In the context of this blog, the 40 hours per week neither stand for the minimum hours of sleep required for the well-being of an individual nor do they reflect the time required for maintaining a good personal life. In client-end consulting, 40 hours stand for the number of hours the consultants are billed on a weekly basis.
Arguably, one of the most debated topic among consulting community is the vast difference in the hourly-billed rates the organizations charge their clients vis-à-vis the actual rate they pay their consultants. Though the current blog has little to offer in this subject, before building an educated opinion, I feel, due regard has to be given to below things:
The consulting organization spends a great-deal of its money and effort in terms of investing in sales teams, convincing clients through their brand promise, building consistent track-record etc. which, together, go a long way in bagging multi-million dollar consulting projects. This painstaking process brings many challenging-yet-lucrative assignments to consultants in a manner similar to things being readily served on a platter.
Also, consultants, by choosing to work for a firm will have the advantage/option of focusing on their core skill and leaving the rest (like chasing new accounts, managing client relationships, answering to proposals etc.) to other appointed wings of organization.
So, keeping the above points in contention, how much share of the actual profit the firm deserves is a thing I leave it to individual judgment.
Going back to the original topic i.e. billed hours, irrespective of whoever gets the bulk of it (consultant or firm), clients across industries pay a fortune for deliveries requiring high-end ERP consulting services. Obviously, at the ground level of execution, it is the consultants who are instrumental in ably catering to various support/implementation/other-unique requirements.
So, beyond any doubt, clients often try to measure value of their investments in the work delivered to them through consultants. This leaves us, consultants, with one question to grapple with:
Are we, consultants, worth the hundreds of dollars (by large) we are billed per hour?
Since there is no universally-encompassing reply to the question above and this also not being the sole aim of this blog, let us dwell on the approach we can practice in justifying our billing rates to a realistic extent. This can be elucidated through below points worth pondering:
Raise your Bar
It is better not to see our worth solely through the salary we are getting paid. Rather, we should focus on the quality of work we are able to deliver with a consistency good-enough to make the firm always count on our skills.
A tennis-sensation may get rewarded a Million dollars for winning a Grand-slam. A Soccer Star may get even more for representing a popular club for a mere 2 games on a weekend. We may not even be able to comprehend the astronomical sums Hollywood stars are paid for acting in Billion-dollar movie franchises.
But, one common thread that links all of them is, they may have got their reputation for not being paid heavy, but, surely by standing for delivering highest-level-of-quality in their chosen profession.
In essence, irrespective of our line of work, it is the quality and consistency of our deliverables which decide or rather accurately reflect our true-worth.
‘Professionals’ not ‘Amateurs’
In pure relevance to ERP consulting, high-billing rates are paid by the client with an expectation of professional consulting services in-return. Effectively, an 8-hour work day should deliver a service equivalent of what we can expect from a consultant who is an expert in his module and having in-depth domain knowledge.
So, whatever time a consultant spends in upgrading his knowledge or doing a trial and error to arrive at the optimum solution should ideally be counted outside his paid hours. After all, the implicit promise has always been to get professional service at its knowledge-best. Isn’t this so?
Also, apart from domain/technology/module skills, a consultant should practice some basic-yet-profoundly vital skills which stand him as a professional in its complete sense. Some of them I could think of are:
Plan your work day (along with its details)
With full respect to the huge investment and trust clients impart on consultants, we should be very diligent in planning our work to a level of detail which ensures the best returns to businesses reflecting in the quality of our deliverables. Nevertheless, to successfully handle complex, knowledge-intensive ERP assignments, our execution should also be as good as the plan we have laid out. So, the key lies in having a positive and disciplined approach to our work-day.
The message here is not to stretch as if there is no end. Honestly, most of the assignments, when approached with a purely professional mind-set, don’t really require long, unending working hours. All they demand are completely engaged and consistently dedicated 40-hour weeks.
Billed Hours belong to Client
As we all want our clients and employers to understand our personal commitments and the time we all surely deserve outside our work-life, we should equally be appreciative of the importance of giving our clients undiluted work hours with little or no distractions whatsoever. The rule here is to fill our work day with only those activities which add value to our client.
Professionals don’t need External Supervision
As renowned business author Subroto Bagchi in his highly regarded work ‘Professional’ explains, ‘Professionals’ by their definition don’t need their work to be certified/reviewed by an external party. We should make this a norm in ERP consulting by giving our best in every assignment we pursue.
We are what we Practice
Finally, coming back to our basic premise of pay differential (I.e. Actual Pay vs. Billed Rate), over time, the reality is, best consultants, who are thoroughly professional in their approach and having commendable knowledge in their chosen module/domain, always enjoy the least pay differential.
To summarize, it is up-to us, as Individuals aka Consultants, in adopting the right work-approach befitting the compensation we are getting paid or aspiring to realize. (Author included)