Top 5 qualities of a great Microsoft Dynamics consultant

image My last two posts have been a detour from my regular themes, into something that might remind you of human resources. I’ve explained what Microsoft Dynamics consultant does, and how it looks through phases of Sure Step implementation, and I promised to conclude this journey with explaining what I believe to be the 5 most important qualities every great Microsoft Dynamics application consultant must posses. So, here you go.

To be a great Microsoft Dynamics NAV consultant, you must exhibit the following skills:

  1. Industry expertise
  2. Application knowledge
  3. Creativity
  4. Patience
  5. Communication

These are not all the skills, but these are most important. And the order is not arbitrary, I sorted them by importance I give to each one of them.

Let me explain them all, one by one.

Industry expertise

You can’t be a good consultant without being the expert in the industry for which you are consulting. The higher your level of expertise is, the better. Preferably, it should be higher or equal to that of your customer’s. Otherwise, how can you truly help?

If there was one thing that you must provide your customer from the very beginning, it’s the trust. Your customer must trust you, otherwise there is only a short path ahead of you. There is no better way to gain trust, than giving your customer reassurance and confidence that you’ll really understand their problems, and their business.

Your customer isn’t hiring you to install and configure a software for them. Not only for that. You need to solve their business problem, and to be able to do so, you must be able to fully comprehend the extent and the depth of the problem.

If you are an industry expert, you can give valuable insight to your customer, especially if your level of expertise is higher than theirs. You can then help them solve the problem in a better way, or give them a better perspective. Your expertise and experience will give your customer reassurance in your judgment; you know exactly why certain approaches work, and why they don’t work, and can always help your customers understand them better

Of course you can implement NAV without knowing the industry, but then it’ll take longer, it will bring more risks because uncertainty is all over the place.

There are various ways to gain the industry expertise: by working in the industry, and by working for customers in the industry. The best consultants I’ve seen have had extensive hands-on industry expertise gained through jobs they worked in the industry: the best accounting consultant I met was an accountant; the best warehouse management consultant I met worked as a warehouse foreman before he became an NAV consultant.

You can gain this experience through projects, as well, but don’t assume you are an industry expert just because you have worked on one project. On one project you never see it all. Only after two or three projects you start getting the feel for the industry.

Application knowledge

This one is so obvious that I won’t spend too many words explaining it.

You must know the application inside-out. Consider it for a second. It’s not about being able to configure the application, but to be able to suggest the right solution approaches. You must know what Microsoft Dynamics NAV can do, and what it can’t do, what it is good at, and where the threats lurk. You must know what impact your solution will have on other parts of the system.

Without application knowledge, you may seem incompetent, and this incompetence will stand out when it comes to solution design, configuration, training, everything. And there is no better way to losing your customer’s trust, than exhibiting incompetence.

Thankfully, of all these five, application knowledge is the easiest to gain. You only need to sit down, and learn the application. There are hundreds of pages of documentation, extensive on-line help file, and numerous trainings available. Don’t miss on this one.

Creativity

There are no my-way-or-the-highway approaches in implementing Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Being an industry expert, and knowing the application to the soul, still doesn’t mean you are the best consultant out there. You need creativity.

You need creativity to find workarounds when out of the box features don’t seem to work or solve a problem.

You need creativity to combine several seemingly unrelated features to achieve a goal, which seemed unattainable.

You need creativity to think outside the box, and find solutions outside the boundaries of the application or system itself.

Without creativity, why should anyone hire you?

Patience

As a consultant you are spending time with all sorts of people. You’ll meet people you like, and people you dislike, compatible and incompatible. It’s not about those who you like, and who you find compatible—these are no problem. It’s the other ones you must be able to cope with.

You’ll meet difficult people. You’ll meet people whose characters will annoy you, or irritate you, or whose general attitude is outright repulsive to you.

You’ll meet people who’ll be slow thinkers, you’ll need to work with them over and over before you start speaking the same language. You’ll meet users who just won’t get this new application. You’ll meet those who simply won’t want to.

You need to be able to work with them all.

Full time. Day over day. Week over week. For a month. Or a year.

And you must be able to gain and maintain their trust throughout.

Without patience, you are not going to go very far.

Communication

Finally, communication. Communication is your full time job. Whether you talk to your customer, write e-mails, or requirements or specifications, you communicate. In written form, or verbally, formally or informally, you communicate all the time.

You must be master of conveying your thoughts.

But you must be a master of understanding other people as well. And it’s not about what they say, it’s about what they don’t. You must be able to catch their body language. You must be able to get what they mean even when it is difficult for them to express themselves.

