An IT professional with 7 years of experience discusses the difference between IT strategy at Accenture, etc. and the work done at McKinsey BTO. He also comments on questions IT professionals and other industry candidates should ask themselves prior to going after consulting as well as the image and communication changes he is making.
I thought of putting together this post to help experienced IT professionals and other experienced candidates wishing to make a switch to management consulting.
As an IT professional, having spent about 7 years in the technology domain, my work involved implementing many packaged solutions, which are commonly termed as COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf Software). Most of these implementations were in fact a result of management consulting work streams although it was not always apparent.
There is a myth that technology implementation consultants are solving business problems where in effect what they do is implement an Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligence or Data Ware House or similar software. There may be many instances of customized software that may be built to cater to business needs. Even though large technology firms such as Infosys, Cognizant, Accenture and the likes prefer to use technology implementation interchangeably with McKinsey BTO (Business Technology) type of work, this is not completely true.
In fact most of the firms mentioned above (including the others not mentioned) do up sell or cross sell technology implementation work in the guise of some high level consulting work. I have managed a few such large implementations and have worked with a couple of large consulting firms (implementation) as well on such projects and know it firsthand.
Solving business problems requires a very different mindset. As an aspiring management consultant I have realized that this skill is usually not inborn in everyone, although it can be developed like any other skill.
Many business school graduates from reputed schools end up working in technology implementation firms implementing the software or go in as business consultants implementing business processes, say for example inventory management or accounts receivables modules etc., but are they actually solving business problems? This is one question that they seldom ask of themselves.
There is another set of folks who have progressed and grown in their chosen industry and then decided to go to business school and switch to management consulting. Both sets of people need to understand that the mindset needed is very different and one needs to stop thinking, “I am an experienced IT professional (or another industry professional). I have xx years of IT (or any other industry) experience and can, therefore, switch over to management consulting and be treated at par with what I am doing now“.
I’d rather say they need to ask questions such as what sort of business issues have I helped solve given the experience I have. If the answer doesn’t lend itself to tangible responses, one needs to ask if she or he is willing to learn the skills of thinking like a management consultant and make the changes as needed.
ROCs (relatively older candidates) interviewing at BBM (BCG, Bain, McKinsey) tend to expect wide recognition for that which they have already accomplished. The calibration of their past achievements on the management consulting curve is a bit jarring. Most consulting firms generally are not as impressed with candidate’s achievements as the candidate thinks they should be. Is the ROC willing to accept this reality?
ROCs try to sell their experience versus their ability to logically analyze problems which are informed by their experience. This is particularly tough to swallow. One needs to learn how to solve problems like a management consultant. One, therefore, needs to ask if she or he can learn the core problem solving techniques and how to blend in one’s past experience.
ROCs think strategy is about ideas void of numbers. Strategy involves exceptionally thorough quantitative analyses. This is crucial. It requires back to basics knowledge of analyses and spreadsheets.
Most of consultants think strategy is all about high level talk and no in-depth analysis. I used to think the same until I decided to dive in and make the changes. Below are couple of questions IT professionals and other experienced candidates should ask prior to deciding to go after mangement consulting.
- Can she or he be succinct and communicate with brevity?
- Can one extract information and convert it to answer for the issues at hand?
- Can one drill deeper into relevant issues and eliminate irrelevant information to arrive at possible solutions?
- Can one disconnect from core industry specific jargon and simplify and communicate effectively?
- Many people often ignore the fact that consulting firms often work in teams and one needs to ask questions such as – will I be liked?
- Am I a person that my team members can spend hours with if and when stuck in an airport or a cab?
- Do you have interesting stories to tell?
- Are you humble enough?
There is a very interesting quote from an experienced management consultant who rightly said:
“Many management consultants are into consulting by chance and they don’t know how they got there and still think that they are doing things right. It may be better to analyze oneself and gauge if you are suitable for such an undertaking versus just having a herd mentality. One needs to be genuinely interested to solve business issues“.
I’d urge IT professionals and other industry folks wishing to make a switch to management consulting to think about the subtler aspects as well. This is crucial as consulting firms do not wish to have senior executives interacting with someone who is not careful about these aspects.
I hope this helps clarify my thoughts on the many aspects an experienced IT professional who is considering consulting may have.
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