The CRM services market is one of the hottest in the IT industry. Worldwide CRM revenues will
grow from $34.4 billion in 1999 to $125.2 billion in 2004 - double the expected increase in the
overall IT services market. The growth is attributed to the impact of eBusiness. eBusiness
consulting firms find themselves having to produce results for clients within dramatically
shortened timeframes and the pressure's on. CRM consultants are adapting to the eBusiness client
environment faster than ever and it's having a profound impact on the skills they need to be
successful. Adaptability is key as is each consultant's ability to quickly translate new learnings
to the clients' benefit.
eBusiness CRM projects require a range of skilled designers, technologists, strategists, and
consultants with specific industry expertise. To remain competitive, consulting firms are hiring
and developing candidates with broader skill sets to enable smaller teams to complete comprehensive
CRM initiatives. Firms are also streamlining candidate hiring and selection to select not only the
best candidates but also individuals that are most deadline driven and capable of performing under
tight time constraints.
In the race to retain their best people and meet expanding client needs, firms are also investing more in their people after the hire, offering a choice of career paths, each with a built in support and mentoring team. At one major firm, consultants can choose to specialize in one of three areas of expertise: technology, business strategy, or design. Each has its own career track. In addition, the firm helps consultants develop the most sought after technology skills, including SAP, Oracle, Siebel, and others. Another technology firm develops consultants along three different tracks: classic business strategy, marketing and branding, and technical solutions architecture. Investing in consultants' development to meet changing timeframes and client needs to stay competitive is a common denominator among the top firms.
Instead of months, eBusiness project teams have weeks to deliver and consultants are working on more simultaneous projects now than they did just last year. The faster ramp-up time means they have the opportunity to make a greater impact on the project, even as junior team members. The downside is a compressed learning curve on each engagement, more stress and a longer workday. Firms are counseling consultants to pace themselves and often bring in executive coaches to assist in their development of time and team management skills.
The first question consultants bound for the fast track ask is where do I begin to amass the critical skills necessary to compete in this climate? First, develop a broad-based skill set - if you're not a technical CRM guru at least understand the relevant technologies and how they tie into a comprehensive CRM marketing solution. If you are a "techie," spend some time gaining a complete understanding of the marketing side and focus on developing those critical interpersonal and team leadership skills that will enable you to communicate effectively and translate critical data into marketing initiatives that produce quantifiable results.
Have a keen sense of your career path - once you're on project teams your path may be pre-determined by client needs, and the tendency to get caught up is intense - especially for firms with few eBusiness consultants. Consciously choose your path. If you've worked on the consulting side, consider transitioning to the client side. If you've been in the client world a while, an agency or consulting opportunity may round out your experience base. Common interviewing and recruiting practices in many consulting firms involve case studies, group presentations, and skills testing. Develop your presentation and client management skills and be ready to provide client references and in-depth summaries of your B2B and B2C projects with results and timeframes. Visit http://www.WetFeet.com for a clear understanding of the firm you're interviewing with, its culture, key staff members, annual revenue, office locations and what they look for in new hires. Review projects you've worked on and write in-depth case studies and analysis. You may get hired based on your understanding of your client's business and strategic insights although they have no relation to a client need. Finally, get ready to meet your peers, given the focus on team-based projects, most firms hire by committee, so a typical candidate is interviewed by 4-5 people involved in the project and decisions are made by committee. In this scenario each interviewer takes a different approach. Candidate responses are carefully weighed against several criteria, including adaptability, cultural fit, team, leadership, client management and business development skills, and the ability to quickly assess and deliver on client needs in a shortened eBusiness timeframe.
Although consultants typically have a wealth of company research and resources to draw on for industry expertise, keeping abreast of the overwhelming amounts of information they receive on a daily and weekly basis is an ongoing task. Despite the frenetic pace and constantly changing requirements, they're driven by the challenge. If you're inspired by the ability to dramatically contribute to the changing face of an organization and compensation that rewards speed and contributions of individual team members, the pay is better than ever. There's a huge opportunity here, if you're fast enough to grab it.
Karen Voghel, Managing Partner of the Peppers and Rogers Group, started the firm's recruiting division, 1to1Executive Search, http://www.1to1Search.com. The firm specializes in recruiting Customer Relationship management, marketing and sales professionals nationwide and is based in Stamford, CT.
This was first published in September 2000