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About ERP Systems

What Makes a Good Consultant

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

By Jerry Tiarsmith VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting, describes consultant as “a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organization but has no direct power to make changes or implement programs.” I am relatively new to the world of consulting. I have over four decades of varied experience in a number of organizational settings and cannot recall one time when I actually used a consultant. However, in certain situations, due to my position within an organization, I acted as an internal consultant on matters related to the support of strategy and operations to the organizational management team. Too many clients and prospects with whom I interact often express negative sentiments about consultants. Even my mentor, with over thirty years in his field, describes his role as a Business Capabilities Architect, preferring that distinction to one of mere consultant.

At a recent breakfast meeting with my mentor, I began asking a series of questions to which he responded, “Excellent question! Now go write a blogpost.” So here I am.  Many blogs offer advice on methodologies, the importance of adopting new technologies or modernizing plant equipment. All of these represent a valuable exchange of ideas and foster significant discussion. I am writing to invite discussion but I offer no new insight or solutions to difficult themes. Simply put, I ask the question, “What makes a good consultant?” I would like to hear from experienced consultants but only those who operate in a similar space of working with closely held, small- to mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies. By that, I mean companies with $35 - $500M in annual revenues. Business owners in that space can provide a unique (and much valued) perspective on what they think make a good consultant. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the Vice President of Operations of a small veteran owned and veteran staffed firm in the Greater Atlanta area. Our consultants hold APICS certifications in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). The logic systems of ERP System platforms incorporate the APICS Body of Knowledge (BOK). With extensive understanding of that particular BOK, we help optimize client’s business management systems. It is a competitive, cluttered, and confusing space full of bogus claims and a trail of broken promises. We get it. Our prospects have spent countless dollars and hours in attempts to seek a competitive advantage by installing ERP Systems, the vast majority with little success. Of course, they remain skeptical and wary of consultants.

We remain very aware that these problems described above often prove self-inflicted. Clients focus too much on cost verses capabilities (and specific needs). They lack a strategic focus to their business and decision-making processes, and, all too often, they allocate inadequate resources to ensure the successful implementation of their business management systems. We certainly can help resolve those situations and, if not prevent such developments at least reduce the negative impact on the company. 

So, what makes a good consultant? Please respond to me at either my LinkedIn page (linkedin.com/in/jerrytiarsmith) or e-mail: jerry.tiarsmith@manufacturingpractices.com.