Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Consultants Typology: The Consultant who Knows Everything

The post: Two Types of Consultants: Niche vs. All Around, was the first post about Consultants typology. The post differentiated between Niche Consultant, whose knowledge and experience is focused in a Niche and All Around Consultants, who know and understand a variety of Niches and topics.

If you read the Customers Typology posts, you probably read: Customers Typology: The Customer who Knows Everything

The behavioural patterns of the Consultant who Knows Everything resemble the behavioural patterns of the Customer Who Knows Everything. 

The only difference is that the Customer is capable of making decisions. The Consultant is only advising. 

Is there a Consultants who knows everything?
No, but I had worked with All Around Consultants who know and understand a lot about large number of topics. Some of them have the Capability of learning quickly and understanding deeply new topics.

Of course, the number of theses extraordinary consultants is limited. However, other good All Around Consultants know and understand many topics. 

One may know 7 topics, another 10 topics etc. It is a continuum.
Even some of the Niche Consultants' knowledge could be in two or three different topics. 

It should be noticed, that an All Around Consultant's knowledge and understanding level may vary: In one niche his knowledge could be similar to the knowledge of the best Niche consultants. In another niche his knowledge and understanding could be limited.   
Two types of Consultants Knowing Everything
The best All Around Consultants are not included in the group of Consultants Knowing Everything.

In a meeting with one of them (and about twenty Customer's employees) he said: "You should know what you do not know".

The Consultant Knowing Everything do not know everything. They know and understand less than many other consultants.
Usually they label themselves as the best All Around Consultants.

There are two distinct types of Knowing Everything consultants.

The First type: Impressive Past
The first type of The Knowing everything consultant was a CXO years ago. Sometimes he was a successful CIO.  
Information Technology is dynamic and changing. He is no longer a CXO. However, he thinks that he knows everything because of the good old days.

Sometimes the Customer's CIO was his subordinate ten or twenty years ago. The Consultant believes that he knows more and understands more than the CIO. Well, that was true 20 years ago...

The Second type: Sales experts
The first type has impressive past. The second type of the Consultant who Knows Everything could not be proud of his past achievements. 

A second type consultant main qualification is sales. Due to mastering Sales he may convince a Customer that he is the leading expert in any topic, niche or subject.

The Customer may not discover the truth even after a failure. The consultant could find someone else to blame for the failure and convince the Customer that the failure is not because he lacks the skills, but despite of his enormous contribution.

What should The Customer do?
If you can avoid of a Consultant who Knows Everything , do it. 

Ask for recommendations and experience and verify or deny his claims.

The risk is in following his recommendations in a topic he knows nothing about.

Even if you hired him, do not hesitate to hire another Consultant, as soon as you discover that Knowing Everything stands for not knowing the topic, the Niche, the Technology, The system or the Architecture you are trying to get help for. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Customers Typology: The Captive who Knows Everything

One of the posts in the Customers Typology series was titled: Customers Typology: The Captive. I described The Captive as: "The Captive Customer's opinion is that someone else is the Oracle. He will do whatever the Oracle will say". Frequently the Oracle is a Software and/or Hardware vendor.

Another post was titled: Customers Typology: The Customer who Knows Everything. I described customer of that type as: "This Customer type is sure that he knows more than anyone else. He is also sure that his understanding is better than any body's understanding".

Would you imagine that there is another customer type combining both types? 

You probably hardly believe that this type is not a fiction story.

If he is a Captive, he will do exactly what his Captor will recommend.   
If he Knows Everything, he will follow only his opinion.

The best way to describe this type is by example. The example is of a long time ago Case Study.

IT Consulting Assignment 
A non-Information Technology friend called me. He is performing an Audit for a CEO. Is it possible that I will join him in order to address the IT aspects?
I accepted the challenge.

The Background
The most Business Critical Application was developed many years ago. The IDE is obsolete. Only one employee has the skills required for maintaining the application.
It is clear that the system should be developed from scratch using a Mainstream IDE.

A Large development Project was initiated. After two years the development completed. 

The IT department built the same functionality and the same processes included in the old system without functional changes. They thought that it is only Technical transformation: usage of a new IDE instead the obsolete IDE. 

Unfortunately, The Business Customer, who was not participated in the development process (and probably was notified about the Development Project after its completion), thought that the new system does not address his requirements properly.

How should the CEO solve the problem?

