Internal Consultant? Not Yet...

PMI Delaware Valley Chapter

Laura Dallas Burford is the founder of LAD Enterprizes, a management consulting firm that partners with consultants as well as internal and external consulting organizations to successfully build the operational and delivery aspects of their practices. Laura appreciates feedback on her articles and can be reached at She is the author of Project Management for Flat Organizations.

I’m frequently asked by project managers: “How do I become a recognized and respected internal consultant?” The answer is not simple due to an organization’s culture, its utilization of external consultants and its project management approach—as well as how the project managers themselves impact how (and if) they are viewed as an internal consultant.

To understand how to be viewed as an internal consultant, start by understanding the similarities and differences between internal and external consultants—and your organization’s view of consultants. Then, design a strategy enabling you to move into the trusted advisor role known as an internal consultant.

One of the first challenges is that the term “consultant” means different things to different people. Some people classify subcontractors as consultants. For example, a CIO is short programming staff, so a subcontractor—a “consultant”—is hired to fill the gap. Other people refer to consultants as trusted advisors. For example, a CIO needs assistance with the development of a technical strategic plan, so an expert technological advisor (a “consultant”) is hired. Although many in our society refer to subcontractors and trusted advisors as consultants, the question posed to me refers to the internal trusted advisor consultant. This …

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