2015. 10. 12.

New to the game of consultancy? How we prepare our newcomers

4 years ago, I started working for Delaware Consulting. I vividly remember the feeling after my 3-week SAP training marathon. Still not exactly knowing how the hell I was going to use all that knowledge when driving up my first customer parking lot. The cramped feeling got me when I received a phone call hearing that my first project would start soon. How is a project organized at Delaware Consulting? What phases and accompanying stress levels will I go through? How will I be able to contribute to the project and what do I say when getting in contact with an unknown, seemingly too much demanding customer?

The Branded Coffee Company challenge

It was this feeling that encouraged us to find a way to make our SAP starters acquainted with the way a project works. To give them as much experience as possible in a short time. We found out that there is only one way: let them do a project on their own during the training. In the last week of the starters’ training, the newcomers were challenged to give a presales demo for the executive management of our customer The Branded Coffee Company. In achieving this, they were steered by a project manager, coached by experienced Delaware Consulting colleagues and challenged by colleagues with a high empathy for key users and their daily worries. At the end of this 4-day challenge, the starters were expected to show how Delaware Consulting would organize the project from a functional, project management and change management perspective.

The project

The presales project started with a general kick-off meeting, presenting the customer and his requirements. In specific, the customer expected evidence that their most important end-to-end flows, being forecast-to-stock and order-to-cash, would work in SAP.

 

DAY 1: Business blueprint

To achieve this goal, all starters were divided into 2 project teams containing all functional expertise required to build these scenarios in SAP. Understanding the business flows was achieved during an entire day of intensive blueprint sessions with the key users. The challenge of understanding the customers’ jargon and translating this into a fit-gap document containing the system design and visualized process flows was not only stressful, it was also the proof of understanding both business and IT flows.

DAY 2: System set-up

After validating these blueprints, it was time to roll up the sleeves and dig into the system. During the setup process, which lasted one and a half day, the starters were coached by not only 2 senior colleagues, they also made use of our extensive knowledge libraries. However, the main thing they learned was that how difficult the issue seemed, they could always fall back on the aid of all their colleagues.

DAY 3: Integration testing


A high stress level was reached when the 2 key users entered the room to test the 2 flows. In this phase, not only the system set-up was tested. The key users seemed to have more worries than memorizing all transaction codes. Misunderstandings, frustrations, lack of knowledge and lack of time were simulated, which obligated the teams to balance between empathy vs. focus on testing the system, hearing the frustration vs. coaching the user in the change and blueprint vs. concessions. The afternoon turned out to be the most challenging in the project. We noticed that setting up a system is one thing, letting a key user understand the change caused by it and guiding him through that change is another. During this afternoon, both teams were coached by our experts, introducing some concepts of change management and sensitive consulting.

DAY 4: The demo


On the final day, the presentations and demos were prepared under the supervision of a specialist in presentations and change management. After a refreshing lunch, it was time to eat the pudding. The 2 teams did not only prove their acquired technical knowledge, they also explained how they managed the project and how they coped with all the challenges.

Our main goal was to give all SAP starters a glimpse of what their day-to-day job will look like. How they will fit in in a project team and to see the bigger picture when digging into a detailed task. It also gives the technical training sessions some business context and above all, our newcomers learned to work with other functional consultants in an entrepreneurial, committed team, with care and respect. The starters’ training is now ended and the starters are ready for their second (real) project!

How do you prepare your new colleagues for their first project? Let us know via our social media channels!

 

Authors:
Simon Nuttin. You can follow Simon on Twitter (@NuttinSimon) or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Alexander Naessens. You can follow Alexander on Twitter (@a_naessens) or connect with him on LinkedIn