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Finding the Consultant

I had a recent conversation with Janet Smith, an independent consultant who is on the Board of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants (STC), a professional association. Janet also chairs the STC's Marketing and Public Relations Committee.

We discussed what makes a good consultant. One of the conclusions was that the consultant should not be aligned with or compensated by a vendor. Vendor independence is crucial to unbiased recommendation to the customer.

The Society of Telecommunications Consultants (STC) is a not-for-profit organization representing independent telecommunications and information technology consultants. The STC was created in 1976 to provide a self-regulating body, for what was at the time, an industry with a number of less-than professional individuals. The STC's Mission is to serve the telecommunications industry and its members through continued education and professional development, the sharing of expertise, networking and collaboration among consultant members. An online directory (PDF) of the consultants is available at the STC website.

STC consultant members follow a strict Code of Ethics and have a minimum of three years experience in the industry. A rigorous application process as well as a continual review of a member's status assures that consultant members are independent, and not affiliated with any particular company or product. Currently there over 140 consultant members, individuals and organizations, who are primarily owners, presidents, principals or practice leaders of their firms. You may already know some the members through Voicecon, Business Communications Review magazine and No Jitter (Marty Parker, Steve Leaden, Robert Harris, Don Van Doren and Dick Kuehn).

The Code of Ethics is one of the factors that distinguishes these consultants from many others in the market. The Code covers many elements, but the primary goal is to provide independent work for and fair dealing with the customer.

The STC does not disassociate itself from the vendor community. The STC Vendor Advisory Council is an important part of the Society. An independent group made up of representatives of major suppliers of telecommunications services and equipment, the Council supports STC members with up-to-date information on their products and services. There are over 30 Vendor Advisory Council Members (VAC). They provide specially edited technical reports and manuals that give STC members valuable insight into product design, specifications, feature/benefit relationships and client applications. Each Vendor Council member designates a liaison to assist STC members in obtaining pertinent information quickly, and to speed up solving client problems.

"LINES" is the STC quarterly publication , available to the public (PDF). The recent January 2008 issue had two useful articles that are of interest to the enterprise as well as the consultant community. The first, by Allan Sulkin, "Getting Market Share Numbers Right", covers who is the biggest vendor and how the vendors count their market size. The second article by Martha Buyer in the Legal and Regulatory Update contrasts the wireless market limitations in the US with the more open markets in the rest of the world.

The Canadian Telecommunications Consultants Association (CTCA) is Canada's professional association of independent telecommunications consultants. The CTCA has represented competent, capable, knowledgeable, experienced and ethical telecommunications consulting since 1985.

The 65-consultant membership directory is available on-line as well. The Directory, which includes brief descriptions of each member's experience and special expertise, is often used by organizations which require telecommunications consulting assistance. The CTCA has a code of ethics similar to the STC's.

The CTCA's Supplier Liaison Group (SLG) of 45 members represents leading telecommunications companies in Canada. They provide support to member consultants, both individually in response to specific consultant inquiries, and through CTCA activities and functions. The SLG is composed exclusively of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors within the telecommunications industry who act in an advisory capacity and provide liaison between the supply sector of the industry and the CTCA.

Contact information: Society Of Telecommunications Consultants 13275 State Hwy. 89 P.O. Box 70 Old Station, CA 96071 [email protected] Tel: (800) STC-7670 / (530) 335-7313 Fax: (530) 335-7360

CTCA 160-2 County Court Blvd., Suite #179 Brampton, ON L6W 4V1 Tel: 416-233-7946 [email protected]