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How to start a new IT consulting project …

I got a great email last week, where the Trinidadian author basically asked to me explain how I can bounce from client to client in my line of work and be continually successful. This was a timely one, as I start a new project at a new client this week in Moncton, New Brunswick. I have an orientation checklist that I go through before I start working with any client. This isn’t some surefire way to be successful, but as a travelling IT consultant, I thought I would offer some tips … this post has very little to do with a fantastic destination, awesome food or high octane activity, but it does have everything to do with how I get on the path to the destination, food or adventure.

  1. I get to know the core business of the client.
    This should be a standard practice. If you can’t articulate what your client does in 5 sentences, you can’t help your client.

    • I keep up with any change in client information by setting up a Google Alerts to feed me the latest online information (collected primarily from news sites and blogs)
    • I get to also know this information for my client and its top 3 competitors.
    • By staying current on this information, I’m able to relate and converse intelligently with the client. Most people are too pre-occupied with day to day operational work, to do this regularly
  2. I always try to know basic financials, demographic and legislative information regarding the client
    I work in the HR technology space, hence I have to know “everything” about HR processes, HR technology, HR strategy and future developments in HR.  Sounds easy eh? Here are some quick winning facts to know

    • Always know your client’s headcount, whether they’re unionized or not, HR state or provincial legislation
    • I always know the client’s technical HR landscape – whether they’re an Oracle, SAP or custom software shop
    • I’m always able to explain how HR creates value by using basic Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and ask the client to relate those KPIs
  3. Know the client’s executive team
    You never want to be that consultant having a casual conversation with an employee in the lobby or elevator, only to realize a week later that it was the VP of HR, Benefits or Compensation. Executive information is available on every company website. I read and memorize this, not only will it prevent F%@% ups, it also helps me understand and manage client relationships.
  4. I always know my team’s status and information
    My phone will always have the contact information for all people on my team. On every project I’ve ever been on, there have been at least 2 times where a client meeting is about to start and someone can’t be found and no one has immediate laptop access. This is when having all those numbers programmed into your phone comes in very handy. I program the following my BB10 for all involved parties, from analysts to partners

    • Cellphone number
    • Email address
  5. I never recreate the wheel
    I always pay very close attention to the work that’s been done before. I hate redoing work that has been done before. My clients appreciate me not wasting their time and money redoing work. I also always review the research, project proposal and sales documents that led to the project.
  6. I always take the social lead
    Although I have resources who can handle the responsibility of planning team events (such as dinners, team-bonding activities, etc), I always keep this responsibility – particularly in unfamiliar cities – of the fun/popular things to do. It helps me learn the city, gives me material to write about and allows me to get to know everyone on my team. I always plan fantastic events and I think though the planning … a poorly planned team dinner at the city steakhouse won’t kill your anyone or your performance rating and it’s not my fault that the food wasn’t amazing, but if the wrong people were invited, reservations and emails weren’t sent and taxis are late … you can be sure that people will notice. Working the social lead can be great or can be terrible.

    I always know the answers to the following questions :

    • Where are the best places to eat?
    • Where is the nearest dry cleaner and tailor?
    • Where is the nearest grocery or department store?
    • How long does it take to get to the airport, train station in traffic?
  7. Clients know their business better than me … I listen.
    Often times, clients know the solution to their problems, they just need some company along with them in going down an unfamiliar road. That being said, different projects for the same client may have different decision makers. I always know the key decision maker and key influencers and I memorize their names like my life depended on it. The client often knows the right answer for them better than I know the right answer for them. This is a philosophy that holds true for most people you will meet in your life.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a PeopleSoft HRMS Project Manager and Oracle Solution Architect. Over the past 10+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 2 major consulting firms. He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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