A consultant is generally hired as someone who, through engaging in a collaborative process with her employer, provides advice and suggestions based on the information she gathers. Learning the different phases involved in the consulting process can help consultants ensure they're meeting their client's needs and completing their projects to the best of their ability.

Initial Phase: Contracting

The first stage begins with the initial interaction between the consultant and client. The consultant identifies the situation or problem which with the client needs help. Listening is an important skill during this phase. The consultant has to clearly understand the key issues the client is facing. During this stage, the consultant should also initiate a discussion on expectations she and the client has of one another, and the roles each will play throughout the consulting process. This step may have to be revisited throughout the process if the project is not going as planned or if the consultant runs into additional questions or problems.

Initial Phase: Clarifying Objectives

During this phase, the consultant helps the client identify desired specific outcomes. These may include aspects such as increased productivity, increased profits, enhanced public image, or changes in working relationships between supervisors and their employees. Consultants also should discuss what type of product the client expects them to produce; it may be a specific proposal or design, analysis of existing data, or a training course. This step helps consultants determine what kind of data they need to collect in the next phase. Consultants should also take a moment to identify possible barriers, constraints or problems that might be encountered in the future.

Phase Two: Data Collection

In this phase, consultants begin collecting data on the main issues the client has presented. Different methods can be used to obtain data, such as interviews or questionnaires, observation, or analysis of existing documents or records.

Phase Three: Providing Feedback

Consultants provide feedback to the client during this phase. Using the information obtained from their data collection phase, consultants should present their findings to the client, give recommendations and provide the client with time to respond.

Phase Four: Implementation

The client may or may not want the consultant to be involved during the implementation phase. If the client requires assistance, the consultant can help implement changes he recommended in the feedback session. The consultant may need to revisit the previous phases if problems arise, or if the client discovers new needs. After implementation is complete and the client is satisfied with the changes, the consulting process can be terminated.