What is consulting? My experience...
When I say I’m a consultant people reply: “yes, but what do you do?”
Ehh I do consultancy…
It’s often difficult for people to understand exactly what a consultant does. I understand them. Consultancy is a complicated science…
- Too many type of consultancies: strategy, management, marketing, IT, communication, political, System Integration, outsourcing, etc.
- Too many type of consulting companies: big, medium, small, generalist, specialized, dedicated to a sector, etc.
- Too many projects: reorganization, project management, product definition, offer launching, strategy definition, partnership negotiation, planning, diagnosis, process optimization, etc.
- Too many countries: in spite of many common skills in consulting, the way consultants do their work changes with the country to better adapt to the cultural and procedures of the country
- Too many clients: listed companies, SMEs, family businesses, start-ups, all sectors, etc.
- Too many consultant types: serious, funny, competent, arrogant, distant, emotional, friendly etc.
If I wasn’t a consultant myself, I guess I would have had the same questionings.
Fortunately or unfortunately (?), I am a consultant since 2003. After an engineering diploma in telecommunications at INSA in France, I took an internship at Peat Marwick at the moment CSC (Computer Science Corporation) acquired them. CSC had 3 branches of consulting (yes, it’s complicated), Business consulting, System Integration and Outsourcing. A lot of big consulting companies have these 3 branches:
- Business Consulting focuses mainly on subjects related to the core business of the client (strategy, marketing, organization, process, management, etc.). Business consulting rates ($) are the highest and business consultants usually the most sophisticated! Projects vary a lot in terms of subject, team size & skills.
- System Integration is composed of i) functional and ii) technical consulting on the implementation of enterprise software products: Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP. Rates are less high and usually projects are longer and teams bigger (functional teams include consultants for each function like CRM, SCM, Accounting + technical teams).
- Outsourcing is when the consulting company takes in charge a whole function for the client (billing, call center, IT, etc.). Usually these projects have the lowest rates because interventions are long and teams are big.
To give you an example, usually big consulting companies like CSC, Capgemini, Accenture, etc. have 50% of their activities in Outsourcing, 30% in System Integration and 20% in Business Consulting (these are very high level estimations…). Outsourcing secure for them a fixed income per year (long and stable projects = cash cow), System Integration secure good margins (rates are higher then outsourcing and projects usually long) and business consulting provides prestige, strengthen the brand and open doors for Integration System and Outsourcing opportunities as the Business Consulting projects have usually high visibility within the company and involve top management.
Some other companies are more specialized in one type of consulting (Business Consulting and/ or System Information and/ or Outsourcing).
To come back to my experience, I started my internship as a technical consultant in the System Integration team at CSC Peat Marwick, working on an Oracle project. I learned a lot during this internship and worked hard to prove myself. When my manager proposed a fixed job I asked to be hired in the Business Consulting department in the telecommunication & media practice. Meanwhile I did my lobbying with the VP in this practice expressing my motivation and ambition to be part of her team. At the end of my internship, I was offered the opportunity to work in the practice I choose!
I worked as a business consultant in the telecommunication and media sectors for almost 4 years, mainly on strategy, marketing and organization projects for French & European telecom operators.
Then in 2007, I decided to get an international experience and have a higher exposure within a bigger consulting team. I choose then to enroll in Capgemini Consulting C4 team (a team of 350 European consultants specialized in Telecommunications, Media and Entertainment). I worked for almost 4 years within Capgemini Consulting mainly in the telecom and financial services sectors and travelled to countries like South Africa, the UAE and Pakistan.
In September 2010, in the middle of the crisis that affected heavily the consulting business, I cached an opportunity to start freelancing. I therefore travelled to countries as Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali, South Africa (again… but I love this country!), the UAE (again, but this country is the best compromise between West and East…) and Lebanon. I had my first experience in Lebanon in 2011 where I tried to sell an innovative idea to Lebanese banks, then in 2012 where I worked with CRI (Consulting and Research Institute) on the restructuring of the Lebanese Order of Engineers and Architects.
In 2012, I founded my own boutique consulting in Lebanon… while I was discovering that doing consulting in Lebanon is completely different of doing it in France or even in the UAE. The mindset of clients is completely different, although the subjects and the issues faced by them are exactly the SAME! My challenge for 2013 is to find the best positioning to give to my consulting boutique company in order to attract Lebanese clients.