Companies throughout the U.S. and around the world need experts in fields such as AI/machine learning, analytics, big data, cloud computing, cyber security, data center transformation, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Given the ongoing skills shortages in these areas, there’s plenty of work available for IT consultants. But even this doesn’t mean that consultants will make a success of their business. 

If this is your sector, take a look at 10 things you should do for your business.

1. Adapt to Your Clients’ Culture and Process

Adaptability is one key to being a successful IT consultant. Each client has a different company culture and follows different processes. When they bring in a consultant, it’s often to not only improve their software but also to enhance their process. That’s if their current process no longer works as well for them as it did a few years ago. 

Clients don’t normally tell consultants how to do things. So, it usually works the other way around, with consultants promoting process improvements to clients. Whether asked to suggest improvements or not, there’s no harm in making a few suggestions, but don’t allow personal preferences to become an obstacle to doing the work you were hired to do. Adapt to the client’s culture and process when necessary.

2. Be Confident

While no consultant is an expert at everything IT-related, you should be confident in your area(s) of expertise. Even so, try to build a network of consultants who can provide advice or assistance when you work on something beyond your area of expertise. 

Self-confidence should encourage your clients to be all the more confident in your abilities. A lack of self-confidence may make clients doubt they made the right choice of IT consultant.

3. Understand the Business Domain

Your main concern as an IT consultant is the area between the business problem you were hired to solve and the software implementation, and this requires an understanding of the business domain. When hired for a project, make a point of finding out who the client is and what they do, the challenges of their industry, who their competitors are, and how your work for them will benefit their business. 

With this groundwork done, consultants should find it easier to get to grips with other projects from the same client and with projects for clients in the same industry.

4. Work Within Your Clients’ Constraints

IT consultants are bound to encounter client-related constraints sooner or later, and those constraints can make the project a thousand times more difficult. If this happens, consider whether those constraints are within or beyond the client’s control. 

If the client can do something about those limitations, make a polite suggestion, emphasizing how a change in that area ultimately would be beneficial. If those constraints are beyond their control, such as cloud data storage regulatory compliance, do your best to work within those constraints, seeing them as an extension of what’s required of you.

5. Offer Alternatives to Clients

Offer a few alternatives to clients, whether you’re assisting the business with elaborating on requirements, developing a testing strategy, or working on a new UI. If you give your client one alternative only, they might not consider other options until you’ve already begun implementing your proposal. 

If you give them several options in the beginning, they’re likely to be more involved in the decision-making process and choose the solution that best meets their needs.

6. The Best Business Solution Is King

In the eyes of many IT consultants, the best technical solution is the best solution for business, and in most cases, those consultants aren’t wrong. Make sure your client knows and understands what the best technical solution is for the project. 

However, if your client is heavily vested in one DMP which you know is inferior to another DMP, don’t push too hard. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge that the best business solution will always come out tops over the best technical solution.

7. Take Ownership

Take ownership of every project you work on. In other words, approach every project as though it’s personal, even if you’re working as an architect or developer. Consider the big picture, whether the budget is big enough or there are sufficient resources, what the risks might be, and what’s needed for the project to succeed. 

If you can fix issues that you identify, either by yourself or by working with one of the client’s teams, fix them. If problems arise, think about how to resolve them, rather than who should take the blame. There’s a big difference between taking responsibility and accepting a fault. If you take ownership of the projects you work on, you’re more likely to inspire respect and build camaraderie with stakeholders.

8. Respond Appropriately to Feedback

If your clients give legitimate feedback, respond to it appropriately. Thank them for the feedback and then demonstrate that you’ve taken it on board. For example, if a client lets you know that they are unhappy with your quoting or invoicing processes as they’re inaccurate or lack pertinent information, brush up on the how-to’s of quoting and learn how to make an invoice that fulfills the relevant criteria for every job. 

9. Wind Down Projects Properly

When finishing up a project, ensure you wind down properly. Let your client know how to maintain and extend the software, and tell them about any limitations it might have. They should know where they stand before the final sign-off. If they have everything they need for continued success, there’s a good chance of working with them again in the future.

10. Turn Client/Vendor Relationships Into Partnerships

Open and honest communication, as well as delivering what you promised clients, is the key to earning repeat business—and repeat business is essential for the survival of any IT consultancy. By making yourself a valued team member and even a thought leader, you can transform the client/vendor relationship into an ongoing partnership.

In Summary

Staying on top of admin, advertising via the right channels, and timeous and professional invoicing are important in the day-to-day running and monthly operations of any IT consultant’s business. However, the real keys to success are in how you approach every project and every client. Use the above tips to improve your chances of succeeding.