Questioning is an important aspect of communication. Getting to the core of the problem can be difficult, and you must use the power of the questions to get to the point, and stay at the point, especially when you are gathering and analyzing requirements.

You must also be able to convince your customers that the solution you believe is right is truly right. You don’t do it by arguing, or emphasizing, or stressing, or trying to convincing them. And you definitely don’t do it by being right. You do it by making your customer come up with your ideas as if they were their own. Again, questions are impressively good at achieving this.

Your communication style should be adaptable as well. You’ll work with top management, executives, accountants, salespeople, forwarding agents, forklift drivers and machine operators. And you must be able to speak their language and adapt to them, connect to them. With white-collar and blue-collar alike, you simply must not be too smart, and definitely not too stupid, you must be just right. And you must be able to know what just right really is, because there is nobody there to tell you, other than yourself.

There you go.

Now that I’ve described an Übermensch, do I know anyone who is exactly this? No, not really.

But you don’t have to be a total ninja at all of these, you need to have a fair balance, and more than everything to know your strengths and weaknesses, so you can focus on emphasizing the former, and mitigating the latter. In the end, it’s all about improvement, you must improve on all of these with time. With every project, and every customer.

I’d like to hear your opinion on these. And more than anything, I’d like to know your top 5, or top 10, or top 3 qualities of a great Microsoft Dynamics consultant.

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8 Responses to “Top 5 qualities of a great Microsoft Dynamics consultant”

  1. Christina Belding Says:

    Brilliant-simply brilliant, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    This is not only applicable for a Dynamics NAV Consultant, but for any world-class Consultant in any industry or application.

    You have articulately stated what so many people strive for, yet rarely accomplish….so the only thing I would add to this would be ‘the perseverance to never stop trying to be better’.

  2. Vjeko Says:

    Christina: thanks for comments. I totally agree with you that this is true about any consultant in any industry, as long as there is an application which is implemented – without the “Application knowledge” is unnecessary. But majority of these are really applicable to consulting in general.
    And thanks for adding “perseverance to never stop trying to be better” – that’s another must-have quality.

  3. David Roys Says:

    Hi Vjeko, it’s been a while since I commented on any of your blogs but I really enjoyed this one. It’s funny because I’ve started to read it a couple of times from my RSS feeds and it’s only after seing the comment from Christina that I thought I should really finish reading it through.

    I think you have pretty much nailed the requirements for a great NAV consultant — and I agree with Christina’s ‘Continuous improvement’ — sounds a bit like Stephen Covey – maybe you need another habit and you could write a book 😉 But seriously, if I had to throw one in there, it would be honesty. You talk about being an expert, but you must _really_ be an expert and not make stuff up. If you don’t know the answer to something the best thing you can do is say you don’t know. Your customers need to be able to trust you — just make sure that your skills are high enough that you don’t spend the whole day saying ‘I don’t know but I can find out.’

  4. Vjeko Says:

    Hi Dave, nice to see you back. You’ve been away for such a long time, that you must have been doing something big 😉 And about the book, a nice idea, I’ll give it a think 😉
    And a great poing you have made with honesty, and being able to say “I don’t know.” Especially when it comes to the domain of trust between you and your customer. Telling your customer you don’t know will build trust (provided you exhibit expertise and application knowledge); it might ruin it if it is the only thing you ever say, though 🙂 But it has so much more power than making up an answer or even worse, avoiding it! Who knows, maybe I write a post about this once.

  5. I don’t know « Navigate into success - Microsoft Dynamics NAV Says:

    […] Navigate into success – Microsoft Dynamics NAV All you wanted to know about Microsoft Dynamics NAV « Top 5 qualities of a great Microsoft Dynamics consultant […]

  6. I don’t know - Navigate Into Success Says:

    […] to Dave, who made an important point in his comment to my last post; that comment actually made me write this […]

  7. Erik Ernst Says:

    Hi Vjeko,
    Great blog its actually the first time I read it, thanks to my friend David R. And an even better topic! Working as an end-user, then it really anoyes when I sometimes comes across someone who calls himself a NAV consultant, but he doesn’t even know what debit and credit is! People who think that they can learn it all by taking a master in computer science and just learning the product. The best NAV consultants I have met usually have a background as auditors, controllers or manufacturing/supply chain engineers. Learn your industry, and then learn NAV.

  8. Vjeko Says:

    Hi Eric, nice to see you here. Thanks for your comments, I am glad to find experienced NAV consultants agree with my points of view. I believe you already were here, and you commented on the automated version management utility I posted here a while ago. But nevertheless, welcome again, and I hope you find this blog useful and interesting enough to come from time to time. All the best, Vjeko

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