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How Can You Transition from Project Management to Consulting

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April 29, 2022
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5 minutes
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

If you’re a project manager, you might be wondering how to transition from project management and become a consultant.

The truth is, if you are a freelance project manager, you may already be a consultant!

Project Management Consulting

According to Wikipedia,

  • “A consultant is a professional who provides advice and further purposeful activities in an area of specialization,” and
  • “A project manager is a professional in the field of project management.”

So, we might say that a project manager providing advice in other project management activities, including applying project management tools and techniques, is, by definition, a consultant.

However, we might distinguish between the two by relying on the further definition of project management. It is basically “the planning, procurement, and execution of a project, in any undertaking that has a defined scope, defined start and a defined finish, regardless of industry.”

Typically, in a management consulting, the scope, start and finish are often not known at the start or are not so strictly defined. However, there is a significant amount of project management in consulting of all types.

Some people offer the following differences.

  • Project managers are hands-on, directly involved in execution, and responsible for the success of a project.
  • Project management consultants offer advice or support. They are more involved in the change and transformation aspect of a project. Basically, they review current project management capabilities, processes, and controls and recommend and support new tools, techniques, and procedures.

In today’s environment of online consulting platforms, freelance project managers, and remote work, these distinctions may be difficult to maintain.

Rather than being concerned about what you are called, it might be more useful to know how best to be noticed and contracted for project management in consulting platforms such as Upwork, TopTal, or Consultport.

“A consultant is a professional who provides advice and further purposeful activities in an area of specialization. A project manager is a professional in the field of project management.”

How To Become A Consultant - What It Takes

Professional qualification is generally a requirement to become a consultant. This is because project management consulting is a specific area of specialization.

However, experience in some or all of the following areas will also set you up for success.

  • Product, project, or portfolio management in a variety of industries
  • IT or technical project management and product development
  • Understanding the business value of technological changes (e.g., AI, machine learning, natural language processing)
  • Agile and waterfall methodologies
  • Scrum Master and Agile coaching

In addition, there are some crucial attributes for successful project management consultants.

Ability to hit the ground running

Basically, the consultants must quickly understand and respond to the client's needs, the status of the current project, and the client’s preferred communication mechanisms (e.g., email, Zoom, etc.)

The consultant must also adapt quickly to the client’s schedule, management style, and even time zone and working hours.

Ability to develop trust relationships

Consultants must earn the trust.

Simply, the best way at the start is to be reliable and consistent in daily workflow and to give a warning if you are away for any period. Regular feedback on progress and proactive reporting of potential bottlenecks - with possible solutions - help to set the client’s mind at rest. Ability to articulate technical issues It’s not enough to be technically savvy. You must also be able to communicate clearly with clients. The more they understand what you are doing, the more likely they will collaborate and delegate work to you.

Ability to fit in with the team

Project managers and consultants are often asked to work on a specific part of a project. Simply, they must be core team members and work closely with others to advance the project.

Ability to deliver high-quality work

Speed, efficiency, and high-quality outputs are non-negotiable for project management in consulting settings.

Moreover, the best consultants are always looking for new learnings, skills, and methodologies and aims to grow their skillsets.

Examples Of Consulting Jobs

There is a wide range of work for project managers or consultants. For example:

The following examples give an idea of the type of work they do.

Project Management Office (PMO) Consultants

A PMO is an internal or external group responsible for ensuring best practices for running projects across a company. Moreover, a PMO consultant is in a supervisory role and can cover the entire enterprise or divisions of it. It can also cover individual projects which require additional team training, resource budgeting, or administrative support.

Basically, the main goal is to move quickly from poorly managed, ad hoc projects to a smoothly run portfolio and reliable results.

Agile Project Managers

These consultants apply Agile methodologies to projects being undertaken in an organization.

The basic key to Agile is flexibility. So project managers will develop standards for task execution and adjust and improve them for improved efficiencies. They will train team members to detect errors and fix them quickly.

Projects are simply broken down into milestones or “sprints” with clear deliverables at the end of each one. There are “Scrum” sessions with team members. The top management review workflows. This finally helps in building teamwork and accountability.

Agile project managers need exceptional organizational skills, especially the ability to prioritize. Their role is simply to ensure that attention is given to essential components of the project - and unnecessary and distracting work is dropped.

Project Management in Consulting

The online consulting marketplace has made it easier for project managers to transition to management consulting.

The main skill is to carefully read the project briefs to find the jobs that require your project management skills. Basically, it must add some scope to move into a broader advisory role.

Some platforms - like Consultport - will assist by identifying the projects that are best for you and recommending you to prospective clients. They will even take over the administrative tasks and billing - leaving you free to display your project management consulting prowess.

Key Takeaways

Project managers wondering how to become a consultant may be surprised to find that they may already qualify.

Project management in consulting is well represented on freelance consultant platforms, and project managers who register can be assured of a wide range of consulting opportunities.

Contact Consultport, to find out how we can help you make the transition from project management to consulting.

More reading:

What are the top 5 skills that you want to see in a Project Manager?