How to pick the right technology consulting partner
Paul Gray, DVT technology consulting principal
We are living in a golden age of technology. It seems that almost daily we are made aware of new technology or more accurately more choices around technology. It may be confusing and frustrating to be asked, as a decision-maker, what should be a priority when you are faced with the current plethora, including digital transformation, DevOps, application modernisation, AI and cloud migration. Having access to a technology consulting partner at these times can be enormously valuable.
There is a school of thought that posits too many choices can lead to analysis paralysis. This paralysis, as the name suggests, keeps us from moving forward. More recent research has alluded to the fact that it is not the choices that may be the problem but the overload of information in those choices, that is the debilitating part. Technology should enable business, but the right technology applied incorrectly will do anything but that. It is this significant risk that results in technology decision-makers in large organisations justifiably needing help. It is not possible to know everything in the technology opportunity space. This is where the old saying comes in: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Asking for help from companies that specialise in technology can eliminate unnecessary choices, keep the analysis paralysis at bay, and mitigate risk. So, how to choose that technology consulting partner?
Find people that make the complex simple
We have all had the experience of leaving a meeting that had so many acronyms, adjectives and terms we’ve never heard before. The consultant sounded clever, but we left the room not knowing how any of that would solve our problem. Einstein was once quoted as saying: “If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you probably don't understand it yourself.” This as a guiding principle will go a long way in making sure the right people are working to solve the problem. As a technology consultant, I am often asked to consult in a business I don’t understand to offer the best technology path. It can be difficult, but that is where the skill of making complicated things simple helps me to help my client. The trick is to take very small bits, understand them and, through the process of testing assumptions, get to a picture that encompasses the whole without complicating it. It is in this process we will often uncover unnecessary complexity. Simply by looking at the whole, the sum of the parts become far clearer.
Find people as passionate about their business as you are of yours
Passionate people love what they do. People who love what they do don’t find work a chore but an opportunity to express skill and expertise. You are passionate about your business, that is why it exists and remains. When you partner with people that are equally passionate about what they do, it is the winning combination.
Find people who will tell you the truth
Truth is becoming a rare commodity in our world, but without it there is no moving forward. It can be uncomfortable to hear the truth, but if that truth is coming with the aim of making you better, it is worth the pain. Your technology partner should be ready to tell you the truth even if that means being unpopular or disliked. If you want to be better than yesterday, then facing the truth will help you get there. Again, as consultants, we have ways of allowing the truth to surface in ways that not only make sense but does not overwhelm our client. These techniques are designed to bring the truth out in a safe and productive way. I vividly remember having to tell a CEO that their company was not agile, despite having invested significant amounts of money in coaching and training. Although they had implemented a framework, there had been no effort in actually changing the culture of the organisation and, without that change, agile was just another word.
Find people who have done it before
All the degrees or qualifications in the world don’t make up for a lack of experience. Experience is something that comes with time and consistent application. Find someone with a track record of dealing with technology challenges. Ideally, you want to take advantage of the scars and battle wounds they have picked up through the years. Lessons they have learned that you don’t have to learn. Don’t underestimate the value of relevant experience and a breadth of experience.
Find people who will not just partner you, but empower you
This may seem counterintuitive to business, but if we do our job right, at some point you will be able to carry on, on your own. Your technology partner should never be a crutch. They need to empower you, help you, upskill you and then leave you to continue on your own. If you ever get the feeling you cannot do it without your technology partner, then they have not done their job.
We have a million choices to make every day, in our personal lives, in our businesses, everywhere. The last thing any of us needs is a technology partner to add to our burden. In the short term they should take some of the load off our shoulders and in the long term have helped us lighten it to the point where we can gladly carry it ourselves. The right technology consulting improves your awareness, evaluation, selection and implementation of technology in support of your business goals. The ability to do that is why technology consulting services, the good ones anyway, are still so valuable in this age of rapid innovation and disruption.