Is there a clear line between Functional and Technical consultants?
A technical consultant must understand the software from an internal view. Their job is the program itself. They should know all the tools provided by the software manufacturer for the system, as well as external tools that interact well with the program. The technical is responsible for providing the smooth operations of the software and building new and better ways for the end-user to interact with the software.
A functional consultant is the data and process owner for the software. this resource will interact with the end-user on how the software is used, how the data is managed, and accessed. They should know the functionality of the software intimately and understand its limitations. The functional will serve as a guide to the end-user on the day-to-day use of the software and troubleshoot issues as they occur.
Do they overlap? Absolutely! No good technical can build unless they understand the processes being affected. No good functional can advise the client unless they know what can and cannot be built. It takes a good mixture of both skills to make a good ERP consultant and we should all be trying to learn more technically and functionally about the system of choice. The advice we share on a daily basis comes from our technical and functional knowledge foundation and not from one or the other. This is where the term techno-functional comes from. The bad news is that functional-technical never caught on to denote someone with more functional knowledge. If we are oriented to the functional side, then we have to say we are ‘functional’ and explain that we understand some technical as well.
I’ve been turned down for positions because I’m too technical and I’ve been turned down because I’m too functional. I just don’t get upset over it any more. The client never knows who I am or what I do in the interview process anyway. (now there’s a subject for future blogs!) Their perception of our abilities is important, but normally it is us who should lead the client, so that we understand the job and are confident in our ability to deliver more than they expect.
How do you define yourself? Which questions from the client bother you the most? Those around technical discussions or functional discussions? We all have more to learn and each client prompts us to try things differently than we ever have before. Each software upgrade throws new twists and wrinkles into what we can offer new and old clients.
Don’t ever paint yourself into a corner by being just technical or just functional. You’ll never compete that way. Specialize in the one you enjoy most and become very proficient, but never lose sight of the other. The other side fills in blanks to make the picture whole.
Keep on keeping on