Years ago, someone sent me a Dilbert comic where Dogbert was sharing how he liked to con people and he liked to insult people, therefore he was a “consultant.” I found this quite funny and it continues to get a laugh when I share it with people. But, unfortunately, consulting is not always too far from Dogbert’s philosophy and in some ways it is a term that is often viewed with cynicism and skepticism.
If it isn’t obvious, consulting should always be a self funding exercise. By definition, consulting is to give professional advice, which hopefully comes from years of credible experience and understanding on the part of the consultant. This advice or counsel is always meant to improve something that the company or a client cannot resolve on their own. Yet the issue arises when consultants are hired but the necessary effort of measuring their success is neglected.
The success measurement can come in several flavors, but it needs to come and be tangible. Consulting is a self funding exercise and should be a fairly low risk proposition for a company in terms of upfront investment if the consultant or company offering the consulting services has properly defined and articulated their experience, value, and how they will quantify the work done. Yes, this is a soap box discussion – simply for the reason that our business models are changing. Responsibility, discipline, and accountability are becoming fashionable again, and all of us who provide “value-added” services need to ensure that what we sell is worth it.
When a company hires a service provider to improve their software development process then from the beginning there should be tangible benefits defined that will be targeted and reached. These benefits will translate into numeric value that will then quantify the investment made by the company in the service provider’s consulting organization to help get them there. Showing nice PowerPoint decks, having lots of positive meetings, and documenting new processes doesn’t cut it. Improving time-to-market by double digits, showing revenue increase on the top line, and demonstrating improved operating margin does.
Service providers must be able to present and demonstrate how and why their services are better, more valuable, and self-funded.