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How to Become a Top-Notch Enterprise Application Consultant - A Five-Month Plan

For the majority of enterprise application consultants, such as functional consultants and technical architects, the typical career progression involves moving from junior to senior to elite levels. To me, the journey from junior to senior took about six years. Then, it only took me two years to go from senior to highly-specialised consultant, even though I could have achieved the same results faster. Going back to my career journey and all the skills and expertise I acquired to become highly specialised in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, I can confidently say that senior consultants can become top-notch experts in five months.


I've structured this five-step plan based on strategies that you can use to fast-track your career and become a leader in your field. In this post, I've laid out the key elements of my plan to achieve the status of a top-notch consultant.

Consultant aiming at enterprise applications

What is a top-notch consultant?

Top-notch consultants are professionals who have moved past a senior role to become the best in their field. These professionals are in high demand, are headhunted by the best Microsoft partners, and command a premium salary. Top-notch consultants are not simply the next-level seniors; they are a league on their own, meaning they don't simply accumulate experience as senior consultants and get promoted. In fact, you might find members of this elite group with fewer years of experience than the typical senior consultant.


These sought-after individuals are capable of setting the vision and formulating strategies to solve complex business problems using technology in innovative ways; they are often ahead of the competition, and they can design the overall solution of complex enterprise application projects.


Skills of top-notch enterprise software consultants

The skills of elite consultants vary depending on their industry or role; for example, management consultants who excel in their professions—also called principal consultants—possess unique skills in designing and delivering strategic projects and are often business development experts. Such skills don't typically address the needs of companies that hire enterprise software consulting teams like Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSP).


In the world of enterprise applications, top-notch consultants possess the following skills:

  1. Problem-Solving: The ability to identify and analyse business problems and design and implement viable solutions through the adoption of enterprise technology

  2. Business Process Reengineering: Being capable of analysing and improving business processes as technology advisors

  3. Enterprise Applications Architecture: Knowledge of enterprise technology landscape, from identity management to security and cloud computing.

  4. Communication and Leadership: The ability to communicate effectively to advise, persuade and direct client and partners' teams before and during the delivery.

  5. Coaching and mentoring: Top-notch consultants are excellent mentors because they are coachable. This means they can grow a team while learning from other consultants. They are always seeking new wisdom and knowledge.

To-notch consultant at the office

Five months to go from senior to elite enterprise application consultant

One of the most common mistakes that enterprise consultants make is to think that it takes years of experience to go from being a senior consultant to being a top-notch consultant. In reality, seniors already possess advanced technical and customer-facing skills and acquiring more specialised knowledge alone will not help you join the league of this elite group of highly specialised knowledge workers. If you are a senior consultant and want to make the next step in your career, follow this five-month plan to acquire the specific skills you need to become a uniquely valuable professional in your field.


Month 1: Refine Your Problem-Solving Skills

Elite consultants are problem-solvers, as I wrote in a LinkedIn post that got tens of thousands of interactions - link here: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/alfredoiorio_msdyn365bc-msdyn365-consultinglife-activity-7202275094025371648-ocA3. The first month of your plan to go from senior to elite is to develop your problem-solving skills starting from a framework.


Why elite consultants use problem-solving frameworks

A structured problem-solving framework simplifies the process of identifying, analysing, and addressing issues. It assists the consultant in breaking down complex challenges into manageable steps and provides a template that Elite consultants use for all their projects. Problem-solving frameworks are used in management consulting, but enterprise software consultants must also adopt them as they come with many benefits:


  1. The ability to manage the problem-solving phase as a project in itself with clear deliverables to ensure a better quality of the overall solution.

  2. It helps evaluate efforts and results so you can measure the impact on the project in terms of time and budget.

  3. It provides a repeatable process that can be applied to many projects.


The first month of your five-month plan should be dedicated to developing a problem-solving framework. I use a problem-solving framework I developed over the years based on Design Thinking and Root Cause Analysis.

Top-notch consultant working at his desk

Month 2: Focus on Business Process Reengineering Skills

The second month of our plan is dedicated to business process reengineering. One key difference between seniors and top-notch enterprise software consultants is that the latter are business process experts, while seniors focus more on technology.


What is BPR, and how does it help enterprise software consultants?

