Sometimes, preconceptions can be a very difficult thing to change. For instance, a pre-judged idea of how industries operate can be particularly harmful, when that preconception does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the world of IT professional services.
It’s clear that more often than not, a jaded view of consultancy and the value it can provide is based on previous bad experiences, or word of mouth. But there are also factors at play - sometimes, for instance, it could be a basic fear of changing the status quo or at the other end of the scale the knowledge they’re already getting an amazing service from existing suppliers.
I should say that, having been on the other side of the fence, I don't blame those who have had bad experiences from arriving at this conclusion. If a consultancy engagement doesn’t go well, especially with a new supplier, it can carry an unwelcome amount of risk. After all, no one wants to have to explain to the board that the consultancy they may have backed will be missing deadlines or not achieving goals. However, sometimes it may be worth asking whether the risk is a good thing, as long as it can be sufficiently mitigated.
It is, of course, vital that the service provided actually delivers the required outcomes; it is not, for instance, acceptable to just provide a wonderfully crafted PowerPoint deck or document set that will just end up gathering dust in on a shelf. Now, more than ever it’s all about delivery.
So why hire an IT professional services company? On the assumption you get the senior level people who have real world experience to lead the work required, they can add real value with the service and advice they deliver. In todays lean employment market the cost of recruiting, hiring and managing players at this level can be extremely high. When compared to the in-house cost, where you also hold responsibility for the delivery, invariably IT services will end up being cheaper in the long run.
The point here is that IT professional services should always result in greater benefits than costs. Often a professional service provider will be able to help you get more out of your existing resource whether it be contract or established staff. They should also be able to offer up new alternatives or indeed make savings or increase revenues that easilycover the engagement costs.
Another major benefit of using consultants particularly for critical/strategic issues is that they're outsiders. Coming from outside they can look at your business with objectivity. They will be seeking to get you improved results and a fresh pair of experienced eyes can point out the inadequacies of your current modus operandi without being encumbered by any politics. However, armed with this information you have gleaned from the honest appraisal, it is vital that the advice you get is taken and given due consideration, even if it makes uncomfortable reading.
Of course, professional service firms are also vendors and you are a paying customer, so do they really want to bite the hand thatfeeds them by telling you the straight, honest truth? Having a good relationship with the senior people involved is key to ensure you get the most out of it. Ultimately they are in the business of making you more profitable and efficient and by hook or by crook, a good professional services company can help you to get you there!
Posted by Pat Phillips, Practice Director, independent IT and business change firm, Xceed