A Consultant’s Guide to the Next Year

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I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet you’ve already broken at least four of five New Year’s resolutions you made. That puts you one step ahead of me—I’ve broken all five. But I’m still planning on making 2006 a banner year.


One of the best ways to do that is to ride the field’s hot trends—work where there’s demand for your labor, and know what skills, subjects and buzzwords can bring you cash in the months to come. Here are some predictions to help guide you through 2006.


Consult the Oracle
In a word, Oracle is hungry. In 2005 it gobbled up PeopleSoft—which had just bought J.D. Edwards—and arch-rival Siebel. The result? It now has a huge share of the market in enterprise software, and that means your Oracle skills can take you places.


Look at it this way: PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Siebel will one day disappear, so the market for Oracle DBAs and architects will be strong. Even if you’re not an Oracle maven and have no plans to become one, a working knowledge of Oracle solutions can help you on a systems integration or custom software job.


Get Governed
The concept of IT governance has long dwelled in enterprise IT shops. This year, it will enter the mid-market, where consultants of every stripe will be forced to deal with it.


According to the IT Governance Institute (ITGI), IT governance is a way to align IT’s goals with the long-term, strategic plans of the enterprise, as well as a way to measure IT’s performance with precise metrics. There are more governance systems than you can shake a stick at, but among the most famous is COBIT, short for Control Objectives for IT and Related Technologies. COBIT is a product of the ITGI, and you can learn its basics in a few hours at www.itgi.org.


Why bother? If you work with anything bigger than a mom-and-pop shop, you’re sure to hear about governance in 2006, and having a good grasp on its concepts is likely to inspire confidence with companies that have begun to implement it—and that can drive sales.


Gartner Weighs In
Gartner is the world’s largest IT research firm, with nearly as many analysts as COMDEX has geeks. In November 2005, Gartner released its predictions for 2006, including a few that might surprise you.


Gartner reported that companies will start asking employees to buy their own notebooks. They’ll give employees a “notebook allowance” and let them loose inside Circuit City, Best Buy or CompUSA.


That may not concern you greatly as a consultant, but the next prediction will. Gartner predicts that 2006 will see the demise of the specialist. No longer will niche players rule the consulting roost. Instead, IT generalists will have an advantage as firms trim their costs by finding one person who can do many things, saving dollars and perhaps even headaches as well.


The bottom line? It never hurts to expand your skills.


To Blog or Not to Blog?
One thing’s for certain: 2005 was the year of the blog. This year, blogging and its cousin, podcasting, might just bring you some business.


According to a report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 9 percent of all Internet users (that’s nearly 12 million people) have their own blogs, and fully 25 percent read them. Numbers like that have made corporate America sit up and notice, with Volvo, GM and IBM launching corporate blogs and podcasts in the past few months. It’s a great way to market. Also, people are tuning into podcasts at rapidly increasing rates, so why not use them to expand your consulting practice?


Blogs give you a way to prove your expertise without going through all the hoops and hassles of formal publication. A single podcast can be heard by hundreds or even thousands of prospects. If you blog or podcast about a subject of sufficient interest, and limit your content to the purely professional, you may have a simple, cheap and effective way to generate referrals.


Keep a lookout for these and more ways to build your bottom line in 2006. If you start now, you can make it a truly great year.


David Garrett is a Web designer and former IT director, as well as the author of “Herding Chickens: Innovative Techniques in Project Management.” He can be reached at dgarrett@certmag.com.


Five Reasons to Blog and Podcast



  1. Blogs and podcasts are a great way to market yourself.
  2. If done carefully, blogs and podcasts give prospects a deeper view of your knowledge than a simple brochure can.
  3. They are inexpensive, costing almost nothing to create.
  4. They are able to reach a large audience quickly.
  5. Sites like www.blogger.com, www.typepad.com and www.squarespace.com make Web site setup and maintenance a breeze, with far less effort than a traditional Web site.
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