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How to become an ITIL consultant

Being a consultant sounds quite fancy, doesn’t it? I have to admit, it does, but on the other side – I have to tell you that real life looks much different. ITIL covers a wide area in the life of an IT service, and so do the consultant’s activities.

A career change is mostly positive (although people tend to reject changes), but becoming an ITIL consultant puts many challenges in front of you. Let’s see what they are.

What do the consultants do?

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It’s hard to be precise – every customer is different, and every implementation has its own issues and needs. But, think about it – if someone needs a consultant, it’s because they are stuck somewhere in their implementation and someone more experienced is needed. So, basically, as a consultant you should be a “safe harbor” for your customer, which they will turn to once they need knowledge and experience.

Besides your customer needing your expertise, they need you to do the job they can’t do, because they don’t have enough resources or because of some other reason.

ITIL consultant – What do you need?

Usually, during breaks at the trainings I do, attendees have many questions regarding careers in ITSM (IT Service Management). I have to admit, quite often wishes are greater than possibilities. We argue about prerequisites, customers (their needs, motivations, and specifics), market, competition, prices, prosperity in an ITSM career… Basically, these are all questions an ITIL consultant copes with. So will you, if you are considering this career step.

Many ITIL consultants I’ve met have the following characteristics:

  • Education – There is no formal education required to be consultant (ITIL or any other). But, ITIL provides an excellent education path (see the article ITIL Certification Path – list of all available ITIL trainings, exams and certificates to find out more). If you want to show your competence, the ITIL Expert certificate is your target. Namely, the Foundation level is quite common in the ITSM world, but that’s a level that won’t give you the ability to boast about your competence and knowledge, and most probably, many employees of your client will have that certificate.
  • Experience – Your clients will not hire you for more basic things. What they do is support business with IT services. So, this implies that you need to have experience in ITSM as well as in business, and that you are able to connect these two worlds (that will be the majority of your engagements, actually).
  • Subject matter knowledge – Now, put the previous two bullets together and you get – expertise. Meaning, you are well educated (theory) and you have vast experience in application of that knowledge in the real world (praxis). That’s what makes you – an expert. That’s what clients like when they hire a consultant.

Beyond tangible

Being an expert in ITIL and having vast experience is an excellent starting point for a consultancy business. But, here is the bad news – it’s not enough. There are many other characteristics an ITIL consultant (but that could be applied to consultancy in general) needs to possess. Here are the most important ones:

  • Project Management skills – Quite often your job, as a consultant, is implementation. That’s where project management steps in, and the client takes project management skills as a default capability of an ITSM or ITIL consultant.
  • Communication skills – In addition to needing to explain complex issues in an easy-to-understand way, you will also need to communicate with various kinds of people in the client’s organization (from top management down to network admins), and you need to be an excellent listener.
  • Analytical/Problem solver – Analytics is something consultants do on a daily basis. It requires a specific approach to the problems that need to be resolved, along with patience and experience.
  • Documentation – You will need ITIL processes/functions documentation for the implementation, in order to speed up your work and avoid “reinventing the wheel” for every new customer. Also, you will need templates for offers, project proposals, project plans, management presentations, etc.
  • Tools – You will need some tool to record all your customer details (e.g., CRM) as well as the status of your relationship with them, contacts, projects you do for them, etc. Using a GAP analysis tool before proposing a to-do list is also a good idea.

This list could go on, but what’s important is that you optimize your activities and don’t recreate from scratch documents and information that can be reused for other clients. Of course, any documentation you use will need to be adapted to the client’s organization.

What now?

As with everything in life, consultancy gives you great opportunities (and happy moments, I would say), but it puts a lot of responsibility and risks on your shoulders. Sometimes it’s not easy to live with that, but that depends a lot on your personality and (“soft”) skills. What I have experienced is that many people try consultancy and quit after a few months. But, I also have my own experience, which says that consultancy gives you the opportunity to live from your knowledge and experience, as well as to increase your expertise, due to the fact that you work with many different customers and you are facing many new challenges.

Based on that, you have a great chance to extend your knowledge, apply it where it’s appreciated (i.e., at your clients), and enjoy looking at a satisfied client’s face once you help them resolve their problems and achieve their results. The reward? A paid bill (not a small one, usually) and your own satisfaction. What more could you wish for?

Use this free  List of questions to ask an ITIL consultant to see how your customers will assess you as a consultant.

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