I'm going to share with you the single most important skill to look for when selecting a consultant for your next cloud implementation
As more organizations are moving to the cloud, a new critical skill is emerging that separates the best consultants from the rest. Up until now a good consultant needed skills such as confidence, leadership, written and verbal communication, listening, and relationship building. Once a consultant learned their industry and platform specific skills they could settle in and sort of "coast" on their existing knowledge. They would still need to stay informed of industry news and changes yet for the most part the work stayed fairly consistent from one project to the next.
Now that we've moved to the cloud, everything is changing at such a rapid pace, consultants can't coast on knowledge and past experience anymore. The rate of innovation has skyrocketed and entire industries are being created disrupted or even eliminated on a regular basis. To thrive in this kind of evolving space there's one skill that stands above the rest. It's the one skill that differentiates top performers from those that just barely keep up.
For example, in the old days of Oracle applications an organization might go years without seeing any significant changes in the application. Regular updates included minor navigational improvements, bug fixes, and security patches. Plus the business had a lot of control of when those updates were pushed into the production environment.
In the cloud updates happen much more frequently and often include major changes to functionality, user experience, or even include entirely new modules. In Oracle applications these updates happen four times a year and are required within a certain time frame. Most implementations take between 6 and 12 months which means the system will have been updated between two and four times during the implementation.
This also means that as the business is learning the application and as a consultant is configuring the application, it's changing. To thrive in this kind of world a consultant needs to develop the ability to find and internalize new information rapidly from many sources and then apply what they've learned all in real time.
Consultants that try to coast and stay comfortable with their existing knowledge and ability will be left in the dust. The most valuable skill is the ability to learn or more accurately stated it's the ability to learn how to learn.
I think of it as a meta learning or super learning ability. How can you recognize this skill in others? How can you tell if a consultant is one of those top performing super learners? There are three characteristics that can be used to identify these types of consultants. The first characteristic is being highly resourceful. Where does it consultant get their information?
The more sources they have access to and utilize on a regular basis, the more resourceful they can be to keep up with changes in cloud applications. A consultant needs to check support articles and customer forums, industry related blogs, release notes and documentation, colleagues and internal groups, and even leverage personal relationships. Listen when the consultant is explaining new features and functionality and you'll often hear one of these sources mentioned.
The second characteristic is that this person leverages a strong personal network. Although an implementation partner may have knowledgeable and experienced consultants in its ranks, the relationship between consultants within a company are a big factor in how well those resources are utilized in an implementation. A consultant that collaborates with and supports their colleagues develops relationship capital that they can later tap into for insights and experience in areas outside of their expertise. Notice if the consultant ever offers to take the question to their personal network.
The third and final characteristic is taking the initiative when faced with the new and unknown. A large part of the super learning ability depends on being able to get hands-on and learn through trial and error. Understanding something from documentation or by hearing about it is one thing yet actually going into the system and testing it out is something else entirely. By getting into the nitty-gritty of the system there are many assumptions that are either validated or contradicted through testing.
Oftentimes the functionality that was supposed to be there isn't quite ready yet or there's a bug preventing the full use of it. Consultants must rapidly test out new functionality and come up with insights to determine if that path is valid for meeting the business process or if another solution is required.
In the past when a consultant would say "let me test that out and get back to you". It probably meant they didn't know the system as well as they should. In the cloud, this same answer means they're thorough and want to validate the functionality a 100% before giving you an answer. Considering the pace of changes to existing functionality and addition of new features, this is what you want to hear.
My storyI want to share a personal story about this. Not too long ago I was able to put my super learning ability to the test. I was preparing for my first testing event of a project for talent management alongside another consultant who was working with the learning management module. About a week before the testing event, we received news that the other consultant was terribly ill and wouldn't be able to conduct that first testing event for the learn module. Luckily for me I had already been familiarizing myself with the learning module by reviewing documentation and testing in the hopes that I'd be able to pick up a project.
I suggested that I take a few meetings with the client to review open items for the learning module so that at least we could get some progress until that other consultant came back. The client was a bit hesitant at first, yet they had seen my ability with the talent module and they agreed to let me lead the meetings and see how it goes. So I spent a week devouring all the information I could find and relentlessly testing the system to just fully grasp that new module. Things progressed so well that I ended up conducting the testing event for that new module only a week after starting it and finished the project going live with both the talent and learn modules.
Since this module was still fairly new, I was able to spend several hours on calls with Oracle Development to review enhancement requests for the client. these enhancements actually made it into the product in version 19C. I became certified in the learning module shortly afterwards and I've been taking on learning projects ever since.
In summary, the best cloud consultants are those that have the three characteristics of super learning: resourcefulness, a strong personal network, and the willingness to take the initiative. I hope you found this useful.