I do not believe there is such a thing as a “typical day” as a Magnum Forge Consultant. When I work on-site directly with clients and their employees, schedules and job priorities can change on short notice. Nevertheless, it is up to me to get the job done. Time management, efficient resource utilization, and overcoming obstacles are ongoing challenges.
I start my week knowing that each day back at the client site will be power-packed from start to finish. I will work three to four days at a client’s office for most weeks and no more than one to two days at the home office.
If working out of town, I travel on Monday morning. I spend idle time at the airport catching up on emails, reading over correspondence regarding a project’s status, and refreshing myself on milestones for the upcoming week, along with any outstanding concerns carried over from the prior week.
As a Consultant, I work with Project Managers, clients, and software vendors to identify business and systems issues, recommend solutions, and implement those solutions. Once staffed, many of the more significant decisions concerning the project have been made but determining how each task is accomplished falls squarely on my shoulders.
So, back to the topic at hand…if I had to describe a typical day, it might go something like this:
Upon arriving at the client’s offices, I stop by a few key client offices to say “Good morning” and follow up on any urgent items before our 9 a.m. status meeting. I quickly settle in at my workstation, often located in a nondescript room with enough space for the whole project team (partner to analyst) to sit together. Being in close quarters tends to facilitate collaboration and keeps everyone within earshot of one another. I often learn essential information about a project by overhearing those around me discussing issues. One of the best parts of the project room is the instant access to expertise at all levels. Occasionally I wish I had noise-canceling headphones; however, I have perfected the art of selective hearing. I tune out conversations that do not involve me and pickup snippets that do, all the while keeping my focus on the project at hand.
Status meeting to quickly discuss upcoming meetings, deadlines, and deliverables. We also review the list of outstanding issues. Occasionally, a client’s manager will attend, but not today. The client sponsor, who is typically a c-level executive, is usually never present. The status meeting often provides the best opportunity to coordinate my workweek with other consultants and the client and check my priorities against those of the team’s rest.
Finally, a little downtime to work. As a consultant, I often serve as an intermediary between the client and the software vendor. My priority is to review the list of fixes that the client’s IT department has installed, then follow up with any questions. It is also an excellent chance to follow up with my client’s key team members who are testing these fixes to make sure they know the fixes are ready for testing.
Everyone on the Magnum Forge project team is responsible for documenting issues identified on the project. Collectively, we track the status of fixes by the vendor, and each team member is responsible for specific problems. Once the vendor provides software updates, the client’s IT department installs them, and testing can begin. If doing so resolves the issue, the testing is documented, and the case is closed out. Sometimes the fix doesn’t resolve the problem or creates others. Everything must be recorded in the test and then resubmitted to the vendor, and the process begins again.
One of my analysts has a question about an as-is diagram she created. An “as-is” and a “to-be” diagram is used to document how the current system activity flows and will flow among responsibility, departments, or modules.
As a Consultant, I often find myself supervising others, including Magnum Forge Analysts and contractors involved with the project. This includes setting deadlines, monitoring performance, reviewing work, and providing feedback. It is a good deal of responsibility, but it comes with the territory, and I love the challenge.
I leave a message for the client’s IT contact to discuss the recent vendor-supplied fixes and schedule time with the client to test the new fixes and some previous ones.
I play a crucial part in configuration set-up, data conversion, and coordination to test new systems or upgrades to existing systems. I oversee end-to-end business process testing, including systems use and integration between systems. I am in constant contact with my clients, keeping them apprised of daily progress. Without this continuous contact, deadlines could be missed, and expectations could be misaligned.
My manager asks me for additional information regarding some open issues from last week. Keeping the manager current on the most updated information is vital for every team member, as it is necessary to keep the project on schedule. It is important to remember that status updates always roll up to the manager and ultimately to the partner; therefore, to save potential problems from rolling downhill, I make a point to report up, early, and often.
Quiet time, again. I start to get anxious about my afternoon update meeting with the billing department. I stop tracking vendor fixes and begin rechecking closed items within billing to ensure the issue has been resolved and refresh my memory of what was done and by whom. I look over the open items one last time and refamiliarize myself with the plan and party responsible for resolving each item.
The CAO’s assistant calls to ask what we will need for the status meeting at 4 p.m.—Food, drinks, overhead projector, or a whiteboard? I can only hope we won’t be in there long enough to need food and beverages (although cookies always draw people in at the end of a day).
I go back to my notes from the status meeting, but not before a manager in the IT department calls to discuss the installs before he leaves sick for the day. I’m hoping it will be a brief meeting, so I run up to his office.
I meet with many people at the client site to determine the current business process and system situation. We identify problem areas. I summarize findings and document business processes to help isolate root causes of problems and develop recommendations to solve process or system problems, which means many meetings with the client’s IT department.
No such luck on a brief meeting. However, installs will take place tonight so that testing can begin tomorrow. I get back to my desk to check my emails and calls one last time, which could affect my status report, and then send the report to my manager. My manager will either send back changes or include my update into the full slide presentation and then send it on to the engagement partner who will arrive promptly at noon. My engagement partner also happens to be the managing partner at Magnum Forge. He has multiple clients and is responsible for client development (sales), so he is usually on-site at some point, but rarely for the entire day.
I usually head to lunch about noon, but today I decided to first work on several last-minute project details, which I noticed were not complete when I reviewed my status update. I leave messages for all client contacts preparing testing data to let them know we can start in the morning. Then I head out to grab a quick sandwich downstairs.
Back to work. Since new testing will begin tomorrow, I check in with several team members of the client’s on open items from the previous weeks’ fixes. After lunch, I find that after lunch is usually a good time to meet with people individually who need one-on-one assistance to resolve any issues resulting from testing; I sent an email late last night offering this time for anyone interested in help and found several willing takers. I walk up to the accounting department and begin dropping in on those who responded to close out as many items as possible.
A client meeting is needed to resolve an issue that spans across two departments, which will result in additional testing by both teams. It may seem that we meet a lot; however, it is best to get both department heads affected by the issue into a room together to decide on a resolution. Logistically speaking, this is easier said than done. Most of the time, the two leads will not be on the same floor, let alone the same location.
I debrief my team on the 2:00 p.m. meeting, and we reset team goals and priorities for the week as necessary. I send an email to both department heads recapping the issue at hand and the agreed-upon resolution, and I copy my team on the email. Next, I need to check my email for updates from the software vendor on testing planned with data entered into a separate module.
Prepare for the 4:00 p.m. meeting. I first check with my manager to see if there are any last-minute details for which he needs my help. I find he is ready to go, so I take this time to grab a snack and check messages. I return a few calls, punch out an email, and then I am off to the meeting with the client sponsor and our engagement partner.
Debrief with the MF team and restate what we agreed to at the concluded meeting. We also discuss any new items or issues that have been revealed and how to address them. Again, I send out an email to those at the meeting to restate what was discussed and agreed upon, again copying my team. I update our internal tracker and review the schedule for tomorrow. I do some prep for the rest of the week and finish a few emails related to deadlines the following week.
The client contacts have begun to go home by now, giving me time to work on my deliverables. It’s normal for consultants to work later than their client counterparts, but after-hours is sometimes the most productive time of the day.
Pack up. Mondays can be long days if I travel, so I avoid setting any client events after work. If on the road, I usually go straight back to the hotel on Monday. Sometimes I go for a run or grab a quick workout, catch up on the news of the day, and relax.
One last check of emails, and off to bed.
Brian – Magnum Forge Consultant