ImageSome of us within Smart421 are currently looking at the “softer” skills required to enhance and develop our approach to running Consultancy engagements.  This isn’t about Project Management or Business Analysis, although these are important parts of any engagement.  It’s more about building relationships, managing the client, understanding personalities, leading teams and so on.

With this in mind, I’ve just finished a fairly intensive 5-day training course towards the ISEB certificate in IS Consultancy Practice.  The course is a great compliment to my ISEB Diploma in Business Analysis and builds on some of the ideas from the diploma.

Our trainer was Sue Calvert from Parity Training, who did a great job of covering a huge breadth of material, building in plenty of case study time for the group and keeping us interested for 5 days – thanks Sue! You can see the aims and syllabus on the Parity Training website, so I won’t repeat it all here.

I was joined by David Clothier of Siemens and Faisal Choudhry of Fujitsu.  Whilst it would have been good to have more people on the course, to get the ideas flowing and see how other people approached the case study, we got on well and managed to keep the energy up during the group work.

We covered a lot of ground, so there was an obvious trade-off in terms of depth.  But good use of case study work and homework (gasp!) really helped us get a better feel for some of the more important aspects.

Thursday’s homework was preparing a 10 minute presentation on a topic from the syllabus – I chose “Managing Bids and Contracts”, as these are areas that everyone in Smart421 is regularly involved in.

Some of the key things I learned or had re-inforced were:

  • Identify Supporters and manage Blockers
    It’s crucial to understand who can help and hinder the achievement of your objectives.  Assuming your Sponsor isn’t a Blocker (!), get them to help with this.
  • Use appropriate analysis tools and techniques to prompt you to capture and manage information
    Used well, MOST, SWOT, PESTLE, RACI, MANDACT (and many more!) can be really helpful.
  • Build the relationship
    This is something that Smart421 already does pretty well – don’t treat engagements as one-off’s.  Build trust, demonstrate capability by delivering, identify other areas where you can genuinely help the client and the relationship will bloom and grow!
  • Identify and manage Risks
    There are risks within the assignment, and there will be other risks to us as the supplier of Consultancy services.  It’s important to track all of these.
  • Always clarify the budget
    This really determines whether the solution is Bugatti Veyron or Chevrolet Lacetti.  We forgot to do this at one stage on the case study.  D’oh.  Although we did find ways to make huge savings for the imaginary client – creating additional budget! :-)
  • Understand Mindsets, Personality Types and Motivations
    In the client and in your consultancy team.  This helps to tailor your approach, communication and deliverables, get the best out of your team and deliver maximum value to the client.
  • People, Process, Technology
    In any transformation, remember there’s more to a solution than the IT/IS component.

I’m looking forward to putting some of these learnings into practice on upcoming engagements.

Fingers crossed for the 2 hour written exam on 14th August!  Must remember to make time for revision…