“Give freedom of choice, not drive you into limits”: how IT consulting (doesn't) work

16.3.2021

Content

The market has not yet developed clear IT consulting standards. Because of this, businesses see no value in consulting. Let's figure out how it differs from auditing and when IT consulting will be useful for business

  • From IT audit to IT consulting
  • IT consulting levels
  • The line between sales and consulting
  • A must-have for a consultant
  • When will IT consulting be useful for you
  • What to remember
  • The Russian IT market is relatively young. For many of its areas, including IT consulting, clear standards have not yet been established. Consulting includes auditing, implementation support, and the veiled sale of IT products. As a result, the value of IT consulting in the eyes of businesses is blurring: we are kt.team from time to time we are faced with the fact that the customer does not understand how consulting will actually help him. Let's see why businesses need IT consulting, how they work and how they don't.

    From IT audit to IT consulting

    rus: От ИТ-аудита к ИТ-консалтингу | Блог kt.team

    These two concepts are often confused. Because of this, businesses sometimes cannot understand what kind of service they need now.

    Colleagues from the financial sector will help us understand the concepts. Market standards there have long been established both at the level of legal regulation and at the level of understanding on the part of customers.

    For example, the company will be subject to a tax audit. To prepare for it, the company invites an auditor. Its task is to check whether the documents are in order, whether the reporting meets the standards, and whether there are any grounds for fines, let alone initiating an administrative (or even criminal) case. And propose changes that will eliminate all discrepancies in a short time. The auditor's duties and powers end there.

    Consulting is at a higher level. It is no longer working to correct the consequences, but to build the right processes. How can I work so that errors do not occur? How do you achieve business goals? How can we adapt the system to the changed conditions?

    In terms of IT, the situation is exactly the same: an IT audit looks for existing and potential errors, IT consulting works to achieve strategic and tactical goals as part of digital transformation. With one caveat: IT consulting looks at achieving business goals through the prism of information technology.

    IT consulting levels

    There are three levels of IT consulting: consulting audit, applied consulting and strategic consulting. They differ in the level of tasks that the customer sets for consulting: from tactical and minor to strategic ones.

    Lower level — process consulting. An IT consultant looks at processes, identifies their weaknesses and suggests specific changes. He answers the question: “How can we adjust existing processes to get a good result?” This may be the refinement of processes or systems, or maybe the introduction of new functionality.

    At the average level — within architectural consulting — the main thing is the answer to the question: “How to build or restructure the company's IT architecture so that it is most effective within the framework of the company's existing business model and goals?” This is no longer working with individual processes, but with the entire company's system of activities. An IT consultant finds out who owns each of the company's business processes, what problems exist, how the IT architecture reflects the company's organizational outline, and then refines the existing architecture.

    Strategic consulting is the highest level, the level of strategy change and digital business transformation. At this level, IT consulting does not work with specific technologies, but with strategic decisions and restructuring the business model.

    The higher the level of consulting, the less it focuses on details: specific systems that can be implemented into the company's IT infrastructure. But at the same time, each decision or proposal has a stronger impact on the customer's results.

    It should be noted here that it is pointless to come to IT consulting even at a strategic level with the request: “We don't know how to live in the future, but we want to become Yandex, write a development strategy for us.” For IT consulting to be effective, a business must have a vision and a common development strategy. A consultant only helps to “ground” them to the level of information technology and digitalization, formulate steps to implement the strategy, see the potential risks of digital transformation and discuss adjusting the strategy based on experience gained.

    The line between sales and consulting

    rus: Грань между продажами и консалтингом | Блог kt.team

    Almost always, IT consulting is provided by companies that are also IT integrators. This has an impact on how the consultation takes place and what the result is.

    Knowing certain technologies, an IT integrator often tries to solve customers' business problems through the prism of these technologies. So, 6-7 years ago, we also tried to solve customer requests through Magento — a product that was well mastered at that time.

    If a consultant has a small amount of technology in his arsenal, he is limited in solutions. And instead of effectively transforming the business digitally, it risks driving the customer into a technological impasse.

    It is much more productive when an IT consultant has experience working with a wide range of technologies. In this case, it can offer different approaches that are relevant to customer's business goals.

