Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lexicon of Functional Consultant – Few ‘Must-haves’

I feel really uncomfortable when people discuss morbid subjects like ‘Functional’ versus ‘Technical’ consultants.
To my mind, this comparison is not only futile but very non-professional in its nature. Both streams have their own significance and stature in business. They are equally valuable to the revenue generation, smooth working and competitiveness of an organization.
Placing one side above other, depicts lack of respect for skills, inferior understanding for modus operandi of functions and secondary management acumen.
Genius is genius, no matter where he is put!!
Functional consultant should always keep in mind the invaluable & timely support rendered by his technical counterpart. Without having strong backend support, the efforts he puts at client place would never yield good results. Tweaking around the application to rip maximum (sometimes virtually un-gettable) benefits is only possible if your endeavors are coupled with that of sound technical consultant.
So instead of engaging into disheartening pseudo-debates, one should try to synergize the technical and functional knowledgebase to enhance the deliverables of the project.
Unfortunately, in contemporary time the word “Functional Consultant” has become the most misused and misunderstood phrase in Oracle fraternity. In the spree of jumping the ‘Consulting Bandwagon’, many aspirants tend to turn blind eye towards the fundamentals of ‘Functional Consulting’.
According to me, a true Functional Consultant is a just perfect mixture of application knowledge, domain expertise and project management skills. Not a percentage high or a percentage low!!
Few primitive qualities and traits any FC should demonstrate are –
(1) Thorough Knowledge of Core Modules -
What is life of FC without knowing the nitty-gritty of his own modules? Though it’s humanly impossible to master the entire spectrum of application, true FC always dives deep into functionalities of his core modules.
(2) Approach of ‘Integration’ –
Having talked about ‘mastery’ in a module, FC should never ever ignore the system integration aspect of implementation. Interdependencies and cross-relationships of forms, events & procedures should have been analyzed upfront by consultant to assess any impact on working of other modules. To be confined by boundaries may be good from ‘division’ & ‘clarity of responsibilities’ point of view, but very detrimental to the synthesis of efforts to deliver tightly integrated application.
(3)Holistic Business process Analysis –
Systems are implemented to aid business cycles. The first-hand understanding of activities, acute & precise study of processes and studying the functioning of different stakeholders of chain with minute details are must for process analysis. The real functional consultant should leverage his past experience to co-relate the collected data with best business practices followed elsewhere.
(4) Thinking of scenarios –
Even the simplest business process in industrial world, can unfold into diverse scenarios. Functional consultant should always enlist all possible scenarios for a given process and try to encompass them in his solution mapping.
(5) Thinking from user perspective –
Putting oneself into end user’s shoes is one of the most significant qualities any FC has to carry on his stride. User is the one who will be carrying all transactions in system after Go-live. One has to bring the operations angle in system design & solution mapping. Recently I heard one of my colleague suggesting a solution of creating separate organizations for each item…(LoL) :-) :-) Imagine kind of woe user would share if he has to maintain thousands of organizations and switch between them for practically every transaction!!! Not a good consulting, for sure.
(6) Picking the process flaws –
Even though not all assignments mandate the BPR at client place, while studying client As-Is, consultant should be able to identify the deficiencies in existing practices. This would help him in rationalizing solution design and extended clarity of business threadbare.
(7) Communication –
Perhaps the most vital & influential attribute in the consulting arena. Communication involves professional meetings with client, presentations, discussions, informal talks and many other ways by which one stays in touch with client and project team. To become a successful functional consultant, one has to be crisp and clear in his communication. All modes of communicating like verbal, non-verbal & written have to be as effective as possible. FC has to be a patient listener but he should have a knack of directing the conversation to the desired result.
(8) Lateral Thinking –
May look out of context, but functional consultant is often required to think unconventionally to come up with amicable solution on given process scenario(s). Person with fixed mind-set, too much tied up with his past experiences and conditioned to a particular set of thinking will seldom make a good consultant.
(9) Ability to present multitude of solutions –
There could be more than one way of doing things in Oracle Applications. Consultant should be able to figure them out earnestly and present different solutions to user to choose from. Experimenting with different methods to achieve the same end result should be done for all critical scenarios quite wisely by FC.
(10) Keeping cool –
Finally, during implementation not all times are as pleasant as you think. There would be instigating moments where one can lose temper. Situations become alarming. Panic sets in. People around you may behave very weirdly (and mostly very foolishly :-) …even seniors buckle under pressure!!!). A true functional consultant acquires the art of keeping mind unruffled. He exhibits remarkable temperament and behaves composedly. He knows the fact that people look at him as the ambassador of his employer and his behavior is going to send subtle messages about the culture & values of his organization. Moreover, he takes it as a test of his vast experience, personal learnings from previous assignments and overall maturity he attained while working in consulting world. Bottomline is staying calm and focused (on our own....) in critical situations.

Being a functional consultant may look very easy at outset. But proving to be a Good Functional Consultant over the time (who leaves lasting impressions for his quality work) requires hardwork, patience, persistence, intelligence and some bits of fortune :-) :-) :-)