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SAP Configurator or Consultant (Part II): A Pyramid of Consulting Goals

by Guy Couillard

April 25, 2012

Editor's Note: For Part I of this blog post, see SAP Configurator or Consultant?

A pyramid of consulting goals
In 1982, Arthur N. Turner, a professor at Harvard Business School, wrote an article entitled “Consulting is more than giving advice” for the Harvard Business Review. In it, he outlined 8 progressively more challenging consulting purposes, whose applicability to the world of SAP consulting is still uncanny. If an article written 30 years ago is still totally relevant, just shows that SAP consulting is not so different after all from other types of management or IT consulting.
Professor Turner’s 8 levels are as follows, the text in italic is our SAP spin on them.
1. Provide requested information – “Yes, I can answer your question about GL accounts in SAP” 
2. Provide solution to a given problem – “Here are the transactions that are in scope for the business process you asked me to analyze.”
3. Conduct diagnosis that may redefine the problem – “You’re asking me to configure a business process that is not an industry leading practice anymore. Can I show you how some top performing firms in your industry are meeting this requirement with SAP?”
4.  Provide recommendations – “Based on what you are telling me, options x, y & z could meet your requirements. Let me show you why I believe “option y” to be the best solution”.
5.  Assist implementation  --“We can help you implement SAP ERP and CRM, and we have a proven approach. Please tell me more about what you are looking for”.
Professor Turner identified the first 5 levels as “traditional” consulting goals. In our SAP world, they are the product or project deliverables, the realm of rational problem-solving and solution fit, where engineering minds soar... The other 3 levels are euphemistically described as “additional” goals. Here the text in italic expands on what his means in an SAP context.
6. Build consensus and commitment  --Remember #4 Provide Recommendations? The main reason consultant’s recommendations become shelfware is that no time is spent building a coalition and fostering commitment to the recommendation. By the way, whose idea should it be? Yours or your customer’s?
7.  Facilitate client learning – Consultants are brought in because they have knowledge the people in the organization don’t have. Being able to “do” is good, being able to do AND coach your customers how to do is better. Some consulting firms even go as far as establishing formal knowledge transfer contracts between consultant and assigned customers. By the way, is giving the answer always the best way to foster learning?
8.  Improve organizational effectiveness – This is all about demonstrating value and ROI, the express elevator ride to Trusted Advisor status. Involves being able to frame all of the SAP technical complexity in value terms that resonate with the person you are talking to. Never forget that there is a very subjective aspect to value. 
Interestingly, many consultants with whom we shared the model have come to the unexpected realization that the skills that made them successful at levels 1 to 5, are of little help for levels 6 to 8, who are intensely people-centric. In our next blogs, we will explore some of those people-centric skills, from using questions to influence, to the art of delivering bad news while maintaining rapport. You be the judge if these skills help you move up the pyramid! 

In 1982, Arthur N. Turner, a professor at Harvard Business School, wrote an article entitled “Consulting is more than giving advice” for the Harvard Business Review. In it, he outlined 8 progressively more challenging consulting purposes, whose applicability to the world of SAP consulting is still uncanny. If an article written 30 years ago is still totally relevant, just shows that SAP consulting is not so different after all from other types of management or IT consulting.

Professor Turner’s 8 levels are as follows, the text that follows is our "SAP spin" on them.

1. Provide requested information. “Yes, I can answer your question about GL accounts in SAP.” 

2. Provide solution to a given problem. “Here are the transactions that are in scope for the business process you asked me to analyze.”

3. Conduct diagnosis that may redefine the problem. “You’re asking me to configure a business process that is not an industry leading practice anymore. Can I show you how some top performing firms in your industry are meeting this requirement with SAP?”

4.  Provide recommendations. “Based on what you are telling me, options x, y & z could meet your requirements. Let me show you why I believe option y to be the best solution."

5.  Assist implementation. “We can help you implement SAP ERP and CRM, and we have a proven approach. Please tell me more about what you are looking for."

Professor Turner identified the first 5 levels as “traditional” consulting goals. In our SAP world, they are the product or project deliverables, the realm of rational problem-solving and solution fit, where engineering minds soar. The last 3 levels are euphemistically described as “additional” goals. Here the text that follows each expands on what this means in an SAP context.

6. Build consensus and commitment. Remember #4 Provide Recommendations? The main reason consultant’s recommendations become shelfware is that no time is spent building a coalition and fostering commitment to the recommendation. By the way, whose idea should it be? Yours or your customer’s?

7.  Facilitate client learning. Consultants are brought in because they have knowledge the people in the organization don’t have. Being able to “do” is good, being able to do AND coach your customers how to do is better. Some consulting firms even go as far as establishing formal knowledge transfer contracts between consultant and assigned customers. By the way, is giving the answer always the best way to foster learning?

8.  Improve organizational effectiveness. This is all about demonstrating value and ROI, the express elevator ride to Trusted Advisor status. Involves being able to frame all of the SAP technical complexity in value terms that resonate with the person you are talking to. Never forget that there is a very subjective aspect to value. 

Interestingly, many consultants with whom we shared the model have come to the unexpected realization that the skills that made them successful at levels 1 to 5, are of little help for levels 6 to 8, which are intensely people-centric. In our future columns, we will explore some of those people-centric skills, from using questions to influence, to the art of delivering bad news while maintaining rapport. You be the judge if these skills help you move up the pyramid! 

 

Guy Couillard, president and founder of OTA (www.ota.ca), is a consultant focusing on the management of large scale change associated with the deployment of large technology projects such as SAP. Couillard specializes in the conceptual integration of the different disciplines related to the successful adoption of IT-driven innovations, namely risk management, organizational change & knowledge management, communications and branding, value realization and program management. 

 

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