How to become an ITIL consultant

February 11, 2016

In recent blogs I’ve answered some common questions relating to ITIL Foundation certification and next steps in ITIL education.

Another common question that we get asked by our students is "how do I become an ITIL consultant?" This question often comes from people’s desire to share their experience with ITIL and get the best value from their investment in ITIL training and certification.

But…it’s also a question that has some difficult answers. I will explain here, and if you’ve got any further questions just get in touch.

What is an ITIL consultant?

According to IT Jobs Watch, an ITIL consultant is a popular role that can earn an average of £55,000 a year.

Talk to anyone with industry experience though, and they’ll tell you there is no such thing as an ITIL consultant.

Why the difference?

The reason experienced professionals are wary of the term ‘ITIL consultant’ is because it’s such a narrow term. A better term would be an "IT service management (ITSM) consultant".

Being an IT service management consultant allows you to draw on any number of standards, methodologies and frameworks to help a business, not just ITIL. A good service management consultant should be familiar with areas like ISO/IEC20000, COBIT, value management, business relationship management and more.

Ok, so how do I become an IT service management consultant?

The dictionary definition of a consultant is “a person who provides expert advice professionally”.   A good consultant will help an organisation move towards its goals (using tools like ITIL, among others). Their experience can speed up progress, or help to prevent the organisation make common mistakes.

To be a consultant, you will need experience and in-depth knowledge of the field you wish to operate in. To be an IT service management consultant, that will probably be a mix of training and experience working in IT departments in multiple organisations.

If you want to be an ITSM consultant, you should definitely consider studying to achieve ITIL Expert status as part of your set of certifications to help sell yourself to clients.

Getting experienced

If your goal is to become a consultant, you need to start to build up your experience now. If you’re currently working in an IT role, why not look at your current organisation as if you were a consultant? Can you see anything that can be improved? Can you volunteer to make improvements? Even if you end up taking on extra work, you are gaining valuable experience.

If you apply for a job at a consulting firm, they will ask for examples of your experience, so it makes sense to start as soon as possible. If your eventual goal is to be an independent consultant, working at a consulting firm can be a sensible step on your journey. It will introduce you to the commercial side of consulting and build your knowledge even further.

Network, network, network

If your network is limited in your own organisation or you want to broaden your contacts, start to get involved in the wider IT service management community. Organisations like the itSMF operate in most countries, and will offer a range of opportunities from informal networking to delivering presentations.

When you come to establish yourself as a consultant, a strong network can open lots of doors. Think about your personal brand, and consider getting active on social media. If a client searches online for your name and finds high quality blogs and tweets, they are more likely to want to work with you.

Even simple things like your LinkedIn profile can make the difference to a client when they are doing their research.

Soft skills

There are some skills that every consultant will need, no matter what field they work in. Consultants need:

  • Integrity
  • Commercial awareness
  • Written and verbal presentation skills
  • Listening skills
  • Negotiation skills

For a more detailed look at role of the service management consultant, read Collaborative Consulting by Peter Brooks. This book includes practical guidance for consultants and some detailed scenarios to bring the examples to life.

Don’t order your private plane just yet!

Some of the people I speak to think the consultant role is incredibly highly paid, and pretty easy. This is not always the case.

As a consultant, you will spend a lot of your time cultivating new business, which you don’t get paid for. You might have periods when you're not working, known as being 'on the bench' if you're part of a firm.

The discussions you have with the client at the start of the engagement are absolutely essential, because you both need to have a very clear understanding of what is expected. If you think you are coming in to do one job, and the client thinks you are doing something else, you may have a very difficult conversation at the end of the engagement when the invoice needs settling.

Consulting often involves large amounts of travel and time away from home, so you need to consider carefully if this is attractive to you.

The benefits of consulting

Having said all that, based on my own experience there are some wonderful benefits to working in a consultant role.  Consulting can be a varied, rewarding job where you get to help people and businesses, and deliver tangible results and measurable value.

If you like meeting new people, can take on new information quickly and enjoy developing solutions and problem solving, this could be a fantastic career move for you.

If you want more information, I’m happy for you to get in touch.

Claire Agutter

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2 comments on “How to become an ITIL consultant”

  1. This is helpful as a general into to the question. What I would like to see is some specific recommendations on skills improvements and achievements that both lead to being a good consultant and to being hired. Day to day, there's only so much time, so what to focus on? Some examples - Applying CMMI principles to helping with strategy on what processes to improve or build; using Lean methods to improve one process; use a Visio-like program to document process activities; lead a workshop on one process improvement project; give a high-level intro presentation on what is ITIL and how it will help us. There are many things one could do, but only so much time. What are some specific ideas about how to use this limited time to grow marketable skills and to demonstrate use of those skills on the resume with the goal of being hired by a consulting company?

  2. Hi Jeanne, many thanks for your comment. Another resource I would recommend for you if you're planning on becoming a consultant is a book called The Ultimate Consultant by Alan Weiss. Many of the areas you mention above are techniques to help a client, but the main thing to focus on initially is how to understand what it is your client wants so you can apply those techniques. So questioning skills, facilitation, relating benefits to measurable outcomes are all good areas to focus on. If you want to contact me via the site I am happy to have a call with you, kind regards Claire Agutter

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