Sunday, October 14, 2012

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I recently had some time to sit down and read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinmeier Hansson ( I have been a fan of the guys over at 37signals for a long time. It wasn't until recently that I finally got to use one of their products on a daily basis (Basecamp) but I have been an avid reader of their blog for quite some time.

Rather than do a full in depth review of Rework I'd like to outline some of the key takeaway from the book and how they relate to the day to day dealings of IT consultants. Rework is really about the things to think about when founding a startup, which at first may seem largely unrelated to the practice of IT consulting. Upon further review there are some parallels outlined in Rework that can be used to enhance your consulting skills. The tenets outlines in Rework can be applied to a most businesses, be it your own one man (or boutique) consulting practice, or your team on a Fortune 500 client.

1. Planning is guessing

Often (especially IT projects) you will be asked to estimate the duration of the project or to create a plan for an implementation. Rework emphasizes that plans are guesses and we often fall into a trap of letting out plans drive our future. Agile processes were designed to remedy some of this but more often than not the business will disregard your low level plans and force them to fit some larger financial goal or time frame. 

Rework proposes that we always leave ourselves open for improvisation. Maybe you only planned on taking in one new client this quarter but I great opportunity came along. If you "stick to the plan" maybe you miss that great opportunity. Maybe your client sees a great new opportunity and wants to remove or add a feature  to your current project. This was not in the plan but it happens ALL the time. Be ready for it and stay flexible  (so long as the client understands the repercussions, financial and otherwise, of the change). 

2.  Make a difference

So often in the consulting profession companies are more worried about how many bodies they can get on a project or how quickly they can complete a project. These companies may get work (at lower bill rates) but in the end if you keep the right attitude and are truly looking to make a difference in the things you do every day your clients will appreciate that and you will no longer have to justify your bill rates. 

Secondly, make sure your company aligns with your moral values. If you are part of a much larger organization that is really only interested in staffing bodies then it is unlikely that you will be able to change the company culture. You will be happier if your personal views and goals align with your company.

3. Start today. 

I have been a consultant for a grand total of 8 months. Why should I wait until I have 10 years of experience to start a blog about becoming an awesome IT consultant? Why wait until you have already made it professionally to start marketing your brand? If you have goals start today. It could take years to refine and execute your ideas to the levels that you desire. Start chipping away at those goals right now. When you start a exercising after an extended period of being sedentary it could take weeks for exercising to become a habit.  I am a firm believer that success is a habit formed over a long period of diligence. 

4. Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service

You will notice a theme in a lot of my post concerning consulting as a profession. Your personal attitude and mindset that you bring to the client is just as important as your technical skills. There are tons of software consultants and IT consultants out there so find out what really defines you as a person and stick to those ideals. 

These are just a few of the great ideas in Rework that can be directly applied to consulting. The book is a short read and is very enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who is part of a startup, looking to join a startup, or just looking at a different perspective on running a business. Whether or not your agree with the guys over at 37signals they have managed to stick to what they believe in and have been very successful doing it. That is an admirable achievement and getting a look at things from their perspective is worth your time. 
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