An important driver for this changing role is the greater speed of delivery needed in our projects, which is demanded by our clients. Besides the fact needing to understand our client's customers to help our clients deliver the service and customer experience that is expected today. Typically, we look at our colleagues as either technical or functional consultants. However, this changing role has a large impact for both types of consultants.
Shrink and shift
Technical work is both shrinking and shifting. Shrinking means adapting to best practice scenarios supported by cloud applications which reduces technical implementation effort. Also, cloud application maintenance and deployment requires less technical knowledge. Shifting means we can see that technical integration work increases and technical consultants need broader architectural skills. Skills that are very much needed as understanding our client’s customer needs has led to more emphasis on customer experience design as well. This results in more complex application landscapes, supporting multiple channels.
Our functional consultants used to know everything about anything regarding the applications they were implementing, shaping them to our client’s requirements. More rigid cloud applications, like the SAP S/4HANA cloud product we implemented at Experis Ciber, require a different set of skills. First we need to understand the best practice processes. Secondly we should be able to explain to our clients how these fit their business, what organizational change is needed and how this can be accomplished. It’s only a combination of change management skills, industry, geographical and technical (product) knowledge that gets the job done. One might argue this has always been the case, but the emphasis on skills has shifted from technical consultancy to business consultancy. In typical cloud implementation projects, we experience that the time spent on guiding our clients through their change process easily exceeds the time spent on configuring applications.
Software vendors enable asset based consulting
Organizational change needs time and this contradicts the speed of delivery that is demanded. This has been recognized by software vendors as well. Last year one of the trends mentioned by Forrester Research in a report on the future of consulting is ‘asset based consulting’. This means that consulting companies are using and developing assets – software, reusable components or accelerators – to automate or shorten consulting activities. They state that large, multinational, consultancy firms have a competitive advantage here due to number of resources they can deploy to create these assets. Here is where software vendors jump in to enable their partners.
E.g. SAP’s Activate project methodology not only recognizes the importance of change management in their implementation projects (already in the pre-realize phases). This methodology is also supported by many product specific accelerators like best practice process flows and descriptions, test scripts, etc. Salesforce delivers assets like online training materials that can be reused and are an important part in change management.
Of course, many of my colleagues are still participating in more ‘traditional’ projects, where we still need to know every nut and bolt of the applications we’re implementing. But we thoroughly understand that the world around us is changing. This already reflects in how we look at potential future colleagues. For instance, in our Customer Engagement team, experience with the SAP customer engagement portfolio is still considered advantageous, but we focus mostly on strong process and industry knowledge. We’re ready to be disrupted.