The Different Hats of a Professional Services Consultant

Most professional services people I know have one key trait in common:



This is perfectly illustrated at my first job post-graduation. My first exposure to professional services was at a learning management systems developer in Kitchener-Waterloo. The training for my first professional services role was 12 months long, with 3-month rotations in different disciplines within the professional services organization. I rotated through deployment, firefighting, integration, and consulting. At the end of 12 months, I came to the realization that professional services is a role that spans multiple disciplines, and requires wearing a lot of different hats... sometimes more than one at the same time.

There are variations from organization to organization, but in general there are four different hats, or disciplines, within a professional services team:

  • The Solutioners - Solutioners are visionaries who can intuitively paint a picture of the solution that can solve a customer pain. The best solutioners are great listeners and relationship builders. They use their wide breadth of knowledge of customer knowledge, organizational technology, and future roadmaps to develop a solve to a customer pain.
  • The Planners - Planners are roadmappers who can expertly break down a solution into its constituent parts, and map out an execution process from start to finish. They intuitively see the different phases of a solution, breaking down MVP and each subsequent iteration that constitutes the whole solution. They are master communicators who work internally and externally to ensure delivery plans are laid out clearly and are well understood by everyone.
  • The Executors - Executors are builders who can meticulusly create the solution with the customer's need as their first thought. They are master coordinators, working with internal teams to coordinate the heavy lifting to move a project from conception to delivery
  • The Supporters - Supporters are technologists who can proactively help the customer in using the solution. They know why the solution was made (the pains it was meant to attack), and how the solution works, and they continually monitor and solicit feedback to ensure we're accurate in our solutioning

The temptation of organizing a team with varying roles and responsibilities is to ensure the output of one role feeds into the input of next. Don't. Clean handoffs do not help a team be cohesive, and only encouragesthea "tossing over the wall" mindset. An effective professional services team works in concert within the team, and is inclusive when it comes to vetting approaches and decision making. In a future section, I'll introduce the concept of decoupling "effort" and "deliverables" that really helps with building and fostering a cohesive professional services team.