Implementation at computer software companies

Implementation consultant
A person who implements a software solution making use of direct client requirements, frequently being called upon to fit round pegs into various shape holes.

Implementation consultants are an interesting group, there tends to be a requirement for them to be a jack of all trades, which sadly often has the side effect of being master of none. These people are often required to work directly with client end users, vendor consultants, architects from both sides along with potentially direct work with development teams responsible for the products that they are often implementing or integrating with.

This does lead to a problem. With the ever increasing shift to hosted applications these people don't necessarily have a position in the workflow any more. The varied skill set don't always translate well to development as they are not specifically focused on any one thing to be expert in it. That being said there is one massive area where they have a large advantage over development teams, real world experience and knowledge of how applications are used in the field.

This area of knowledge though isn't as valued as you might expect. There generally appears to be resistance to the idea of integrating these people into development teams. In part this could also be because they are geographically dispersed living and working closer to where the clients are than near a central head office that might hold the development teams. Sadly this often leads to the standard consultant method of dealing with a career dead end which is to move companies. How does it benefit anyone to have these experienced and knowledgeable people leaving just because there doesn't appear any future direction or area for them.

So what options are there? How can a company keep hold of this experience and use it to it's advantage. Admittedly there are no simple answers here especially as people working in the Implementation world aren't necessarily all well suited to working in development and there can be resistance to having them join a traditional development team remotely especially for companies that don't have a remote first approach to staffing.

Can or will the Implementation roles continue to exist in a world of hosted applications where all clients are running on a single instance (logical instance, not anything to do with system architecture) with limited and controlled configuration options? Or are these people to just become another casuality in the shifting tides of the technology world.