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Is Your Digital Consultant Capable?

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November 2, 2020
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5 minutes

Consulting has become a quite glamorous, idealized job, thanks to hotshot Hollywood movies and heightened interest around digitalization. Recently, we’ve seen global digital consulting revenues almost double to $44 billion in a mere 18 months. But here’s the catch: unlike engineers, architects, or even Airbnb hosts… anyone can claim to be a consultant.

How do you determine if your digital consultant can do the job?

Well, we’ve compiled five key questions that will help you determine if your “digital expert” is capable of piloting your business through the rapidly changing waters of digitalization – without crashing the boat!

1. Experienced in Their Specialization

Digital consulting can be one of those blanket terms that’s thrown over everything before you realize that you don’t quite know what it involves. For example, let’s imagine that you’re in the retail industry right now and you want to add virtual reality features to your shop. Now…digital consultants, just like they’re not all experts, don’t all come in one size.

The same digital consultant who excels at strategizing and brainstorming the “big picture” goals of your VR project, simply won’t be the same as the one who analyses your VR pilot results and tells you what you need to do differently. The consultant you hire to make sure that your company adheres to digital regulations won’t be the one who works to stabilize your business after a merger. And goodness forbid you try and fit someone who works exclusively to develop company culture into the role of a blockchain expert – you’re more likely to end up with a cyborg project that’s screwy and doesn’t make sense!

Figure out what their specialization is right away. And, also give them the floor to describe their greatest successes. They may have one automatic answer cooked up for interviews, but probe a little deeper and ask about their smaller accomplishments as well.

Key question: What do you specialize in, and how have you succeeded in that field?

"I know only one thing - that I know nothing." - Socrates

2. Knows Their Limitations

Remember that unlike other professions, if your digital consultant capsizes your virtual boat, you can’t sue them for malpractice. In fact, you have to pay them for their time and effort. So…select one who knows what they’re qualified to take on – and what they’re not!

Yes, we just told you that your consultant should be competent and specialized. But often, the best consultants are also the ones who have worked as professionals long enough to have failed at some point. Once this happens, they start filtering, only taking on projects that they know they can handle. Then, they excel at delivering results.

Key question: What are your limitations, and do you have a set of criteria for which projects you decide to take on?

3. Possesses a Track Record of Professional Conduct

Although this may not be popular at first, you should find someone who can clearly define what they need from you and draw their boundaries. Yep – this means that they probably won’t take on extra work that falls outside their contract or acquiesce to all your demands. Before you protest, however, think: would you rather have a digital consultant who scurries to do everything that you ask, or who does what they deem necessary extremely well?

Even Steve Jobs would rather choose excellence over agreeability. From a talk that Greg McKeown recently gave at Google:

“…[Steve Jobs] was trying to find a logo. And so he found one of the best people in the business, Paul Rand, who designed ABC’s logo, Bloomingdale’s, and a bunch of others…and he says, look, what I need you to do is, I need you to bring me a bunch of options.” What did Rand do? Well, he told him no. He would only create one design:

“I will solve your problem for you….and you will pay me. And you don’t have to use it, but you will pay me, and I will solve your problem for you.” Jobs’ response? According to McKeown, he later described Paul Rand as “the ultimate professional” because [Rand] had thought through the client relationship more deeply than he had.

Key question: What do you expect from us, and what should we expect from you?

4. Leads and Collaborates with Purpose

Isn’t it a little unsettling to imagine a consultant upending your business practices and systems with theoretical recommendations? If you’re reading this, you know that theoreticals, while attractive, don’t work out perfectly in the real world. That’s why, in order for a consultant to do a damn good job at the helm, they need to understand your organisation, work with the people in it, and be ready to take full responsibility for his or her recommendations.

After all, employees will push back against new systems, stakeholders will complain that you’re taking the business in the wrong direction, and customers will question changes. So, while you should expect a digital consultant to come into a project with a “fountain of ideas,” you should also evaluate how equipped they are to make those ideas work practically. That means compromising, resolving conflicts, and collaborating.

Key question: How do you plan to involve our management, employees, and stakeholders while implementing your ideas?

5. Is HUNGRY for Cutting-Edge Knowledge

Unless you want to be stuck with a “digital expert” who just upgraded from MySpace to Facebook and just figured out that BlackBerry, AOL, and Mp3s are old news, you had better discover if this consultant is committed to constant learning. For example, consider blockchain technology. Bitcoin didn’t exist until 2008, Ethereum didn’t launch until 2015, and Cosmos didn’t connect blockchains until…2019!

Digitalization moves FAST. That’s why Richard Branson believes that: "For a consultant to be successful in this quickly evolving world, he needs the ability to adapt frequently… [and possess] a zeal for lifelong learning."

Key question: How do you stay up-to-date on what’s going on in your specialization, and what is one idea that you’re currently exploring?

Is Your Digital Consultant Actually Capable?


  • Experienced in their specialization
  • Knows their limitations
  • Possesses a track record of professional conduct
  • Leads and collaborates with purpose
  • Is HUNGRY for cutting-edge knowledge

If you’re looking for help checking off this list, that’s our specialty. We pair you with a Consultport strategy partner to clarify what you require for your project, find you a consultant who is highly qualified in that specialization, and send you a proposal within 48 hours. No matter which path you decide to take, remember: choose your digital consultants wisely!