
I guess this was quite a long account of my experiences. Must admit, I enjoyed making the cartoon strip.
May or may be not be so much relevant in day to day life, but when it comes to work and if you are in the role of consultant, please put the client’s hat and think. And if you are client, do at times step into the consultant’s shoes and understand the other perspective.