Monday, July 2, 2012

Are You An Advocate?

I believe in the importance of being an advocate in the implementation process, and over the years I have had many discussions with fellow consultants regarding this (some agree with me, some do not).  I recognize that consultants, project managers (both customer and partner), and salespeople vary in their approach.  Some prefer to provide information while not necessarily forming or voicing an opinion or perspective.  Others are very vocal in sharing their experience, perspective, and/or opinion.  While others strike a balance between the two.  I strive to be balanced, but I know that I definitely end up on the more vocal end of the spectrum.

So why does your approach matter?  Well, let's start with some basics about the implementation process:
  • How many implementations has the consultant been through?  Probably anywhere from 2 to 5 to 10 to 50 to a hundred.  How about the client?  Maybe 1 or 2.  And the staff?  Most likely none, or maybe 1.
  • The consultants involved in a project hopefully have "good" implementation experiences under their belt, projects that went well.  Too often, if the client has been through a prior software implementation, it was not a positive experience.
  • Consultants, project managers, and salespeople-- it is our full time job to sell, support, implement, and manage the software.  How much time does the client's staff really get to focus on the implementation.  If they are lucky, maybe 1 day a week?
Bottom line is that consultants (and project managers and salespeople) generally come to the project with more experience and perspective than the client and staff.  Of course, consultants share their product knowledge with the client through all of the phases of the project...but to what degree are they responsible for sharing their perspective that has been informed by their past experiences?

Personally, I think we all have a responsibility to share that perspective and to act as an advocate for the project's best interests whenever possible.  Whenever we cease to do that, we leave the health of the project up to chance.  Being an advocate, in my mind, includes:
  • Ensuring that issues are prioritized and addressed in a timely fashion
  • Willingness to escalate issues and concerns on both the partner and client side when necessary
  • Having difficult conversations when partner or client resources are not performing adequately-- so often, this is NOT about someone's work ethic or knowledge as much as it is about RESOURCE ALLOCATION (we all know the term 'bottleneck')
  • Being on the project's "side" when it comes to decision making.  Sometimes this means sharing the client's perspective, and other times it means forming your own (which may be contrary to what the client is asking/suggesting/doing).  But in the end, I think we should advocate for what will make the project most successful-- in terms of goals, budget, timeline, etc.
Do you agree? Disagree?

Christina Phillips is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified Professional. She is a supervising consultant with BKD Technologies, providing training, support, and project management services to new and existing Microsoft Dynamics customers. This blog represents her views only, not those of her employer.


Frank Hamelly said...

Great article Christina. I firmly agree with your comments. Every client I work with looks to me to provide perspective on their business processes based on their perception that I've 'been there, done that' with other clients. They're looking to leverage our prior experience and knowledge. Sharing 'best practices' with our clients is part of our primary responsibility.

Christina Phillips said...

Thanks, Frank! I agree with you as well, it's the "consult" in "consultant", right :)