Epiphanies for Everybody

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High Tech Consultancy

August 03, 20235 min read

Every high-end tech consultancy has the same problem. It manifests in one of two ways:

  1. “We do great work, but it doesn’t outlive our presence.”

  2. “We do great work, but it never fixes anything.”

Often a tech consultancy is hired to solve a perceived problem. They come in, and do a lot of work, and cost a lot of money, and the problem doesn’t get solved. Why?

Not every problem has a clear cause an effect. Just because you see a problem in technology doesn’t mean it originated there. In all likelihood, what you’re seeing is a symptom of a problem that originated elsewhere.

For example:

  • You need to pivot. Your technical people appear incapable of making the necessary changes to support the new direction. So you hire outside help. But why aren’t your internal people able to make the change?

  • For years, to keep costs down, training, support, development, growth, and experimentation have all been curtailed. Your people don’t know enough to make the change you want. If you hire a tech consultancy, will your people be able to support what they deliver?

  • You’re embarking on a modernisation journey. You have 30 years of legacy systems that haven’t been maintained, updated, or moved-away-from. The people in your organisation are great at maintaining those systems. The people who want to do something different realised a long time ago that they would have to go somewhere else to do it. Are the people you have going to be able to understand the approach that a high-end tech consultancy takes?

  • Your systems have grown organically over time. Your sales team have continually told you that adding feature X, or report Y, will win the sale. You added them. Then the next client wanted something different, so you added that. Now your systems are big, inefficient, unwieldy, complicated, and difficult to understand. Will you be able to move quickly when there’s a sudden demand for change?

I’ve seen this pattern play out repeatedly.

When a client is frustrated, good tech consultancies want to help. That’s a large part of why people build and work in the services space. Unfortunately, this particular client frustration, while it lands on the consultancy, didn’t originate there. In fact, the consultancy has literally no power to resolve the issue. This is because the problem is a systemic issue in the client’s organisation.

It doesn’t matter how much you pay your tech consultants, they aren’t going to be able to fix non-tech problems.

No tech consultancy in the world can fix underinvestment, neglect, or the fact that you’re a sales-driven organisation. Those aren’t things they’re equipped to do. What they are equipped to do is deliver fantastic work that will blow people’s minds, and be fast, secure, scalable, reliable, etc. But none of that matters if it’s built on a foundation made of legacy systems, lack of strategy, inability to say no, or being seen as a cost the business has to bear (instead of a strategic area to invest in).

Fix those issues first.

The first step is accepting that mistakes were made. The reason this is important is because a lot of leaders fear the vulnerability associated with admitting mistakes.

It doesn’t matter who made the mistakes. What’s more, trying to figure out who to blame will make things much worse.

Regardless of who made the mistakes, the collective decisions of the past have created your present. That means the collective decisions of the present will create your future. There’s no magic wand that will enable you to suddenly do everything you want at the speed you want to do it. There’s only the hard work of either updating or replacing your old systems, investing in your people, ensuring that control of the organisation is collaborative, and not dictated exclusively by one function (I picked on sales in my examples, but it can be any function).

After you’ve gotten on top of the organisational challenges — your people are learning, churn is decreasing, commincation between you and the other executives is improving, and transparency has increased — then you can hire a high-end tech consultancy. They’ll land in fertile ground, and will accelerate the growth of your people, your products, and your capabilities.

If this sounds enormously difficult, it’s because it is. Changing the way you make decisions does not come easily. Our decisions are based on our beliefs about how things work, or how things should work. When we admit that we have made a mistake, those beliefs come into question. If we don’t have a new set of beliefs available to us, then we end up sticking with the beliefs we had, which means we end up sticking with the decisions we made. That means we’ll get more of what we’ve always gotten.

Change comes from external input. Sometimes that’s a person, or a book, or a video, or a chance conversation. But ultimately, new information is required in order to develop new beliefs, and thereby new decisions. If you want to embark on a change journey for your organisation, it’s going to mean embarking on a change journey for yourself. And that’s best done with company — with someone who’s been there before, or someone who can help you see how to approach things differently. Preferably both. So before hiring that tech consultancy, and before starting that change program, get a coach, or some other means of self-discovery and change. The rest will be much easier as a result.

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