Q&A for: The BA as Management Consultant Webinar – 4/17/2012
In a recent webinar I gave on Fantastic Voyage or Impossible Dream? The BA as Management Consultant, we had limited time for questions and answers. Below are answers to all the unanswered questions received during the session.
Q: Would you mind reviewing the 4 types of Consultants and their posture with the business – Expert, Order Taker, etc.?
A: The four types of consultants mentioned in the webinar include:
- Influencer – collaborates with the business expert, “pulling” their needs and recommending solutions.
- Expert – “pushes’ their expertise on the business and recommends the best way to implement their advice based on their expertise.
- Order Taker – collaborates with the business and figures out the best way to implement a solution (which is often provided by the business).
- “Persona Non Grata” – “pushes” their ideas and because of low credibility, has little influence. This type can’t last long in a consulting role.
Q: What were the poll results for the types of consulting roles?
A: The three types of consulting roles came out this way in our poll. They are fairly consistent with our other, similar polls on the subject:
Order Taker 41%
Q: Do we have any stats on how many independent BA or actual Management Consultants there are today?
A: I don’t know of any myself, and would be interested in seeing some. Anecdotally, there are a number of consulting firms that specialize in providing contract BAs as consultants. Even though these consultants are externally contracted to an organization, my guess is that most of these are not “experts” as much as Influencer or “order taker” types of consultants
Q: What was the name of the movie you referred to in the presentation? The one that had the good example of an influencer?
A: The King’s Speech has a great example of an influencer type of consultant. For those who didn’t attend the webinar, I used Lionel Logue as a real-life example of a consultant with tons of influence over King George VI of England back in the 1930s. Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, used a combination of personal and expert power to help the King overcome his speech impediment enough to give an inspirational speech at the beginning of World War II. Logue did his preparation, built trust, and showed courage as he influenced the King to change the way he spoke.
The three elements, trust, preparation, and courage, are part of our “influencing formula.” We believe those three variables are key ingredients that BAs can work on to improve their influence with stakeholders. My wife and collaborator, Elizabeth, has a great presentation and article on this topic.
Q: Hi Rich, among the 3 ingredients of PIP, which one do you value and recommend most to evolve as a successful Management Consultant?
A: The PIP this question refers to are “Process” which every consultant needs to guide his or her consulting, “Influence” which a consultant requires to convince the client to do the right thing, and “Principles,” which are guidelines that set management consultants apart from ordinary workers.
To give the consultant’s favorite answer, “it depends.” Of course, you need all three of these things. If you don’t have a process, that is a good place to start. The SARIE model is simple, practical, and scalable, and relies on standard consulting/BA tools to support it. Influence takes time to develop and is a lifelong journey. I’ll never stop working on ways to build trust with people, or to increase my courage. The five principles I mentioned in the webinar are good philosophies for consultants and BAs. I think you need all 5 of them to be effective as a management consultant. If you wanted to focus on only one of the PIP ingredients to help you evolve, you’d be wise to choose the Principles.
Q: Could we access this presentation through the Watermark website?
A: The first place to check is the IIBA website. IIBA webinars including audio and the PDF of the PPT are archived on their website within 5 business days under iiba.org | PD pages | webinars | archived. Watermark Learning also has a number of recorded webinars available at www.WatermarkLearning.com/Resources that you may be interested in. They are free and require a simple member registration.
Q: One dynamic in “The King’s Speech” is that his wife realized there was a serious problem and wanted to do whatever it took – even trying unconventional approaches. Often business owners hire “consultants” because they want an “outside source” to provide support for to the path they’ve already settled on. I’ve been replaced by “consultants” that were really “yes-men” and took the company or division down a path that management wanted, and any consultant with integrity would have advised against. How do you keep your job or contract when you’re really not being asked to consult honestly?
A: You raise an excellent point about the movie and its analogy to real life. The ideal is for management to bring in outside consultants to take a fresh, objective look at the organization, and to recommend solutions that may not have been thought of before. Sometimes the opposite happens like the questioner mentions, and the consultants are hired to provide justification for what management wants to do anyway.
If you are in one of these situations and feel a client is taking advantage of you or asking you to act “outside of integrity,” you have a tough decision. If you need the contract to pay the bills and have no immediate alternative, my advice is to keep working, but start looking for the next contract. Better yet is to avoid these kinds of gigs in the first place. You might get fooled, thinking you were hired to be objective only to find you are asked to be a “yes-person.” It then takes substantial courage to speak up and tell the client “no.” You might get shown the door, but you also might succeed in being influential if you have built up enough trust. Either way you retain your sense of integrity. Stay practical, though, and don’t be foolish without any job prospects in sight when you speak up. Continued employment is a good thing!
Q: Do you have any tips or exercise to uplift “courage”?
A: The first thought that comes to mind is to focus on “doing the right thing” for the business or your client. That means knowing the organization’s strategy, goals, and objectives and focusing all my work around those things. Keeping the needs of the organization in mind and avoiding my own personal agendas gives me courage. The decision makers may not agree with you, but they will respect you, especially if you ask your questions or make your recommendations professionally.
The second thing that gives me courage is my preparation. It could be researching a new client, or gathering needed data to build my case, or touching base with the right stakeholders. In my experience, the better you develop your BA skills and actually use them and don’t cut corners, the more courage you will feel.
There are several other tips and ideas about courage in our recorded webinar, “The Influencing Formula: Three Steps to Influencing When You Don’t Have the Authority.” Visit www.WatermarkLearning.com/Resources to view that recording.
Q: I feel I am a generic BA, do you think it’s important to gain expertise in one area. That is, become a specialist before getting to management consulting?
A: It depends (there goes that favorite answer again!). If you want to be an “expert” type of consultant, then I think you definitely need to go deep into one area. It might be a specific industry like retail or banking. It could be a specialized area of business analysis such as business architecture or data modeling. If you want to be the “expert,” then you need to specialize.
On the other hand. I think of a management consultant as being a generalist, much like BAs are. If you want to be a management consultant, my advice is to keep working on your general BA skills. They will help you to transition to the consultant role.
Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, was the founder of and is now a consultant for Watermark Learning. He is a successful entrepreneur with over 35 years of experience in product development, business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. As an internal entrepreneur, Rich led the development of several Watermark Learning online products as a business analyst and product owner.
Rich is a frequent speaker at Business Analysis and Project Management national conferences and IIBA® and PMI® chapters around the world. He has contributed as a lead author to the BA Body of Knowledge version 2.0 and 3.0 and was a lead author on PMI’s Business Analysis Practice Guide. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored five books on business analysis.