Examining Evolving Consultant Relationships

Networking at Enterprise Connect allows me to meet people I would otherwise not encounter. This year, while listening to one session, I sat next to a consultant I did not know. We struck up a conversation relating to the changing roles and experiences of consultants, comparing today to the past.

Tim Zarkovacki is a member of the Palitto Consulting Services (PCS) team. His primary roles are consultant and solutions architect. Tim reviews and analyzes business processes, focusing on pain points or areas where clients are having challenges. Here's a summary of our conversation.

How have your consulting assignments changed in the last 10 years?

Consulting 10 years ago was largely focused on which products were the best fit based on features and functionality. There was a subset of businesses that would self-develop systems to meet their needs, however, most businesses would adapt their internal processes to software that was available to them. There would often be multiple systems involved that required internal employees to manage datasets across these systems.

Today there is a very different focus. Businesses are looking for systems that will enable their operations by adapting and integrating into their current processes.

Consultant-client discussions today start around how the client's business works, what is valuable to them, and where they want to go in the future. This shift has been enabled by APIs and SDKs providing the agility to adapt as business conditions change.

You work with a lot of vendors and providers. How has their behavior changed in the last 10 years?

Vendors and providers have changed their behavior in several ways. First, they are more open to partnerships and working together. With Amazon, Google, and Facebook entering the world of business communications systems, other providers see the need to work together to compete with these giants that are entering and disrupting the market.

Second, many vendors have begun to look to serve their client in other adjacent markets. Vendors want to make their solutions stickier by providing best-of-breed solutions.

Vendors and providers have also slimmed down in their ability to provide professional services at the level that most of their clients need. This has opened up the door for many consulting and service communities to partner and deliver these services on the vendor's behalf.

You work in unified communications. How do your clients want to automate business processes using unified communications?

For the service sector, many businesses are looking for the ability to use their UC platform to extend their reach into customers' business process. We can look to the trend of using IoT sensors to notify call centers that a service event has happened. This integration provides key time savings, better customer experience, as well increased service revenue.

Others in this industry are looking for means of reducing the effort on the part of their customers to schedule an appointment. Businesses are using chatbots, video calls, or other means to reduce the friction of setting up an appointment.

Do you have clients who have a solution in mind to solve their problem rather than relying on you to find the solution to the problem they have?

This is a very common challenge that we face with clients. There are many clients today that call on consultants for validation of an internally designed solution. What this has done to the industry is to water down the ability for consultants to truly serve. The more mature the client-to-consultant relationship is, the more likely the client is open to discovering the true root cause of an issue. The heart of a consultant should be to understand the true need, implement a strategy to fulfill that need, and find appropriate resources to carry out the proposed solution.

You have many relationships with providers and vendors. Has that changed in the last 10 years?

Our relationships with providers and vendors have changed significantly over the past 10 years. We have found that vendors and providers are looking for a wider range of services, as their internal teams and processes become leaner. As the relationships become more mature, we have taken on not just consulting and integration projects, but also the implementation and configuration aspects to these projects. This has been a benefit to the vendors and providers by letting them focus on what they do best when offering their products and services.

Do you find you have to teach your clients before you can answer their questions since they have a limited view of technology solutions?

Yes, this can often be the larger part of a consulting engagement. As consultants, the first form of education is the client educating the consultant on their needs, their business practices, and other areas of their business. The consultant can then begin to educate the client on potential approaches to their challenges. This education process is often focused around improvements to the business processes and technologies that can be used to make the enterprise more effective.

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