Some organisations view independent consultants as a nice to have. Others don’t even know they exist, while many more don’t fully understand the importance of the role they play.
When beginning their digital transformation journeys, most project teams think that they will select their technology based on mapping product features to their requirements, then appoint a technical resource to implement it for them.
This flawed approach is a fundamental reason why so many digital transformation projects fail.
Unlike software vendors, systems integrators and technical engineers, independent consultants are not just focused on designing, building, and deploying the technology alone. These technical resources are certainly important to the project, but it is just one of many pieces that need to be included in the quest for the success of your implementation.
So are independent consultants necessary to your core system implementation? If your goal is to achieve your objectives and avoid the common pitfalls of a poorly delivered project, then yes. If you are comfortable fumbling through your digital transformation or aren’t particularly concerned with cost and risk, then this may be an optional means of support.
The effects of vendor bias
One of the first important things to recognise is how biased most software implementations are. Technology vendors have done a great job of creating their own ecosystem by investing significant sums in ensuring that their marketing messages dominate any ideas that end customers may have regarding their upgrade.
Many vendors also pay big tech resellers significant sums of money to recommend and support their software at the expense of others. So most tech consultants in the reseller space are driven by getting customers to purchase and implement as much of a single technology as possible, not necessarily by suggesting the best solution.
In addition, software vendors fund industry analysts and influencers such as Gartner and Forrester to commission their various studies and quadrants illustrating the strengths of their software through a particular lens. They also pay media and blog outlets sponsorship fees for positive media coverage and reviews – essentially providing another one-sided view to get their marketing messaging across.
The right independent consultant will provide real value by mitigating the risks of these vendor biases and sources of misinformation upfront. They’ll help cut through the noise to help their clients make clearer decisions along the way.
Independent consultants can define the most appropriate digital strategy
The value of an independent consultant can be most valuable when first defining your strategy, roadmap, and tech evaluation. Given the fast pace of industry change and the fragmented landscape, an objective voice will help you determine what the best path forward might be. Whether it is choosing among the top CRM systems, case management software, or other core business software.
This applies not only to things like CRM evaluation and selection, but also implementation planning, how systems will talk to each other, user training requirements, and even the non-technical processes that will best enable your transformation.
Perhaps most importantly, their independent advice ensures that you are able to effectively define a unique strategy and roadmap that is best aligned with your organisation’s objectives, strategy and culture.
Software vendors and their reseller counterparts are not equipped or incentivised to offer such a path forward.
Chances are that your project will involve a sizable investment. The stakes can be high, so it is important to try to negotiate a good deal that minimizes your costs and protects you from future problems.
Truly independent consultants will have nothing to gain or lose by an effective negotiation process. Software vendors, systems integrators, and sales consultants, on the other hand, are essentially negotiating against themselves. This is hardly the help you want in your corner.
Contrary to popular belief, the introduction of subscription cloud-based tech has further fuelled the importance of this activity. Recurring costs, addons, and other hidden contractual costs are even more significant today than they were in the days of on-premise technology contracts. This is an area where good independent consultants can save significant money and alert you to the potential future costs you haven’t considered – sometimes saving more than the cost of their services.
The role of the consultant during implementation
With the countless decisions and activities required to be effective during the entire project, the role of the independent consultant extends beyond the technology evaluation phase. This outside view can be even more important during the actual delivery.
First and foremost, this is important because of the tendency of vendors to rush implementation. This is because the sooner you have deployed a maximum number of modules and users of their systems, the more money they stand to make. This economic incentive creates a bias that is often not in your best interests.
Just as importantly, vendors, technical consultants, and systems integrators focus on just one thing: the technology. However, the overall level of success has only around 25% to do with technology – the other 75% is about the other aspects of people and process.
For example, here are a few of the more important components of transformation, which most vendors and integrators usually do poorly – or often not at all:
- Organisational design
- Business process management
- Data migration
- Project management
- User acceptance testing and user training
These are all areas that qualified and independent experts can and should provide to your internal project team.
An insurance policy for your digital transformation
Think of independent software consultants as an insurance policy against digital transformation failure. They help provide objective guidance, take your best interests to heart, fill the gaps that your other vendors can’t provide, and help bridge the gap between technology, people and your business.
Independent consultants also provide an independent mechanism to identify and mitigate risks. Vendors are very adept at hiding risks since they have so much to lose by undermining your perception of their value. In other words, they keep the train rolling by spinning, hiding, or ignoring the various risks that inevitably creep up during any transformation.
Independent consultants, on the other hand, have nothing to lose by providing honest, objective, and transparent guidance throughout your transformation. They’ll point out when it’s going off-track and provide rescue solutions.
The bottom line: Independent software consultants provide a very high ROI
When evaluating the costs of an independent consultant, it is important to also evaluate the wider benefits they bring. Consider some of the following benefits that our clients see by partnering with our team:
- Lower subscription costs because they chose the best technology fit for their organisation
- More efficient use of resources throughout the transformation
- Reduced lost sales and other operational impacts of failed implementations
- Better optimisation, use of, and benefits from the new software
- Less upheaval, employee dissatisfaction, and general chaos following implementation
These are just a few of the many benefits of hiring independent and unbiased consultants during your software transformation project. When you gel with the right one you’ll get much more.