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The 10 commandments of IT consulting success

Steven A. Lowe | May 27, 2015
Thou shall surmount epic hurdles in your next tech gig, thanks to these sage tips.

For example, it's not unusual for clients to request detailed activity reports, time sheets, daily status updates, and any other number of periodic administrative reporting activities -- because that is how they are used to managing internal projects. Most of these are a waste of your time and theirs, and you can often prove it merely by totaling the time required for paperwork and meetings and presenting that total not as a drain on productivity, but as additional overhead. Saying, "All this paperwork costs the team 10 hours a week each," is less impactful than saying, "The administrative overhead is costing you the equivalent of an extra team member; let's discuss what is truly necessary."

8. Honor your reputation

Your reputation and your company's reputation are primary assets. Respect that, and yourself, at all times. This includes not only what you take on but what you don't. Make no outrageous claims on your website or in private, make no discomforting promises. It is better to say no to a project and keep your reputation than it is to say yes and lose integrity.

The most common -- and seemingly benign -- mistake of this type can be vendor affiliations, which are a double-edge sword for your reputation. If you claim affiliation with a specific vendor's products, everything you say may be viewed as a sales pitch originating from the vendor. Morever, the waxing or waning of the vendor's reputation will reflect on you, for good or ill. People will also likely doubt your ability to deliver on jobs that don't use the vendor's products, and there will always be the underlying question of whether you are using the right tool for the job or settling for the best the vendor has to offer and ignoring better options.

The second-most common mistake is accepting jobs outside your scope. If your organization has a certain specialty, such as front-end JavaScript development, then you should turn down jobs outside of that specialty. Best case, it dilutes your marketing; worst case, your project fails to meet up to the reputation of your JavaScript work, and now you have a hard-to-swallow black mark on your engagement history.

9. Believe in the truth

Speak the truth as you see it, even when the client does not want to hear it. Truth should not be a hammer; it should be a window.

No one wants to hear bad news, let alone bad news that is the result of their actions. But sometimes, you have to deliver the bad news anyway.

Remember that it is not your place to shield clients from unpleasant facts. Simply present the information in a neutral fashion without your interpretation or conclusions, and let the client draw their own conclusions. It is far better to say, "There is an issue with Invoice vs. Quote discrepancies caused by unexpected charges," than it is to say, "The VP is altering invoices to favor his friends and punish his enemies." The former is a presentation of facts, while the latter is a conclusion and accusation.

 

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