5 November 2009

What sort of consultant am I?

Our CEO’s all-staff call this week covered the usual wide range of topics, one of which was the switch of terminology from "management consulting" to "business consulting", an issue that Logica and I have both been entwined in for some years.

I started my career in IT as a lowly programmer (I probably would have been asked to make the tea in those days if it was not for the fact that a tea trolley came around twice a day) and the first big step up was to analyst/programmer, which recognised that the understanding of customers’ needs is a rather useful skill. Along with this elevation came some formal training in Business Analysis where I learned lots of diagrammatic tools, such as Entity Relationship Diagrams and Functional Decomposition Diagrams. Tools I still use today.

For the next several years the roles that I had were either labelled Business Analyst or Team/Project Leader but the work always contained a mixture of both and I was happy with either title. Both terms are generally well understood within the industry. This is not true among the regulars down my local pub where I used to say (and still do) that I work in IT, which people interpret as either I write software or I fix PCs. It is too hard, and too boring, to try to correct them so I let these misconceptions lie.

Business Analysts work within projects where you know what it is that you need to analyse but before you can start a project you need to understand the business needs (e.g. the drivers of competition or regulatory changes) and the potential of IT to address them. This is where the Business Consultant comes in and I first called myself this around twelve years ago, when at IBM, and I have used this title on-and-off ever since then.

I think that “Business Consultant” describes what I do well but then I would think that having been in the industry for over thirty years and using the title for a large chunk of that time, but I find that it means next to nothing to anybody else that I speak to; particularly the business people in client organisations who are the main people that Business Consultants need to speak to!

The temptation, therefore, is to use the more generally recognised term “Management Consultant”. Logica did this in 2007 when Logica Management Consulting was introduced as a sub-brand. Ironically, those of us using the brand (it is on my business card) were on the Business Consulting career path.

Using the term Management Consulting gets you around the “what does that mean?” problem that Business Consulting gives but, sadly, the term is recognised mostly for things that I do not do, such as advising on mergers and acquisitions and developing corporate strategy, i.e. the stuff that the “Big Four” consultancies do.

So now we are back to being Business Consultants again, which I think is much the lesser of the two evils and it is now up to us to make that work for us with our clients.

I will also continue to sidestep the issue personally by not including my job title on my business card or in my email signature, both just say who I am and who I work for. What I actually do is something for the client and I to explore.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't used any job title on my business cards at all. I agree with you on this. I still don't know the difference between management consultant vs business consultant, but I love the new logica which is about to emerge.

    //
    Andreas Danielsson
    Logica Sweden

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