Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts on the Consulting Profession

Sometimes I come across something that makes me realize I am the "anti" version of what I am seeing or hearing.

Recently, I saw a Facebook ad for a person's consulting course that promised high income quickly with no effort on the part of the "consultant" to actually do the work. "Everything is outsourced," he goes on to say. In his videos he shows all of his expensive collections, which include both a Ferrari and a Porsche. I'm thinking "Really?"

I'm not faulting his success or his income, but I do have a problem with the promotion of the concept that one can truly call themselves a consultant or an expert in something without actually doing the work involved. His high income is based on the markup of other people's subcontracting rates because they are the ones with the actual talent. Apparently, they just don't think they are worth what they are being billed for in the marketplace.

It does sound enticing and all, but I have learned over the years that my clients want to work with me, not someone I just contract with. I would like to have the "Four Hour Workweek", but that's just not the world I live in.

Nothing wrong with subcontracting, either. I sometimes team with other highly qualified and experienced consultants to help me on engagements where the scope is large. But I'm still heavily involved on the project.

I think of people like Gerry Weinberg or Alan Weiss who are master consultants and get their hands dirty in helping solve their client's problems. I mentioned in our webinar yesterday that I was fortunate to have read Weinberg's "Secrets of Consulting" way back in 1990 when I was first starting out on my own in software testing consulting. That book is rich in practical wisdom, as are Weiss' books. (Weiss also promotes the high income potential of consulting, but it is based on the value he personally brings to his clients.)

Without tooting my own horn too loudly, I just want to state for the record that I am a software quality and testing practitioner in my consulting and training practice. That establishes credibility with my clients and students. I do not get consulting work, only to then farm it out to sub-contractors. I don't consider that as true consulting.

True consulting is strategic and high-value. My goal is to do the work, then equip my clients to carry on - not to be around forever, as is the practice of some consulting firms. However, I'm always available to support my clients personally when they need ongoing help.

Yes, I still write test plans, work with test tools, lead teams and other detailed work so I can stay sharp technically. However, that is only one dimension of the consulting game - being able to consult and advise others because you have done it before yourself (and it wasn't all done 20 years ago).

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip had a heyday with poking fun at consultants. His humor had a lot of truth in it, as did the movie "Office Space."

My point?

When choosing a consultant, look for 1) experience and knowledge in your specific area of problems (or opportunities), 2) the work ethic to actually spend time on your specific concerns, and 3) integrity and trust. All three need to be in place or you will be under-served.

Rant over and thanks for reading! I would love to hear your comments.


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