Keeping Pace in CRM and e-Business Consulting

The CRM services markets 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 e-business.

E-business 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 e-business client environment more quickly 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 learning to the clients benefit.

E-business-related 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 those 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 with its own career track. In addition, the firm helps consultants develop the most sought after technology skills, including SAP, Oracle and Siebel development, among 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, e-business 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.

Although consultants typically have a wealth of company research and resources to draw on for industry expertise, keeping abreast of the overwhelming amount of information they receive on a regular basis is an ongoing task. If you're inspired by the ability to dramatically affect 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.

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