May 17th, 2012 by Mohamed Aamer

Application Consultant, Functional Consultant – the job title may different from one company to another, but whatever the title, the person doing this job around financial and ERP software is considered the middle man between the application and the technology, as well as the key role for driving adoption of new technology by the business.

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The application consultant could start his or her career after graduation from a university; the major could be business administration, finance, or information system if it covers business subjects.

Alternatively, the application consultant could start out working in other careers. Some people start out as an accountant, procurement agent, commercial agent, or even sales representative (like me). Personally, I do not consider it a career shift, I consider it advancing in the career path. In other words it is capitalizing on the previous experiences.

Traditionally, consulting skills are divided into two main areas: the Business Side, and the Technical Side. Then there is more general Soft Skills set that all application consultants need since they spend most of their time in business discussions, business cycles workshops, and training.

Here are some of the key skills a company should look for in an application consultant, broken down by business, technical, and soft skills:

Business Side

Technical Side

  • Have business knowledge in specific business domain (Vertical), or more than one business domain (Horizontal). Vertical business domain break down to sub verticals.
  • Retail business domain (Vertical), Fashion, food & beverage, grocery, and electronics are sub verticals.
  • Supply Chain Management (Horizontal) in Retail business domain and Construction business domain.
  • Understanding business units process, the over lapping between business units, and business process enchantments or business process re-engineering.
  • Understanding the difference between applications. (Client/Server, Web application)
  • Understanding application flow of information inside out, and application integration in order to map business process to application.
  • Application implementation life cycle. (Sales, Pre-Sales, Analysis, Design, Development, Deployment, Operation, Support )
  • Basic knowledge about Hardware and Software configuration, Network and infrastructure.

Application/Functional Consultant

Soft Skills

  • Communication skills: consultant spend most of his/er time in communication internally with peers, manager, and externally with customer. This communication oral and written in documents, emails, and reports.
  • Presentation skills: helps in presenting the application, or ideas to customer, conduct users training, and presenting the application to prospect customer.
  • Leadership skills: consultants lead meetings, workshops, training sessions, and experienced consultants may lead team.
  • Project Management skills: consultant should understand the areas of project management scope, time, quality, risk, and configuration management since the consultant may getting into Project Management position.

The application consultants have a very important role in implementation project since he/she is involved in implementation tasks and activities. Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step has defined the application consultant role during implementation phases. It is a long and broad list of tasks, and that range is what I believe keeps most application consultants motivated and satisfied with their jobs. The challenges are always changing and the career path offers many opportunities to develop new skills.

Here is the list per Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step:

Diagnostic

  • Prepare and conduct business process analysis
  • Set up application for Fit Gap Analysis
  • Conduct Fit Gap Analysis
  • Document and present results of diagnostic phase
  • Support license definition and service estimations for functional tasks

Analysis

  • Conduct Key User training
  • Prepare and conduct business requirements workshops
  • Set up application for Fit Gap Analysis
  • Conduct Fit Gap Analysis
  • Document and present results of analysis phase

Design

  • Create development design specifications
  • Create design documents for customer understanding and acceptance
  • Present documentation and application design to customer
  • System configurations
  • Conduct feature testing of standard and independent software vendor (ISV) solution functionality
  • Assist in the identification and creation of process test scenarios

Development

  • Assist with the preparation of training and other documentation
  • Conduct function testing with developer and customer
  • Deploy security roles
  • Assist in the creation of User Acceptance test scripts
  • Conduct data acceptance testing
  • Conduct process testing
  • Support End User training as defined in the project scope

Deployment

  • Conduct Key User training (in case of Rapid Implementation)
  • Create process and User Acceptance Test plan
  • Configure live environment
  • Conduct process and User Acceptance test together with the customer to ensure unctionality, configuration, and data are as expected
  • Support End User training as defined in the project scope

Operation

  • Go-live support
  • Resolve pending issues
  • Finalize documentation

Agile Preparation

  • Conduct Solution Overview
  • Conduct Key User Training
  • Prepare and conduct Business Requirements workshops
  • Set up application for Fit Gap Analysis
  • Conduct Fit Gap Analysis
  • Provide input to the creation of Solution Backlog and high-level estimation process
  • Release Planning

Agile Execution

  • Provide input to the Sprint Backlog creation
  • Attend Sprint Planning Meetings (visioning/planning meetings)
  • Attend Daily Sprint Cycle Meetings
  • Create development design specifications
  • System Configurations
  • Conduct feature testing of standard and ISV functionality
  • Assist in the identification and creation of process test scenarios
  • Assist in the generation of Daily Build
  • Assist in the process of Sprint testing
  • Attend the Sprint Technical preview sessions
  • Attend the Sprint Post Mortem sessions

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