Basics of IT Consulting in the Connected World

Introduction to IT Consulting

IT Consulting is a technique of providing expert advice/guidance pertaining to business process, information technology and operational excellence of an organisation in pursuit of its short term or long term objectives and goals. These advisory services help organization to transform their business processes and IT operations with strategies aligned to the specific needs of their industry and organisation.

Types of IT Consulting

  •  Technology Consulting

Consulting related to technology will fall into this category. For instance, a Hospital is planning to build a new central data repository to store their administrative, financial and clinical data. In this scenario, Technology Consulting comes into picture to provide guidance on the selection of data-warehouse tool considering factors such as costs, data volume & variety, integration with upstream and downstream systems.

  • Business Process Consulting

Consulting related to impact of a regulation/new requirement on the organization’s business processes, re-engineering of the organization’s existing business processes or defining of new business processes falls into this category. For instance, a Health Insurance Organisation is planning to implement X-12 5010 changes. In this scenario, Business Process Consulting comes into picture to provide input on the magnitude of impact on the organization’s business processes & IT systems, changes to be done, order in which the change needs to be implemented, to help the organisation to carry out business as usual.

  • Strategy Consulting

Consulting related to the organization’s performance excellence falls into this category. For instance, a Software Product Company is planning to release a new Core Banking Software to the market. In this scenario, Strategy Consulting comes into picture to provide guidance on competitive analysis, timing for release of the product, product pricing, target market geography.

Consultant role in Consulting

Consultant plays a pivotal role in a consulting engagement. Important skills that a consultant need to have are:

  • Ability to
    • Collaborate with stakeholders
    • Identify issues or key areas for improvement
  • Art of questioning (Close ended, Open ended, Conditional, Factual, Follow-up questions)
  • Breakthrough Thinking
    • Set the right stage
    • View change as dynamic and challenges as opportunities
    • Identify connections and patterns that are not obvious
    • Derive different scenarios and explain with real life examples
    • 360-degree analysis
    • Shed assumptions
  • Good communication

Steps involved in a Consulting Engagement

 Let us understand the steps involved in a consulting engagement:

picture1
Consulting Process

Icons Source: Google Images; Source: IBM Blue Consulting

Definition – Understand the Scope

  • Understand the objective(s) and goal(s) of the client and the engagement
  • Identify major barriers for implementation/roll out of client solution (ex: release of similar solution by competition during the same time frame)

Structure – Create Starter Set

  • Identify key areas of engagement (ex: pros and cons of competitor solution, magnitude of market competition, business and technology changes required)
  • Conduct stakeholder assessment
  • Derive hypothesis for each of the key areas
  • Prepare an exhaustive questionnaire focused on addressing the scope, key areas and the barriers.

Data Gathering – Gather appropriate Data

  • Create a data matrix template
  • Gather data from stakeholders using various data gathering methods (interviews, focus groups, questionnaire, observation, available data) and sources (internal, external)

Synthesis – Prepare Recommendation Report

  • Look for patterns, similarities and differences in the data
  • Develop findings based on the data captured
  • Convert hypothesis into conclusions on the basis of findings
  • Include findings and facts as part of conclusion
  • Develop diagrams to strengthen recommendations
  • Prepare recommendation report

Note: Use natural language and active voice, avoid unnecessary jargons. Ensure that acronyms are explained. The most critical area should be addressed first in the report followed by the less critical ones.

Client Buy-In – Final presentation to the Stakeholders

  • Present executive summary of the recommendation report to stakeholders and submit the detailed report for review
  • Update recommendation report with the feedback
  • Follow up with the client

Note: At the time of presentation, maintain focus on key client message, headlines of each slide should indicate conclusion and not recommendation.

Conclusion

The primary focus of IT consulting is to provide advice to organizations seeking external expertise on the best use of information technology. Consultants are called in the by organizations to gain access to specialized expertise in release of a new product to the market, to revamp their entire IT processes, migration to a new technology platform, re-engineer their business processes, build vs buy decision, selection of COTS system to carry out their day to day transactions, implementation of a new regulation and the list continues. Hence it is important that a consultant has good qualities as discussed in this article like good communication, advisory and breakthrough thinking skills.

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2 thoughts on “Basics of IT Consulting in the Connected World

  1. Anantha: Good attempt. The success or failure in the implementation of recommendations presented in the Consulting Report is of crucial importance and is usually documented in the iterative follow-ups and usually forms a report or paper at the end of the consulting period.

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