As a consultant, I’ve learned that consulting requires forming a customer relationship built upon trust. The client and the consultant usually establish trust through shared experiences. The most common shared experience is working through contract delivery. However, only focusing on contract delivery may cause the clients or clients to miss additional opportunities.

I’ve laid out some low-cost or free opportunities for building trust below. These are not just for one party or the other to initiate! If you are the client, I encourage you to engage your consultants to find mutual interests. Likewise, if you’re the consultant, look for ways to add value for your customer by sharing your expertise.

  1. Industry conferences: Nearly all industries have conferences attended by decision-makers. These are great opportunities to give a joint talk about emerging technology that improves or disrupts the core business. A medical conference might provide a platform to discuss cybersecurity challenges such as ransomware and how a client and consultant worked together to mitigate this threat. The same talk might be subsequently given in the tech industry at a conference like AnsibleFest or Red Hat Summit. Consultants have an opportunity to improve their brand recognition in the industry, whereas clients have an opportunity to establish or increase their status as a technical leader in the field. Each gains greater exposure in fields ancillary to its core competencies.

  2. Certifications: Many industries require professionals in their field to become certified in either IT-specific certifications or industry-specific certifications. Although it may not be required for a specific contract, a developer who holds security certification such as CISSP may have a deeper understanding of technical and regulatory requirements, therefore providing better value for the client. This can increase change velocity by allowing the developer to anticipate challenges rather than react to them. Additionally, some clients require specific certifications to work on production systems. A consultant with those required certifications could potentially engage and deliver on a contract faster.

  3. Client workshops and classes: Longer-term engagements (especially multi-year engagements) may allow opportunities to engage in workshops or classes during the contract. Workshops and classes can be the place for clients to ask questions and for trusted consultants to provide answers on the spot. These workshops could be built around helping a client explore new technology like security monitoring or business practice like agile development. For example:  

    1. The client may not know how capabilities provided by purchased assets would meet new requirements. Organizations assume they have a capability they don’t, or that it is not suitable to the requirement. 

    2. An organization purchased a product or service for one purpose and did not realize that it had other capabilities because they had not been relevant at the time of purchase. 

    3. Clients may need help identifying technical capabilities with restricted effectiveness due to regulatory, security, or organizational challenges--these are not immediately obvious. Consultants can help clients navigate these pitfalls and suggest mitigations to get the end state they wanted differently.

When these relationship-building activities are not available for free, consultants may have professional development funding that they could apply. Additionally, clients are often happy to add a small amount of money to a contract to engage a consultant that has a great relationship with their in-house team, which can lead to better and faster delivery as compared to teams that are still getting to know one another.

Trust is core to any partnership. If you’re searching for an opportunity to showcase the success of your partnership, the Red Hat Summit 2021 Call for Proposals is open now and closes November 30, 2021.

About the author

Holden Fenner is a Site Reliability Engineer at Red Hat. He supports organization transformation and is passionate about automating cyber infrastructure to promote security best practices.

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