Eight skills good IT consultants bring to the table

05/05/2011

Takeaway: This a great time of year to take stock in your strengths and weaknesses as a consultant. Here’s a list of skills that all good IT consultants should possess.

When you’re trying to land a new client, particularly an organization that isn’t in the tech industry, you need to remember to emphasize your skill set. I find this to be particularly helpful when talking to an organization that isn’t in the tech industry and small businesses where the CEO may also be the resident IT guy.

For instance, I’ve gone into non-IT shops of less than 20 people and helped them set up internal business processes in order to run the business more efficiently. I’ve also gone into mechanical and manufacturing type non-IT organizations and helped them figure out how to get a handle on their overcommitted resources — both people and equipment.

Skills of effective IT consultants

Here are eight skills that any good IT consultant will offer to a client, some of which overlap with Chip Camden’s 10 personality traits of a highly effective independent consultant. Look at your skill set and think about how you might be able to help other organizations and market to them accordingly. If you think you might be falling short in any of these areas, it’s also important to identify your shortcomings, so you can make the necessary improvements.

1: Leading edge technology expert
This should be obvious, but you might need to remind prospective clients that your overall knowledge of the technical world can greatly help organizations in need of new solutions.

2: Experienced problem solver
Clients usually request consultants’ help if there is a critical problem that needs a resolution now. So if you’ve been an IT consultant for a number of years, you’ve probably encountered your fair share of problems that need resolving.

3: Knowledgeable process engineer
Most IT consultants have experience engineering and re-engineering processes to streamline jobs, data flows, project methodologies and practices, etc. With this background, you have the expertise to help an organization streamline current practices to save money, time, and effort and help focus resources on the right tasks.

4: Change agent
When an organization brings in an outside consultant, the company is showing a level of commitment to a new way or process, and you can definitely be that change agent — the person who leads the corporation down a new path.

5: Confident leader
I believe that successful IT consultants must be confident leaders. You can’t take charge, offer new ways of doing things, and give expert professional advice while charging high fees to organizations that know very little about you if you aren’t a confident leader.

6: Good listener
The effective IT consultant will go into an engagement knowing that the customer needs a solution and knows more about their frustrations and problems than anyone else. It’s critical for the consultant to not jump in and try to present a solution too quickly. Listening to the customer explain their needs in detail and gathering as much information as possible about present processes will help the experienced consultant formulate and present the best solution possible.

7: Effective communicator
Without effective communication, the IT consultant-client relationship will break down. Therefore, it’s a requirement for you to be able to effectively communicate vision and goals, as well as give advice and lead change or projects within an organization.

8: Organized manager
If you shoot from the hip, it will be hard to get others to follow you and seek you out as an expert. This is why you must be an organized and consistent leader and manager in order to be effective and continue in your consulting role.

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