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is a systematic, disciplined approach to reducing costs and redundant business processes. It involves analysing existing human and automated workflows to improve an organisation's performance, efficiency, and effectiveness. You can learn more about BPR in this article from IBM: https://www.ibm.com/topics/business-process-reengineering. Elite consultants often spend more time analysing and improving business processes before solutioning an enterprise application project like a Business Central implementation.


Benefits of embedding BPR into an enterprise application implementation

Business process reengineering efforts are often part of an enterprise software project like an ERP implementation. The main benefits of embedding BPR into an ERP or CRM project are:

  1. Prepare the organization for technological change: Enterprise software includes features designed to manage, control and even automate processes based on industry standards; as such, companies that operate with unique processes that don't align with best practices struggle to adopt new technology. Conversely, organizations that adopt BRP practices at the beginning of an ERP implementation can reinvent how they operate to make the most of the new application.

  2. Minimize the need for customisation by leveraging out-of-the-box features: Elite consultants who are experts in BPR and technology can reduce the need for expensive customisation by advising organizations on business process changes that allow them to use out-of-the-box features, which results in lower costs and reduced implementation time.

Business Process improvement

Month 3: Learn Enterprise Software Architecture

Understanding enterprise application architecture is essential for delivering reliable, performing and scalable solutions. The key distinction between senior consultants and top-tier consultants lies in the fact that seniors offer functional design specifics to architects, who are responsible for the technical architecture. In contrast, elite consultants can advise clients and technical architects and foresee design details that will affect functional elements. Ultimately, top-notch consultants have a holistic view of functional and technical architecture.


Month 4: Take your Communication Skills to the Next Level

Effective communication is vital for consultants who must convey complex ideas to clients and colleagues. Consultants at all levels must possess the ability to give presentations and run workshops, which require good communication skills, but elite consultants are experts in debating and persuasive communication, too.


One of the best ways to develop communication skills is to join a public speaking club like Toastmasters International.


Acquire debating skills to facilitate discussions

Debating skills are essential for top-notch consultants because they are often involved in meetings and discussions with the executive team before or during implementation. Debating skills help consultants to facilitate discussions to reach an agreement or get a consensus about an enterprise software implementation strategy. Having debating skills also helps identify fallacies in other people's arguments, which helps remove project obstacles and avoid risks that may arise during the implementation.


Develop persuasive skills to convince clients to adopt your solution

Elite consultants can sell their ideas to clients and colleagues, but you need to develop persuasive skills to join this league. Being persuasive does not mean becoming a salesperson; it means having the ability to convey the benefits of your solution to clients and colleagues so that they are more likely to adopt your ideas.


Femail consultant giving a presentation

Month 5: Seek Mentorship

Seeking and providing mentorship to other consultants is the the last part of this plan. Mentorship works in both ways: learning from a mentor helps you refine your skills and gives you clarity on what to focus for your professional development. Likewise, becoming a mentor is a unique opportunity to grow your coaching and leadership skills which are essential traits of elite consultants.


Optional: Enrol in advanced training courses

Additionally, enrolling in advanced training courses or certifications can further enhance your expertise and credibility in the field. Elite consultants are always learning new skills, and training courses can be a quick way to fill specific knowledge gaps that can make a significant difference when working on a new project. Below is an example of topics you can study using training courses if you are a senior enterprise application consultant.

  1. Accounting: Learn the language of business so that CFOs and finance managers can see you as an advisor, not simply a subject matter expert.

  2. Supply Chain Management: Most ERPs in the market have supply chain features; master the core concepts of supply and demand and inventory management to become an all-round expert

  3. Sales and Marketing: Learn sales and marketing process flows even if you are not a CRM consultant because every business you will help must attract new customers

  4. Operations Management: Elite consultants know how businesses must operate to turn products and services into profits.

  5. Change Management: Every enterprise software project is a change management project. Elite consultants can anticipate change management challenges and advise their clients on change management as opposed to senior consultants who are reactive to change management issues.


Summary

Becoming a top-notch enterprise application consultant is an achievable goal for senior consultants, and it can be accomplished in just five months by following a structured plan. By following this plan, you can transform your career and become a top-tier consultant and a highly sought-after professional capable of delivering innovative solutions in the enterprise application landscape.


Regards

Alfredo.

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