    Another option is the pursuit of “trendy technologies”. Blockchain, computer vision, and machine learning are popular right now; they are surrounded by an aura of “cool”. Customers and developers are enthusiastic about them, but there are not many real successful cases on them. When offering these technologies from a consulting perspective, an IT integrator does not always take into account their feasibility for the customer's business.

    Consulting not only answers the question of what to do, but also explains why to do it and what the result will be. If the consultant can base his suggestions and recommendations on the basis of numbers and feasibility, his work was effective.

    A must-have for a consultant

    rus: Must-have для консультанта | Блог kt.team

    IT consulting thinks and operates at two levels: the level of business goals and the level of applied solutions. From this, we can conclude about the set of skills that a consultant should possess.

    The first is business expertise. Any consulting is based on understanding the company's strategy, tactics, business goals, and business processes. In this sense, IT consulting differs from conventional business consulting only in its point of view: it skips goals and objectives through the prism of information technology. He looks at how to improve business processes using IT tools. It offers technological solutions (at the level of specific systems or IT architecture) that will help implement the company's strategy. It helps to “complete” the IT strategy.

    The second key skill of an IT consultant is “field” expertise, thanks to which he will be able to offer truly effective and feasible digitalization scenarios. Working “in the field” removes the romantic flair around technology and teaches you to assess trends in a practical way. The IT consultant knows the pros and cons and peculiarities of implementing each technology in practice, and not at the level of marketing statements. Therefore, it can offer really relevant and modern solutions to your problems.

    Let us clarify: extensive “field” expertise is not equal to extensive experience in implementing one or two technologies.

    The value of consulting lies in skill see from different angles problems and processes in the company, choose the solutions on the market that are optimal for the client and explain why they are offered.

    When will IT consulting be useful for you

    rus: Когда ИТ-консалтинг будет вам полезен | Блог kt.team

    It seems that in IT consulting, the ball is always on the contractor's side: he understands business processes, makes suggestions, etc. But the result of IT consulting also depends on the customer.

    You can get specific, working and effective offers in the following situations.

    • You have a business strategy and a vision of how your business will develop in the future. Working on an overall strategy is the task of C-level managers and owners: they put their understanding of the future of the business into the strategy, and they are also responsible for implementing them with their heads. It is wrong to shift this responsibility to consulting from a management point of view.
    • You have a list of business tasks at the level of “improve such and such a business process” or “increase such and such a score”. In response to these challenges, consulting should offer concrete step-by-step solutions, rather than abstract and difficult to implement “Become an Uber” recommendations. By the way, this is one of the markers by which you can assess the quality of consulting.
    • You understand that consulting is not the same as development. A consultant should not set technology-level tasks like develop a B2B portal or integrate a specific system. His level of questions is: “We have problems in this area of the process: what is wrong, what can be done from an IT point of view to solve the problem and improve this set of indicators?”

    What to remember

    rus: ИТ-консалтинг. Что запомнить | Блог kt.team

    IT consulting and IT auditing should not be mixed up. An IT audit looks for existing and potential errors. IT consulting works to achieve strategic and tactical goals using IT solutions.

    You also need to understand the boundary between IT consulting and technology sales. Consulting not only answers the question of what to do, but also explains why to do it and what the result will be.

    IT consulting has three levels:

    • process consulting answers the question: “How to adjust existing processes to get the target result?” ;
    • architectural consulting answers the question: “How to build or restructure the company's IT architecture so that it is most effective within the existing business model?” ;
    • strategic consulting answers the question: “How to form and implement the company's IT strategy?”

    An IT consultant should:

    • have business expertise, since IT consulting is a special case of business consulting;
    • have sufficient “field” expertise in working with different technologies and platforms.

    For IT consulting to be effective, customers should clearly formulate their business goals and identify problem areas. A consultant should offer solutions, so you should not come to him with a request for a specific technology.

    Consulting will not be useful to you:

    • if the company does not have a clear business model or strategy;
    • the consultant cannot explain exactly how a particular business goal can be achieved from a technological point of view;
    • the consultant does not have sufficient expertise in working with various technologies.

    When choosing an IT consulting contractor, the main thing is to keep in mind that your company does not need technology, no matter how attractive, fashionable, and popular, but a solution to a specific task or problem.

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