Manage a Consulting Project: 7 Breakthrough Tips for Success

How to Manage a Consulting ProjectAs the sun rises on your career in consulting, it unveils a world brimming with opportunities and challenges. Your expertise has been recognized, and you’ve been trusted with a project, a task that holds immense potential. But, as any seasoned professional will tell you, it’s not just about working on a project. The real art lies in knowing how to manage a consulting project.

In the realm of consulting, success isn’t measured simply by technical prowess or in-depth knowledge. Instead, it’s gauged by your ability to meet client needs, manage resources effectively, and deliver results within specified timelines. Indeed, a consultant isn’t just an expert; they are the architect of solutions, the bringer of change, the solver of complex business problems.

Stepping into the role of a consultant isn’t just about leaving the routine nine-to-five grind behind. It’s about embracing the opportunity to shape your professional journey and create your success story. This article aims to guide you on this rewarding journey, offering hands-on advice, practical tips, and insights drawn from decades of experience in the consulting field.

  1. Decoding the Art of Consulting: Consulting isn’t just about being an expert; it’s about understanding client needs, managing resources, and delivering results within deadlines. Consultants are problem solvers who are engaged to meet specific short-term goals. They bring unique expertise and insights to the table that can help businesses navigate complex challenges.
  2. A Glimpse from the Other Side: As the former Vice President of Consulting for two firms and later as Director of Computer Operations for a major retailer, I’ve seen both sides of the consulting world. This dual perspective allows me to provide insights on what clients look for when hiring consultants, and how consultants can best meet these expectations.
  3. The Role of a Project Statement: At the heart of managing a consulting project is the creation of a comprehensive Statement of Work (SOW). It’s a roadmap that outlines the project’s goals, deliverables, timelines, and resources. Without a well-crafted SOW, the project can easily go off track, leading to delayed delivery and client dissatisfaction. In “How to Manage a Consulting Project”, I dive deeper into the components of an effective SOW and why it’s critical to the success of your consulting project. I provide practical advice on how to formulate a SOW that aligns with client expectations and aids in project execution. Grab your copy here to unlock these insights.
  4. The Ghostwriting Connection: You might wonder, what does ghostwriting have to do with managing a consulting project? The correlation is closer than you think. A ghostwriter, like a consultant, works behind the scenes, using their expertise to shape and deliver a final product that meets the client’s needs. In both cases, success relies on clear communication, understanding client expectations, and delivering high-quality results on time.
  5. Mastering the Art of Change Management: Change is inevitable in any project. However, when not managed properly, it can derail a project, leading to cost overruns and delays. In the consulting world, change needs to be controlled and directed to benefit the project. I offer strategies to effectively manage changes in my book, explaining how to turn potential disruptions into opportunities for improvement.
  6. Keeping the Chaos Under Control: Consulting projects often involve juggling multiple tasks, people, and expectations, leading to a chaotic environment. Learning how to maintain control amid this chaos is vital to managing a consulting project effectively. In “How to Manage a Consulting Project”, I share my tested strategies to control project chaos and ensure smooth execution.
  7. Dealing with the Micromanaging Client: Another challenge that consultants often face is the micromanaging client. This kind of client requires delicate handling to maintain a healthy working relationship while ensuring project progress. My book offers techniques to manage such clients effectively, ensuring you can continue to deliver your best work without unnecessary stress.
  8. Making Meetings Work for You: Meetings are a necessary part of managing a consulting project, but they can become time-eaters if not handled properly. To prevent meetings from eating up your time and reducing your profits, effective meeting management is key. My book provides advice on this topic as well.

Conclusion: How to Manage a Consulting Project

Managing a consulting project is no small feat, but with the right knowledge and skills, it can be a rewarding and lucrative venture. By mastering the aspects discussed in this article and detailed in my book, you can navigate the consulting world successfully, delivering projects that satisfy your clients and boost your career.

My book “How to Manage a Consulting Project” includes these insights, drawing from over 35 years of experience. It provides an in-depth guide on various aspects of consulting management, including creating a statement of work, controlling project changes, and handling client interactions.

Ready to transform your consulting journey? Grab your copy of “How to Manage a Consulting Project” now!

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Takeaways: Managing a consulting project involves more than just industry knowledge. It requires understanding client expectations, crafting an effective SOW, controlling changes, managing meetings, and dealing with different types of clients. By mastering these skills, consultants can ensure project success and client satisfaction, boosting their reputation and profitability in the process.

Introduction

During my second semester in college, I arrived late at the twice-annual tradition of registration. To my dismay, the good classes were filled, and all that was left were a couple of computer courses with funny sounding names. This was long before computers were cool. In fact, I’d never seen one before and only knew about them from science fiction stories.

I didn’t want to take a computer class, but there was nothing left, and I had to fill my schedule. I signed up, and by the end of the first day of the first class I was hooked.

My teacher was a very tall man—almost 7 feet— and very knowledgeable and likable. His name was Fred, and after a single semester I knew what I was going to be doing with the rest of my life.

Near the end of the semester, I was awarded my first consulting gig. This involved correcting some bugs in the general ledger programs that ran on a TRS-80 computer. At the time, this was the most modern machine that could be purchased. It came complete with 16kKB of memory and two 5 ¼ inch floppy disk drives. I was overconfident, underprepared, and very naïve. I had my eye on the $600 that was offered to complete the job and didn’t realize that I didn’t know how to fix the programs until it was too late.

Looking back on those days, I realize I did everything wrong that I could possibly do wrong. I didn’t validate my assumptions, didn’t write an SOW, and didn’t terminate the contract when I found I was in over my head.

Now, 35 years later, I’ve been a part of or managed over a thousand consulting projects. Some of these were small, lasting an hour or two, some required weeks of labor, and others needed teams of 20 people working for months at a time.

Virtually all these projects were successfully completed relatively close to the budget and almost always on time. I learned there was a certain joy in delivering a service to a client of high quality and that met or exceeded the specifications.

Those projects that didn’t go well failed in over 90% of the cases because of poor communications with the client. Conversely, those projects that succeeded did so primarily because of excellent communication between the client, the implementation team, and me.

Good communication starts with the sales effort, continues by writing a high-quality statement of work (SOW), and proceeds all the way to the end of the project with the use of meetings, email, Skype, interviews, and the telephone.

Of course, there are many other factors that go into the success or failure of a project. Obviously, a consultant must be competent and understand the service that he is selling and must be able to manage and control the chaos that can happen in any activity involving many people.

Change must be managed as well. A project that is otherwise going well can be thoroughly torpedoed and sink into the depths if change is not controlled properly.

In this book, I’ll present many of the lessons I learned about how to manage a project from beginning to end. I’ll talk about what makes a project go right and the things that can go wrong.

Richard Lowe
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