The people that we use to help us understand these problems we call Consultants, the type of work is called business analysis (which is why sometimes our Consultants are called Business Analysts). The job titles don't really matter, but the activities and functions performed by these people very much do matter.
So here is our guide to the five traits you should look out for in a good SharePoint consultant (or Business Analyst). We are proud to say that our Consultants helped to define this list, and exhibit these traits and more.
1. They are never afraid to ask a question
A Consultant often goes into a company or situation that they initially know nothing about. The job is to find out exactly what is going on - to understand the company, to understand what the client wants.
So a good Consultant will ask lots of questions - they should ask why, then why again, then ask why, and keep asking why. Their job is to probe and ask the "obvious questions" (there is no such thing really). A good Consultant will happily say "Sorry what does that acronym mean?" or "Can you explain that again?".
2. They use the 3 magic SharePoint terms
Most people a Consultant speaks to during workshops (general business users, management, marketing, even some IT staff) don't really care about SharePoint. Even those that do, won't really understand it. It's a tricky product to just "get" without some training. That is after all why Consultants exist, to talk about SharePoint on behalf of everyone else.
A good SharePoint Consultant will generally talk in terms of three key concepts - Sites, Lists, and Webparts – the "building blocks" of SharePoint if you will. By sticking broadly to these 3 concepts a Consultant can describe SharePoint and how it functions, without getting lost in a myriad of detail, and losing the audience they are addressing.
3. They ask about the plan for after "Go Live"
Many SharePoint projects end after the system has launched. Many of these projects fail. The two things are related. A good Consultant will think of "go live" as only half way through a project plan.
A good Consultant should be asking the client what happens after launch. How are users being trained? How is engagement going to be encouraged, and then measured? What activities are planned to keep the system interesting?
A good SharePoint Consultant doesn't stop when a system launches, they see that as only the beginning.
4. They have a good knowledge of 3rd party tools
A good Consultant is always trying to solve problems. Once they understand a requirement they will be thinking how best to achieve the desired results.
Often a good SharePoint Consultant will work with a SharePoint developer or architect to come up with a solution. However a good Consultant can get ahead of the game by having a knowledge of third party web parts and tools.
There are tools and add-ons that have already been developed by others, to solve specific problems. There is little point reinventing the wheel (unless specific requirements dictate to do so) and assuming proper planning and investigation third party tools can quickly help get to the desired solution.
5. They demo SharePoint as much as they can
In a workshop or requirements session if the Consultant talks about a particular SharePoint feature, mentions a site template, or discusses a way in which SharePoint works – then they should demo it live to the customer there and then. A good Consultant will take every opportunity to show SharePoint to the client. This will set the clients expectations as early as possible.
To learn more take a look at our engagement and process methodology for SharePoint.