Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Consulting assignment life cycle 7: getting set up and connected in

Posted in consulting, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 21, 2012

This is my seventh installment on consulting and the consulting assignment life cycle (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225-230 for parts 1-6.) So far I have discussed consulting per se and the decision to do this as a career step, and finding clients and building a consulting practice. I turned in Part 6: day 1 of the assignment to consider the consulting assignment per se in more detail, and I continue that here in this installment too.

Part 6 focused on people and on meeting and getting started working with them. This installment looks at the tools and resources that you will need – including basic resources that can all too often simply be taken for granted, at least until their absence leads to problems.

• In principle, the people who hire you as a consultant and the managers you are to report to on those assignments should know their own systems and procedures.
• They should know the problem you are to work on as a consulting assignment, and they should have at least a solid basic understanding of what resources you will need to effectively do that job there and if not for the consulting assignment as a whole, at least as you get started on it.
• But as a consultant you have a responsibility to be prepared for change, and you have to be willing to work with your employer and manager to help them find acceptable workarounds when and where necessary.
• This all begins with your having a solid understanding as to what you will need, at least as you start the assignment.
• And when your supervisor is managing your work in a task area that they are unfamiliar with at least hands-on they might need your input if they are to know that too. I add that if this was a task area they were already very hands-on familiar with in managing, this task would not in all likelihood be a consulting assignment at all as someone in-house would in most cases be taking it on as a part of their regular job.
• And every manager who works with and supervises a consultant does this for a first time at some point – and you might be this manager’s first time. So without coming across as bossy or demanding, or as claiming you know it all when in fact you cannot, as a consultant you may have to in effect mentor your supervisor on how to enable you to help them and their team.

And for this part of the overall discussion that means knowing a checklist of the basic resources you would need on any assignment, plus the immediate-needs special resources you will require for the particular assignment.

I would begin here with the basics and the resources that you will essentially always need access to if they are available at all.

• You will need a physical place to work. This may mean an office or a cubicle, or it may mean you’re moving around and working from several locations.
• You will need computer access, and the flexibility to work with their systems. If, for example, you would have to move around and work from several physical locations, an immediate assumption might be that you would need access to a laptop or notebook computer. But if this business uses a thin clientserver system, you might in fact be using what looks more like a series of workstations with you connecting into the cloud for your files and other information technology-supported resources from wherever you physically are in their offices and other physical spaces.
• Find out how their Information Technology systems are set up and configured and what they use and by whom and for what.
• And while you are doing this find out their policy as far as employee or consultant “bring your own technology” options are concerned – what you can and cannot bring and connect into on the job and what guidelines you have to follow and what permissions you need where you can do this.
• Note that this can include hardware such as whether you can bring, and connect in your personal laptop computer to their server system, but it also includes whether you can tap into your own personally set up and managed resources in the cloud too. That means data files, in the cloud apps and other functional software, and the gray areas in-between that functionally qualify as both data and app.

What you bring and what your employer provides, what resources are set up for you or shared with you and the like can be simple or very complex so it is important to learn what they do and how, and for you to find ways to accommodate their systems and approaches in doing your job. And to continue my semi-checklist here:

• You will probably need phone and email access, and basic general purpose internet access – unless, of course you are working in a secure facility with air gaps between computers and in-house networks in place, and the outside internet. Do not take even the seemingly basic details for granted.
• Assuming a less restricted and secure system than that, if you work with a team and with groups that communicate through established email groups for managing the mailings and for making sure everyone in them gets the same messages – find out and find out who officially owns and manages those groups to get added in with your email address there,
• What type of intranet do they have? Find out and get whatever access permissions you need for files and other information, and in getting into any appropriate discussion groups or instant messaging systems set up.
• Does this organization, or at least the part of it you will work with tap into and utilize third party public or private cloud resources? If so, get connected in with whatever access permissions that you would need.
• Does this organization or at least the part you work with use extranet resources?
• Ask what they do and how they do it, and get yourself connected in where and as needed. Then after you have gotten started, look for gaps that you might have to get set up in too.
• Do your homework in catching up on what is already there in the way of archival records and other resources, that your in-house coworkers are working from. Ask your manager and others in your team or group what the most important resources are in the way of information files, etc. for your getting up to speed in working with them and as quickly and smoothly as possible.

And as a final thought here, do not be surprised if you find out about new types of basic resources that you have to connect into as you go along, with new and unexpected entries to your list getting added in as need for them arises. And some of these resources may simply be archival in nature and some much more current and active. Some may be more general access acceptable as far as sensitivity of content is concerned and some might be highly confidential and require particular types of access (e.g. with capability for connecting into them only supported from specific IP addresses, for example.)

My goal here has not been to exhaustively cover all of the options and potential details as to information technology resource access. It has been more one of noting some of the issues and options that I have encountered, and with a goal of prompting questions and review for anyone walking into a new client’s offices as they get settled in to work there. My goal here is to help you keep from being avoidably surprised in this.

My next installment in this series is going to look into your first and second day, and on starting your work there with that initial task or sub-task. And this should be all about getting off to a strong start and establishing your credentials and yourself, hands-on.

You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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