Talking Business

Independence in IT Consulting and Professional Services – is it Disappearing?

“Agility through acquisition – Australia’s major professional services consultancies have gone on a technology acquisition spree since 2014, snapping up more than 20 companies.” – Brad Howarth, CRN

 

As government and corporates break up their transformation programs into parcels, we see the big players buying up small consultancies. This is happening so they can increase their agility and shore up skills gaps primarily to get access to these smaller projects, many that require specialty services. Yet this consolidation of independent consulting and professional services firms into the bigger players, is not the answer to scope creep, or huge IT consulting bills. Independence is! Not only that, it is the antithesis of the Government’s objective to support small business by increasing access to smaller chunks of work.

When you spend over 20 years working on large complex projects you learn a thing or two. You witness, over and over again, how the big professional services firms embed themselves into transformation programs or large projects, not always with the best outcomes nor best value for the dollar. Another thing you also learn is how good they are with legals and devising contracts.

It always amazes me how a project that could have been delivered for $1-2m can balloon to $8-10m, peppered with multitudes of premium price consultants (many of them fairly junior). While a full blown engineering approach such as Waterfall cannot be totally discounted for complex systems development, neither can other approaches such as Iterative or Agile. Add to this the risk averse nature of many large IT departments and the shift away from internal IT expertise, and you can see how the ‘land and expand’ scenario can take seed and entrench.

It doesn’t need to be like this.  I contend that an experienced, independent consultancy will steer the ship in the right direction early and pick the most suitable methods and tools to deliver value, manage risk and minimise wastage.

Some years ago, driven by a passion to do things differently, I assembled a team of like-minded experienced professionals to help companies survive such assaults on the P&L by providing independent, experienced Program and Project Management and Cloud Consultants who act only for the client. They are senior consultants, who stay on the assignment – not executives who set up the introduction then disappear.

The passion for independence in consulting, on which our business was formed, has held us in good stead through the past 10 years of business/IT consulting and professional services. We remain a niche player – partly due to the personalised nature of our service, and partly due to vendors’ foray into professional services.

In recent years, in both cloud consulting and project delivery, we have seen a serious decline in independence. In the cloud space, every man and their dog has a PaaS or IaaS offering, yet they profess to be qualified to provide independent strategic advice and cloud readiness assessments? Let’s face it: the answer or solution many vendors put forward is their own product, so how can they be objective?

Further decline in independence has been delivered to the Australian market through takeovers and acquisitions. Oakton is now owned by Dimension Data. UXC went to CSC and CSC joined HPE (20bn turnover). Kloud was bought by Telstra, Phoenix and Simplicit by DWS and the list goes on and on.

The best defence against scope creep, the land-and-expand method and solution recommendations impacted by the vested interests of the parties involved, is to work with a truly independent consulting firm. That way you will have a consultant that works for you, bringing to bear the experience to help you avoid these pitfalls and manage other vendors to get value for money.

An independent consultancy will:

  • Provide experienced and skilful consultants
  • Provide independent advice
  • Deliver value for money

An experienced, independent consultant will:

  • Be agile
  • Pick the most suitable methods
  • Pick the most suitable tools
  • Manage risk
  • Stand in the clients shoes when considering options, and
  • Minimise wastage

In the cloud arena, we have views on best of breed cloud services and technology products but also recognise the need to take each client’s existing state and future objectives, both business and technology, into account while preparing a strategy.  We will continue to operate at a price point that works for our clients and provide independence and value for money. We also believe that as the rate of change in the market and in technology continues to accelerate, the need for independent advice and quality project delivery services will persist.

David Robinson is Consulting Director at Envisian

 

 


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