“Know what you don’t know” means identifying the skills you need to work on, and actively developing those skills you haven’t already mastered.
Identifying what you don’t know doesn’t mean learning specific details such as every available Oracle report or table and column names, but rather the specific skills and key requirements necessary to work as an Oracle consultant.
Many of these skills gaps will be already known to you; so you can actively find the resources you need to address these gaps. You may also discover additional skills you need to develop by talking to your managers, and watching other consultants work.
I suggest you identify the areas where you have a skills gap, and closing those gaps, is essential to your success as a consultant. Identifying your available resources is the first step in learning what you need to know.
Identify your resources
The best resources available to help you identify the useful (and therefore marketable) skills necessary to the project are senior Oracle team members who have already worked on multiple projects. Seek out the most experienced professionals in your environment—they could be senior staff members, contractors, or other senior consultants. Although inexperienced consultants are often shy about asking questions, asking for help shows your confidence in the skills and fundamental intelligence you do have and your level of commitment to making sure the project is successful.
Most Oracle experts are very willing to help when they are approached in a respectful way. In one of my first Oracle EBusiness roles I learned a lot from the consultant team members.
Permanent staff members and long-term consultants on a project may have the following resources available to build and enhance their skills:
- Departmental training budgets
- Skills transfer from senior team members and experienced consultants
- Access to documentation or Knowledge base areas of current client projects.
Don’t be afraid to rely on other staff and team members for help in any of these areas, as sharing knowledge is part of their responsibility to the project and the client. When senior team members take time to train less experienced colleagues, they gain the ability to delegate tasks and distribute work more efficiently, making everyone’s job easier. You may even want to suggest that skills development be included as a performance goal, thereby further encouraging knowledge sharing and skills transfer.
If you are faced with a problem, for instance you don’t know the functionality in a particular area, these are the options you can take to resolve:
- Ask someone who has experience
- Investigate yourself
It might sound easy for me to say choose “Option 2”, but taking the first option will definitely teach you nothing. If you take option 2, you have the following resources open to you.
- Read the user guides/implementation guides
- Read Oracle Metalink, someone will have encountered this situation before
- Search on Google, this gives access to lots of Oracle information sites
- Re-create problem on test system, make configuration changes to resolve
- Get an account with an online Oracle database, re-create problem (see resources appendix)
Resolving this kind of issue will develop your analytical skills, and earn you a reputation as a problem-solver, which is a very valuable project skill to have. Remember to record the investigations and results in your notes, so you can refer to them in the future.
Identify Missing Skills
In addition to the skills you know you need to develop, you may identify additional skills you need to learn by working on projects, and watching how experienced consultants complete project tasks.
Once again, the best way to identify and knowledge gaps is to be sure to ask the right people the right questions—these could be key members of the project team or senior managers and system users in the business unit (key stakeholders).
Asking questions demonstrates your commitment to get the requirements right and shows that you value the input of all stakeholders and business owners. Demonstrating your investment in the success of the project will also motivate experienced members of the project team to help develop your skills and share their knowledge voluntarily.
“Knowing what you know” is in itself an important skill to develop— effectively defining and communicating what you know, as well as being honest about what you don’t know, gives you a professional edge as a consultant and works out better in the long run.
Identifying what you don’t know and actively seeking out the resources to learn it is also a fundamental skill in Oracle consulting. Practicing this skill on every project will ensure your ongoing development as an Oracle professional—in fact it’s appropriate to mention in interviews that you have actively sought out opportunities to learn from more experienced team members on past projects. This will showcase your communication and team-building skills, and will also demonstrate to prospective clients your willingness to leverage the existing knowledge base on a project team.
Oracle Consultant Attributes
Project teams hire consultants of two types:
- Functional Consultants / Business Analysts (B.A.’s)
- Technical Consultants
Functional Consultants gather and analyze the requirements, design, configure & test the solution, and support the business once the project has gone live. Technical Consultants allow the project to implement customized functionality Hybrid Consultants have attributes of a typical functional and technical consultant.
The following diagrams illustrate the Typical Personal Attributes of each consultant type. It’s useful to review the diagrams to see whether your personal attributes identify you as a functional, technical or hybrid consultant. The following diagrams illustrate the typical attributes of functional and technical consultants. Over time a consultant will develop attributes of both types, but this is a useful comparison to your personal attributes.
Functional Consultant Attributes include:
A functional consultant uses analytical skills on an everyday basis on an Oracle project. Before a requirement or issue can be resolved it must be properly analyzed so it can be fully understood. Logical thinking is also required to define the requirement or issue characteristics, before the best solution can be identified.
A good functional consultant will have technical appreciation of the capabilities of the Oracle application. This appreciation is built up by discussing possible solutions with technical consultants, and by reviewing solutions already implemented. Technical appreciation is particularly important where customizations are required.
Most Oracle projects will require changes for the business processes. A good functional consultant can understand the changes required for the new solution, communicate those changes to the business users. Sometimes this will require defending the project team solution to the business.
Functional consultants are required to test the solution within their area of responsibility. A functional consultant must have good testing skills, as they are responsible for successful solution operation.
All consultants require good communication skills but for functional consultants this should be a particular strength. Many of the functional tasks require communication, negotiation and agreement with business, functional & technical team members.
A functional consultant should spend sufficient time on making sure his customer will be satisfied. A good functional consultant develops a good professional relationship with business users, so a level of trust is built between the business & project teams.
Technical Consultant Attributes include:
A technical consultant uses analytical skills frequently on an Oracle project. A good technical consultant reviews the functional requirement, and presents technical options to the functional consultant. Logical thinking is also required to ensure technical implementation of the solution will be feasible, stable & supportable.
Technical consultants will gain functional knowledge from discussing solutions with the functional consultants, and from prototyping and testing their own solutions. Good functional knowledge shortens design & development cycles, and ensures delivery of a good solution.
Testing is one of the most important areas of technical consulting. A thoroughly tested technical solution is the foundation of a successful Oracle customization. A good testing strategy should combine functional and technical elements, using the skillsets of both consultant types to ensure the customization will operate as per the requirement.
Recommendation of technical approaches to project requirements is an important responsibility of the technical consultant. A good knowledge of the toolset allows the technical consultant to recommend good solutions.
Knowledge of the Oracle application is a useful skill for a technical consultant to have. With some application knowledge in the subject area, a technical consultant can have an informed opinion, when discussing the solution with functional consultants. This allows for a deeper level of solution understanding, and should ensure a better solution is delivered.
Technical consultants are required to discuss the feasibility and delivery of technical solutions with functional consultants, and with the project management office. The primary problem faced by a technical consultant in this area is how to communicate a problem to the appropriate audience; who may have no technical knowledge.