Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Conversations from Summit: What do you call your partner/ISV/VAR/consultant?

As promised, I am continuing to blog about some of the great conversations I had last week at Summit in Tampa, Florida.  This one comes courtesy of multiple discussions over days, with clients as well as with coworkers and a few long time consulting friends.  But, first, a little background on me.  I did indeed become a consultant out of mere happenstance. I needed a job, I knew a little (very little indeed) about software, and took the leap.  Over the years, however, being a consultant has become part of who I am and I find it hard to imagine a different career. I love what I do for two primary reasons (among many lesser ones):

  • I enjoy helping clients get the most out of their systems and processes, becoming a "trusted advisor" that they seek out for advice, guidance, and perspective
  • I like building partnerships with clients, where I learn from them (about requirements, about business, about what keeps them up at night) and I (and my fabulous teammates of course) can impart some of my knowledge to them

The discussions I had last week at Summit circled around the client relationships I enjoy most.  And we kept coming back to the term "partner".  I love it.  It is my preferred term.  Because it suggests, obviously, a partnership of give and take and mutual benefit.  Not simply a business exchange of services for money (which is why terms like "vendor" or "contractor" don't appeal to me).  Of course, I am not talking about a word game but more the nature of the relationship between consultant and client.

Of course we have to start with a solid base of product knowledge and experience, but the truly great client/consultant partnerships extend in to so much more.  Where we as consultants can benefit clients in ways that extend beyond how to configure a module or cut an AP check.  And on the client side, they can contribute greatly to our understanding of their business, industry, and needs...which makes it that much easy (and dynamic) to serve them well.

So I challenge you to look at your relationship with clients or with consultants (depending on your role), and see how you can contribute to making it a partnership. One way to look at it is to make note of how you refer to them (either client or consultant), is it in a defensive/combative way (preparing for an issue)? Is it distanced, lacking in trust? And then commit to moving towards a partnership-- sometimes that means a "clearing the air" conversation, or discussing specific expectations from both sides to improve the relationship, or simply reaching out regularly with questions that extend beyond error messages.  On both sides, it requires a fair amount of good faith, trust, and expertise. Or at least it does in my opinion, do you agree or disagree?

Christina Phillips is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified Professional. She is a director 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.

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