A Software Consultant is a professional who analyzes the client’s business and advises on software solutions that will ease the business processes and make them more effective.
The role can be found under different names, e.g. Functional Analyst, Implementation Specialist, etc. Sometimes the company requires the consultant to be a developer as well, other times, the position is split into 2 roles, a functional and a technical one. We will not get into details about the different types of consultants. We will focus on the common responsibilities of any consultant working directly with a client.
The software consultant is usually involved in the whole cycle from the initial sales to the successful implementation of the software. The consultant can work independently as a contractor, or work for a company as a member of a team. At big clients the implementation usually requires more than one professional. In such cases, the role of the consultant is to act as an intermediate between the client and the development team. The consultant has to understand the business first, and then to translate the business processes into technical requirements that will be implemented by the technical specialists, e.g. by a developer.
However, the newest software products can be easily configured without the need of having a programming knowledge. Thanks to the big variety of settings, the software can be adjusted to multiple business scenarios. Therefore, it is not required to have a technical background to become a software consultant, although having technical knowledge helps significantly in identifying software issues and reporting them properly to the development team. Ideally, the consultant would have programming skills and business analysis experience.
What is essential in the job is to have analytical and logical thinking, excellent negotiation and communication skills. During his or her career, the software consultant works on projects for various clients and deals with all types of people. The most challenging projects are when the consultant has to implement a new modern software at a client that has been working with out-of-date methods and technologies for decades. The consultant will have to face a lot of disbelief in the new product and has the tough task to convince the high-level management why the change will be beneficial for their business. Another crucial skill that the consultant should possess is the ability to say “No”. The clients are demanding, especially when they don’t understand how the technology works. The consultant’s job is to define the scope of the project and clearly to state what is possible to be done, and what is not. Giving false promises will only create tension when they are not being accomplished and will decrease the trust in the consultant.
The role of the software consultant involves a lot of responsibilities and stress. It requires a large set of soft skills and experience. On the other side, the consultants are well-paid and are highly appreciated by the management and the clients. The job is dynamic and challenging. The consultant keeps learning during his or her entire career because nowadays technologies evolve almost on a daily basis.
A good place to start a consultancy career is within one of the biggest global consultancy companies like Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, Atos, etc. They recruit people all the time, no matter the level of experience of the candidates. They even have special programs for graduates and for recent graduates. Those companies do not develop their own software products but sell and implement the products of other companies. The consultancy companies train the consultants mostly in sales, negotiations, and presentation skills rather than technical skills. The consultants might specialize in one software or work with a variety of completely different products.
An alternative path to the consultancy position is to work at a product owner company, e.g. SAP. The difference with the consultancy companies is that the consultants work only with the products owned by the company. The new employees most likely will start at a lower-level position like a support specialist to get familiar with the software and its functionalities. Once acquired enough knowledge about the product, the employee can be promoted to a consultant.