One of my observations during my job search — IT vendors are trying to move up the consulting stack. Vendors want enterprise customers to know that they have both the technical and business capability to solve business challenges. My outside observation is that they still fall short.

The challenge

Business leaders are pressuring their CIO’s to enable business agility. In turn, CIO’s are turning to their technology partners for help. Enterprise IT companies find themselves with both the challenge and opportunity to engage their customers in a new way. The problems faced by customers can no longer be solved by just upgrading to the latest version of code or buying a bigger box. Customers are looking for help solving the agility problem which may or may not be technology related. With most business challenges, the issue normally lays in people or process.

From an cloud software vendor’s perspective, the solution is obvious. Implementing a cloud management solution is the solution and who better to help integrate a cloud management system than the provider of the system? From a technical perspective, no one knows the solution better. The vendor has all of the technical know-how and internal support to implement highly complex hardware and software. However, it isn’t that simple.

CIO’s are are becoming much more business focused. In today’s climate, CIO’s must look at integrating technology operations with business operations at a much deeper level. With this new world view, CIO’s must approach problems from a business first viewpoint.

Fundamentally different vantages

Technology vendors are looking to sale software and hardware. At the end of the day, tech vendors make their money selling technology. The focus of the entire vendor organization is selling technology. The result is something that looks much different than a business consulting organization.

Just as you would engage a technical consultant to solve a technical problem, it’s appropriate to engage a management consultant to solve a business problem. Management consultants come at a problem in a completely different way than a technical consultant. Management consultants start with the business problem and move to a technical solution if deemed the appropriate approach.

A vendor based consultant is looking to solve a problem with technology. Specifically, they are looking to solve a problem leveraging their technology. This isn’t to say the vendors don’t have the capability to solve business problems. The point is that customers need to understand the perspective and motives of their partners.

Recommendation

The best approach would be to engage a management consultant to identify the correct course of action. The resulting recommendations may include changing processes before implementing new technology. It’s after this initial engagement that it’s appropriate to bring in your technology vendor. In an ideal situation, you may continue to have the management consultant engaged during the implementation phase of your project. Management consultants can help make sure the overall objective stays in view.

While I always recommend using the appropriate tool for the job, I understand that part of the selection process is influenced by outside forces. If you are forced to engage your enterprise IT vendor as a management consultant, make sure to examine their consulting infrastructure. Check the backgrounds of the consultants IT vendors deploy on your project. Ensure the consultants have management consulting experience. Experience at Big 4’s or higher end boutiques is preferred. Also, ensure the directors and managers overseeing the project aren’t just life long salespersons or engineers promoted over the vendors consulting BU. Another good indicator is to ask about growth of the consulting practice over the last few years. Growth can indicate a couple of things including investment and maturity of the practice.

IT vendors aren’t management consultants

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