old thinking, received wisdomLarge organizations have often looked to industry analysis firms for generic advice on technology strategy and related matters. But these firms sometimes seem little more than an extension to the marketing function of the large technology vendors, helping to invent and promote an array of new jargon, and producing a series of pseudoscientific classification. One senior IT manager told me recently that he looked to industry analysis to help him “spend wisely on IT”. That’s an excellent objective, but you might need a little more than curves and quadrants.
old practice, best practiceTraditional consultancy can sometimes suffer from the following risk. A significant amount of consultancy work is involved in delivering tried-and-tested solutions to known problems. For example the client may have a process problem: this is quickly diagnosed as a “six sigma” problem, so you put together a team of six sigma experts and software experts and process management experts and a strong project manager to deliver a “six sigma” solution. Although there may be an exploratory phase at the start of an engagement, allowing for a more open-ended investigation of the nature of the problem, this is typically carried out by a small elite of the most experienced consultants using adhoc methods; consultancy firms generally experience commercial pressure to conclude the open-ended exploration and start the delivery phase as quickly as possible. But such delivery projects are vulnerable to a number of risks, for example
- that the solution may interact in unforeseen ways with other aspects of the business organization, or with other solutions being developed elsewhere
- that the solution may require clever and complicated mechanisms to work effectively, which add to the overall complexity of the business and its processes
- that the chosen solution may actually not be the most appropriate way of addressing this problem at this time
- that the solution fails to deliver the promised benefits
The paradox of “demanding solutions” is that the delivery of a given solution (such as six sigma) never gets any easier. Although the delivery team may get more experienced with a given approach and may accumulate reusable patterns and components, and although the tools and platforms may get more sophisticated, this is counterbalanced by the fact that the easy opportunities (the so-called “low-hanging fruit”) have probably already gone. In such an environment, the solution itself generates further demands.
next thinking, next practice
So what does it take to become
- creatively rigorous and rigorously creative?
- analytic and synthetic, evidence-based, results-based?
- reflective and self-critical?