What Do Consultants Do?
Consultants bring a whole host of tools to experiences to bear on solving your business problems. They can fill a need quickly, look in the right places, reframe the problem, communicate and get teams working together, and bring to light problems on the horizon. And they tell stories of challenges they faced at other businesses, and how they solved them.
Frame or Reframe The Problem
Oftentimes businesses see the symptoms of a larger problem, but not the cause. Perhaps their website is sluggish at key times, causing them to lose customers. Or perhaps it is locking up inexplicably. Framing the problem may involve identifying the bottleneck and pointing to a particular misconfigured option in the database or webserver. Or it may mean looking at the technical problem you’ve chosen to solve and asking if it meets or exceeds what the business needs.
Tell Business Stories
Clients often have a collection of technologies and components in place to meet their business needs. But day-to-day running of a business is ultimately about bringing a product or service to your customer. Telling stories of challenges and solutions of past customers, helps illustrate, educate, and communicate problems you’re facing today.
Fill A Need Quickly
If you have an urgent problem, and your current staff is over extended, bringing in a consultant to solve a specific problem can be a net gain for everyone. They get up to speed quickly, bring fresh perspectives, and review your current processes and operations. What’s more they can be used in a surgical way, to augment your team for a short stint.
Get Teams Communicating
I’ve worked at quite a number of firms over the years and tasked with solving a specific technical problem only to find the problem was a people problem to begin with. In some cases the firm already has the knowledge and expertise to solve a problem, but some members are blocking. This can be because some folks feel threatened by a new solution which will take away responsibilities they formerly held. Or it can be because they feel some solution will create new problems which they will then be responsible to cleanup. In either case bridging the gap between business needs and operations teams to solve those needs can mean communicating to each team in ways that make sense to them. A technical detail oriented focus makes most sense when working with the engineering teams, business and bottom-line focused when communicating with the management team.
Highlight Or Bring To Light Problems On Horizon
Is our infrastructure a ticking timebomb? Perhaps our backups haven’t been tested and are missing some crucial component? Or we’ve missed some security consideration, left some password unset, left the proverbial gate open to the castle. When you deal with your operations on a day-to-day basis, little details can be easy to miss. A fresh perspective can bring needed insight.
BOOK REVIEW – Jaron Lanier – You Are Not a Gadget
Lanier is a programmer, musician, the father of VR way back in the 90’s, and wide-ranging thinker on topics in computing and the internet.
His new book is a great, if at times meandering read on technology, programming, schizophrenia, inflexible design decisions, marxism, finance transformed by cloud, obscurity & security, logical positivism, strange loops and more.
He opposes the thinking-du-jour among computer scientists, leaning in a more humanist direction summed up here: “I believe humans are the result of billions of years of implicit, evolutionary study in the school of hard knocks.” The book is worth a look.