I am core consultant by profession; I have been consulting in the IT Process domain around the globe. To speak with my experience an organization engage with consultants in 2 ways; either consultant have answers to the questions organization has or they have the right questions for which organizations has answers. The first types of consultants are Content consultants while the later are the Process consultants. And then there are some cases where an organization engages with a consultant to reiterate their point of view to the management and bring out the business case reminiscent of their words. Most of the times it works but in certain scenario it might backfire.
Content consultants are more simpler of the two to understand (don’t underestimate “Simple” here as to be at that level requires E2- Experience and Expertise).They are the one providing answers to the big questions from organization for e.g. “ How do we take our infrastructure to Cloud?” or “Which ERP works in this given scenario?”. In this case the problem is known and solution is expected and that’s where the content consultants experience and expertise plays the key role.
The process consulting is the other side, where we start with overall problem finding aspects with rigorous exercise on process mapping; identify the gaps and then derive the suggested roadmap. To quote an example, I was providing the consulting to IT team of a retail organization in Australia with a problem statement as vague as “I need to secure my enterprise architecture from the frequent changes”. The first thing that comes to the mind is; “Are you asking for information security? “ Or where are these changes coming from. And there comes the Process consultants approach to problem finding.
I did a 2 week of assessment exercise and the first thing I did was conducting a small workshop with the set of selected and impacted stakeholders to know the business process and its impact on IT. And to my surprise the problem statement was Business teams engaging with vendors on their own without involving the IT organization. Come the product; integrates with the systems in place and gets in to support. Post warranty it’s the in house IT team doing all of it and are in this state of not knowing how to deal with it. Obviously we don’t expect a strong transition in place for making it smooth sailing later on. So as against the IT security scenario, the solution was to put control over vendor selection and technology implementation and put some basic governance practices in place.
This brings me back to the most typical Consulting stories “The consultant cost is paid to know where to use the hammer and not for hammering actually.”
The problem finding stage goes to the grass root level to first validate the problem statement and then finding out the reasons behind it and then go back to the drawing board with the various stakeholders to chalk out the plan. All the while a process consultant looks for the frameworks, i.e. the lenses that the organization is using and might be using to make sense of its current situation and problem statement. Every perspective enables some views but disables others. A shareholder’s value model, for example, solutions meeting expectation of one over the others has the inevitable effect of turning off many people whose needs are sidelined. But being consultant you have the Third Party view of stating what the truthful viewpoint is and that does not always align to what all stakeholders want to hear.
As a consultant it is practically inevitable to look at the broader perspective i.e. the organization’s perspective no matter how small the initial problem statement actually was. Need is to understand the expectations and constraints under which it is operating from stakeholders of all kinds and then convert it to a problem that needs resolution and work towards it.
The result of exercises is kind of a moving picture of the past, present and potential futures of the organization– the impediments it has to overcome and the choices it has to make. It is the skeleton of a tale. Next come the Process revision: and the solution could be a process improvement or a breakthrough change in the organization. The solution may require questionnaires and feedback instruments at the individual, team and organizational level. But the objective is to take those challenges and have the organization’s team mobilize them. They will understand not just the meaning, but their implications because now they have fleshed out the story and brought it to life. The power of this approach allows them to become engaged, understand that they have actually transformed the problems that they have found into problems that they have removed.