Much has been written about what it means to be a creative problem-solver in the workplace. And there are plenty of catchphrases to go along with the concept. Think outside the box
. Do more with less
. Push the envelope
. Take it to the next level
. If you’ve been in the workforce for more than a few years, you’ve heard at least several of these sentences. And you’ve also undoubtedly worked with some people who embody creative problem-solving. Hopefully, you
are one of those people.
But what if you aren’t?
Can you become one of those people? The short answer: absolutely. In my two decades in the consulting world, I’ve worked with many people who take problem-solving to rock star levels. Some come to it naturally. Watching those people work is exciting—but what’s even more thrilling is watching someone go from 0 to 100 in the creative problem-solving category.
So, in the fourth installment in this blog series, we’ll explore how creative problem-solving drives success for both clients and consultants in great cloud consulting projects. Along the way, you may even get some inspiration for your projects.
Evolving to Problem-Solving
The best consultants have an insatiable desire to help find the right solution to solve their clients’ challenges. This desire causes them to explore new avenues to achieve goals—they don’t accept the status quo. They take a disciplined, curious, and inventive approach to deliver exceptional results. They find efficiencies. They look for problems to solve. They engage with experts inside and outside of their practice. They are resolution-oriented and take initiative: continuously researching, innovating, and optimizing.
I tell my team that I want our practice to be filled with initiators because the benefits aren’t just for our clients. Creatively solving problems does more than address the immediate challenge at hand. It makes for an empowered work environment that helps you:
- Develop new skills or deepen existing ones, putting you on the path to becoming an expert
- Deepen client relationships and exceed client expectations
- Broaden your network through collaboration
- Increase your satisfaction with your work
- Accelerate your career progression
With these problem-solving personality characteristics and benefits in mind, let’s cast a lens on what consultants can specifically do to get innovative on their cloud projects—and how their clients can, too.
Stop Selling and Start Shaping the Solution
When you’re in the purchasing process for any product or service, it’s off-putting to feel you’re being “sold to.” I firmly believe that consultants should treat the sales process more like a “solution alignment process” with their clients. The goal is to look at the project as a continuum starting with the first engagement in the sales cycle all the way through go-live. In this model, the client experience feels seamless—every activity feels solution-driven, and the creativity starts early in the sales process.
That’s why I’ve given my Oracle Consulting team the following direction: Move away from selling our services. Focus on understanding your client. Shape a solution with them that addresses their needs.
In this approach, the information shared during the initial conversations becomes a critical springboard to creative problem-solving. Clients, when you’re considering working with a consultant, be sure to communicate the following as you vet their capabilities (and know that the best consultants will ask and share their observations before you have a chance to tell them):
- Financial Imperatives – Your commitments to “the street” and shareholders if you’re a public company; or if you’re privately held, the expectations of your company owners and investors
- Competitive Landscape – The dynamics of your industry and how you compare to your peers
- Big Ideas – The “game changers” you want to implement to leapfrog the competition
- Business Issues – What you are solving for and how your consultant can demonstrate an impact on a set of economic outcomes
- Maturity – The agility—or lack thereof—you may have when it comes to making the transition to new applications, as well as your cloud experience and knowledge
- Sponsorship and Culture – Your executive champions, functional leaders, key decision-makers, and influencers, as well as anyone who may be a barrier to your efforts
When clients share this information early, they can collaborate with their consultants to design a holistic strategy that extends beyond the implementation of cloud technology—it encompasses solving business problems and capitalizing on competitive opportunities.
After this process is complete and the cloud project is in full swing, the challenge becomes taking creative problem-solving further when everyone is enveloped in deliverables and milestones. How can clients feel more confident in the cloud? How can consultants deliver even more value? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Art of the Possible – What big ideas can help the client make a more significant impact in the market? Consider establishing a periodic cadence of “innovation meetings” that include key members from the client and the consultant. Encourage everyone to contribute ideas that are not bound by “what we can do now” but are inspired by “what could we do if the possibilities were unlimited?” Big ideas that may seem outlandish can inspire actionable solutions when creative minds put their heads together.
- Resourcing with Confidence – Clients may need to shift internal resources or make new hires to support their cloud initiatives—don’t be afraid to ask your consultant for advice on what your team should look like. Consultants must examine the maturity of their client on every project as they shape their staff—clients with less experience in the cloud will require support from cloud consulting veterans.
- Quick Wins – An incremental approach to success builds confidence in all players in a cloud consulting project. Clients and consultants should align a quick-win approach with the organizational culture. How quickly can the client move? What demands in the market require us to calibrate our pace up or down? Can you achieve positive outcomes soon through more rapid, iterative go-lives?
Great cloud consulting projects get away from “sales” and get into the mode of “solutions”—and stay in that mode. When creative problem-solving starts early in the sales process, with both clients and consultants fully engaged, everyone is delivering in an environment that leverages the best ideas across the project. And everyone is stronger for it. Go be bold.