Consultants are people hired by companies to help improve their business performances, solve problems and find new ways of doing things. They are paid to share their knowledge and expertise on matters that a business needs solving. Businesses prefer consultants over full-time employees for this because they can save costs of hiring a full-time employee. Another reason businesses hire consultants is for their fresh outlook on a problem as they are not connected to the company in any way. In short, they are hired as a catalyst for change.
Working as a consultant is known for the diverse and challenging environment while being highly rewarding and lucrative. This is why consulting has become a very popular sector for both students and professionals to put their skills to test. But what exactly do they do? They mainly have activities in two main areas – External activities on a project to project basis and supporting internal activities.
These activities are always almost client related. When a consultant is brought onto one of these projects it is for one of two things, either as an advisory project or an implementation project. Advisory projects are those that involve extensive research and analysis. They often include things like strategy development, HR strategy and corporate finance. These projects often last for a couple of weeks to a few months. Implementation project, on the other hand, can take a couple of years to complete. Examples of implementation projects include strategy execution, rolling out new business practices, and ERP implementation.
These are activities that do not involve any clients. Instead, the consultant works for the betterment of the business itself, taking care of things like the following training or researching on external publication or contributing to organizing events for the company. There is generally a hierarchy set up and consultants can climb up the ladder with every prong having a more important job. They would be in charge of things like internal management, sales and engagement management. A consultant usually partakes in internal activities when they are ‘on the bench’ which could mean they are in between projects or do not actively have any projects to work on. It is then that they shift their focus to increasing contribution to the business by conducting training programs and such for the employees.
A consultant thus has a wide range of duties to perform dependent only on what the current need is. While they do not typically need a degree to become a consultant, they need vast knowledge and experience in the field to become an accomplished consultant. It is important to note though, that consulting has a broad range of interest and practically every field offers consulting opportunities.