Being a successful consultant – Part 1. Autonomy

I recently read a blog from a colleague about what SFIA is and why we as an organisation use it, it got me thinking about how SFIA helps to define and drive success, and then more specifically how that applies in a consulting role. Depending on size, within most organisations there are separate business groups, divisions or teams, how you choose to classify them isn’t really important but what they do is. Each business group, division or team, typically carries out a specific function in the operation of the business, and the skills and behaviours needed will vary widely as will the tasks they carry out. Using SFIA means that whatever that role or function is, the skills and behaviours are clearly defined into levels, by displaying the relevant skills and behaviours you can prove your competence at a specific level and then plan a pathway to achieve the next level, which usually means greater responsibility, and in turn greater rewards.

I am a Managing Consultant for the Platform Team within risual, a team of consultants that deliver technologies which we have split into three distinct roles, Infrastructure, whether that be physical infrastructure or IaaS hosted in Azure. OSD and Systems Management, which includes operating system deployment and the management of it using services such as Intune. Identity and Security, which covers Azure Active Directory, VPN’s and services such as access controls, threat detection, protection and data security. There are other technologies in each role but that list would be quite large so it’s easier to highlight just a few of the key ones.

I have been at risual coming up on 7 years and there are things that are core to risual and its culture which are actively promoted and we are passionate about, development of self and development of others is among the highest, this is why the introduction of SFIA is so important. SFIA helps us be consistent with everyone in every role about how you develop and what success actually looks like, you can take charge of driving your career onwards and upwards. I plan on generating a series of blog posts focused on levels of responsibility and how that relates specifically to a consulting role (or at least how I think it does). Each blog will focus on a particular responsibility which if met or exceeded consistently will make you successful. The responsibility areas are listed below,

  • Autonomy
  • Influence
  • Complexity
  • Knowledge
  • Business Skills

Being a successful consultant isn’t easy, there are many facets to it and I will attempt to address them over this series, but for the purpose of this post lets focus on Autonomy. Being autonomous doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone but what it does mean is that you have proven that you can take on a piece of work, which in most cases is a desired outcome, something general rather than a specific ticklist of actions to complete. For a consultant this is typically a piece or pieces of technology deployed and configured to provide a desired outcome or solution to a client, which can sometimes be what they need rather than what they want, but we will cover that particular one when we focus on Influence.

You take the time to understand what finished is going to look like and then you work backwards from that point, so starting with the end in mind, defining the specific actions and then you plan how to achieve each of them. You will also be able to do this taking into consideration the constraints you may need to work within, for example, budget, timescale, scope, client processes and any other potential hurdles or hoops you may need to jump over or through to get to the finish line, and this is even before you have begun delivering anything.

So you have planned it now you need to deliver it, and lets be honest, it doesn’t matter how well you plan it, or how many times you have done it before, something will come up that is going to cause a delay or mean you have to amend the solution. The delay or issue could be a change request, something on a dependant system isn’t as previously understood, something nobody was aware of at the planning stage has now been raised as a high priority requirement, or you get a scratchy head moment because that thing you have done a thousand times before now isn’t working. But you don’t panic, you don’t down tools, you adapt, you re-plan, you get help, you work out what needs to happen to keep moving towards the finish line. It may mean you have to revisit the scope, get a group of people together that all have different priorities and get them to agree what happens next, but you know you have to deliver and in order to do that you make sure those things happen.

Completing this means making sure you can prove that you have delivered what was agreed upon, and then you make sure you get that agreement from all involved parties, you cross all the t’s you dot all the i’s, you have green all across the board and everyone is happy. When I think of what I expect from the consultants that work in my team, being able to do that means to me that you have exercised substantial personal responsibility and you have been autonomous. There is another key consideration here though, SFIA is a digital skills framework that has been around for a while, and whilst this blog is about how SFIA is used within risual, many clients are using this framework when engaging with partners . By using this framework to help drive development not only are you making sure you and others can have successful careers because you are doing what the role expects of you,  you are also going to be behaving and performing in a way that more and more clients are going to be expecting of you too.

About the author