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JAMES CAROLIN
Industry Leader Interview Series – Otto Pretorius
March 12, 2014 · by James Carolin | Comments to this post

Otto is the Principle Thought Leader & Director of QBIT - www.qbit.co.za

 

JC: What is your definition of a consultant?

OP:  In my view a consultant is someone who has developed capabilities in a specific area, method or technique where they have learnt specialist skills and consult on them.  There is deep experienced consulting and a unique combination of skills can be hard to find e.g. nautical engineering in people management or large change programmes, which is pretty niche and client’s could find it hard to access individuals within this specific area.

 

JC: How do you fit into the consulting industry?

OP:  I have a background in psychology, IT and accounting and that made for a unique consulting relationship in the market, on how large systems work in organisations.  I work on how this impacts the business, particularly technology.  How that change happens and how that change has a financial auditing control process view, and also a unique impact behavioural view and how these functional areas come together.  Recently I have focused more on HR solutions and away from the “softer" OD side, to the more “how to be hard wired and modern” for optimal performance.

 

JC: How long have you been in the consulting industry?

OP: I have been a consultant since 1997 so that is about 15 years.

 

JC: What attracted you to consulting?

OP:  The market pushed me into consulting, I loved being in HR but I think the response of the market was very positive about the work that I did at the time and I just had a burning need and realised this could make a real difference in organisations and so started to test that out and got a great response and just went into the consulting area from there.

 

JC: What is the value that consultants add in your profession?

OP:  Or do not add….!  I think what is important is that consultants are there to get their “hands dirty” with the client, to find a solution that will work considering all the complex factors and issues and then being really upfront and forward with the clients in terms of what is good to do and what would not be wise and why.  Many consultants push things in a clients face without a proper diagnosis of the issue, or thought about what impact it will have on the client.  I am very conscious of not selling a product simply because I want to sell it and that the client does not really require.  Many organisations see it as a sales business and ultimately that does not have a positive effect on the market.  The real value is bringing a structured thought process given the background, experience and information and then providing the client with a constructive solution feedback process and opinions and what would be wise for them to do and then enabling them down that route and stepping away – so they can own.

 

JC: What are the characteristics of successful consultants in your opinion?

OP:  Honesty, brutal honesty, diplomatic style in saying what you need to say and a deep analytical mind and ability to structure thoughts and processes.  One of my key mottos is “process is king, so if you have to wiggle your way through a hard solution, process is always king”.  An insight into people and the way people respond and then that great honesty and transparency that you need in that environment.

 

JC: What are the additional things that stop consultants from adding value in your association/profession?

OP:  Telling clients what they want to hear is one.  Some people use consulting as a stop gap in their career as they are not sure what they want to do and consulting becomes the low hanging fruit.  Often Consultants start out in the market as a “one man band” with no significant background or experience, just using relationships to sell solutions to clients, which are often a “bunch of hogwash”.  I think the fact that there is no formalised quality assurance process is an issue and registration would be very valuable.  This would help clients access what other people have said about the consultant(s) and on the flip side, give the consultant an opportunity to hear what is being said also about their work.  There is a body of some sort required, so that quality assurance could be implemented and a safety net of sorts could be provided.

 

JC: What do some consultants do that give the profession a bad name?

OP:  I am disturbed by what consultants charge clients and obviously it is hard to see value at that level.  I hear clients complain about solutions when the individuals behind the initial proposal are not the same resources delivering – less as experienced, or learning on your tab.  In South Africa and the Middle East consultants often compete and the client simply takes the cheapest option, then the consultant hires the cheapest available resources to make profit.  I believe at some point you have to draw the line with clients on price and tell them if they think it’s too expensive and they can find another provider then just go for it, I am not here to make the choice for you.  I have gone back to the client where they have chosen the competitor and advised them when that competitor has sourced inferior resources to complete the job because that is highly unethical as far as I am concerned. So there are issues both side of the line.

 

JC: If you could fix anything about consulting what would it be?

OP:  I would create some rating method or certification model. I would value a layered model in terms of competence that links to pricing.  Then you can have fair value.  It could go all the way up to Principal Consultants so that clients can really see what experience/skills that they are paying for.  I would like that – I may not have appreciated it when I started out.  One of the main reasons we should restructure is that clients are fed up with paying for lots of consulting hours.  A professional body where clients could complain would be beneficial.

 

JC: How would you fix it?

OP:  A transparent certification system linked to some rates and ratings visible to both client and consultant.


One Response to “Industry Leader Interview Series – Otto Pretorius”

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  • Bonnie Nienaber says:

    Definitely food for thought…. lets get the Consulting Certification going Otto!

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