IT pros looking to cash in on the rising demand for IT consultants, know this: IT consulting isn't all golf meetings and extended lunches. In fact, it can often involve thankless work fraught with unexpected detours, murky goals, and the occasional sudden jettisoning of your project.
But it can also be exceedingly fulfilling and empowering to improve the fortunes of your clients. Build a respectable business as an independent IT consultant, with a healthy client roster, and it can be lucrative as well.
While there's no script to follow in becoming a successful IT consultant, several hard-learned lessons can help guide your way. Anyone considering breaking out on their own or trying to take their already established consulting business to the next level should heed the following 10 commandments of IT consulting success.
1. The client is the hero -- and the hero defines success
Every consulting gig is an adventure. Bureaucratic hurdles, technical constraints, unsavory politics -- delivering the right solution, on time and on budget, is a significant challenge every time you sign a new contract. But before you embark on this journey, remember this: The client is the hero of this adventure, not you, not your company, and certainly not some shiny new technology that's caught your eye.
When consulting, your role is mentor. And your goal is to guide your client in a manner that ensures they prevail on their own terms. The success of your gig is defined by the client, not by you or your company. That may sound simple, but it's much more complex because client success is defined by the goals and expectations of three parties: the person at the client site who champions the cause for which you labor, the users of the resulting system, and the patron with financial responsibility for the project.
Suppose you're working with the IT manager (champion) to build a new system for the production manager (hero) for use by inventory specialists (more heroes). The stated business goal is to speed up inventory operations, and the project is funded by the CFO (patron). Deliver a solution that speeds up operations as everyone initially agreed, in a sufficiently quantifiable way, and the project succeeds, right? Not quite!
The champion will also want to limit the impact on his budget and equipment. The heroes will also want simple interactions that are metaphorically similar to their existing process, on devices they can reliably use one-handed, and that will allow all of them to work on the same order at once without issues arising. And the patron wants to see ongoing proof that her investment is paying off.
Success is now defined as the technical goal plus your ability to find a way to support the new system within existing capabilities, as well as your ability to engage heavily with users for UX design and measure and report before-and-after metrics that demonstrate ROI at each iteration of the project.
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