1. The organization built a new system. 

2. The organization spend a lot of money and human resources. 

3. The new System probably do not address the Business Customer needs. 

The key questions to ask are:

1. What should the organization do in order to minimize the damage?
Should it rebuild the system again? should it adapt the system to the Business users needs? or should it ask the Business users to adapt to the system?

2. What lessons should be learned from the failure?

The CEO decided to do an audit by external Subject Matter Expert. He chose my friend as the external  Subject Matter Expert.

A note about Business and IT Gap
SOA is about Business and IT Alignment. Every time I am lecturing on SOA, I talk about the Business-IT Gap before diving into technical details. If you read posts in my blog, you may find that I repeat and repeat this idea. Read for example:

Will Business and IT Aligned?


STKI Summit 2011 - SOA Perspective: Business Services or only Integration 

This Case Study is an example I am using to describe to my students Business-IT Gap as part of my SOA lecture.

My Role
My role in the audit was to evaluate the Information Technology aspects of the system.

When my friend told me which IDE was selected, I told him immediately that it is a wrong decision.
I also told him that I am capable of bringing the vendor's employees and they will support my viewpoint about the IDE their company developed.

Why would employees recommend not to use their company's products?
The company already developed a lot better IDE. They prefer that customers use a good product and not a limited product. I guess that in 3-5 years the vendor will not support the old IDE.

The customer was a Captive Customer. I would surely recommend usage of the new IDE developed by the same vendor. 

How come that the Customer was a Captive and a Customer who Knows Everything simultaneously?
The answer is simple: If he were not a Customer who Knows Everything, he would ask for the Vendor's experts recommendation.

I am 100% sure that anyone working for the Vendor and any good external Consultant will recommend usage of the new and better IDE (under the assumption that it should be an IDE developed by this vendor). 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two types of Consultants: Niche vs. All Around

Leonardo da Vinci (probably self-portrait). source: Hebrew Wikipedia

It is time to classify Consultants after so many posts about Clients Typology (e.g. Clients Typology: The Stealth, The Captive, The Paralyzed Analyzer). 

I do not know if the terms I am using: Niche Consultant and All Around Consultant are the best terms to use. 

If you think that other terms are more accurate, please comment. Anyway, I am trying to distinguish between two types of Professionals, Consultants, Scientists or Experts.

Most of them could be labeled as Niche experts: They know almost everything about a relatively narrow subject matter.

Leonardo da Vinchi (1452-1519), whose portrait appears right after the heading of this post, could not be depicted as a Niche expert. he is a classic example of The All Around type. I will quote the English Wikipedia: " ... Da Vinchi was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer". 

Most, if not all, of the All Around Consultants'   knowledge Subject Matters are very limited in comparison to the vast knowledge areas of a genius like Da Vinchi. However, usually their knowledge is a lot wider than the Niche Consultants' knowledge. 

The difference between the two Consultants types could be roughly described as Wider Knowledge vs. Deeper Knowledge.

Advantages of Niche Consultant
The obvious advantage of a Niche Consultant is his experience. He acquired tremendous experience in the specific domain in which all, or at least most of the tasks, he performed are part of. 

Another advantage is the knowledge he acquired while learning the Subject Matter and during execution of assignments in this Subject Matter. 

If, and usually only if, the assignment is well defined within the boundaries of his expertise niche he could be a good candidate for performing the assignment. 

Advantages of All Around Consultant
The main advantage of the All Around Consultant is his wide perspective.

Another advantage of the All Around Consultant is the capability to learn and understand new topics, systems, technologies etc.

This requirement is embedded in his Role. He will face new topics and new connections between topics and 
has no other choice than learning them and acquire a certain level of understanding of them.

The Niche Consultant is obliged to learn only new approaches and technologies related to his narrow niche. 

The assignments which are best fit for this Consultant type are assignments related to multiple domains, multiple Business issues and multiple applications and IT technologies.

It is not as simple as described above
It is not as simple as described above. I used the term "roughly" in the first paragraph intentionally.
Not every Niche Consultant knowledge is deeper than the knowledge of every All Around Consultant, even in his domain of knowledge.

Not every All Around Consultant is capable of generalizing  from one case to another case and from one Niche to another.

Not every All Around Consultant us capable of grasping the "whole picture" i.e the relationships between domains, architectures, processes and Business issues which are related to a wide range  assignment.  

The Value Proposition of a Consultant is not determined only by individual differences. The assignment could be handled by a team including more than one consultant.

Another consultant could complement the skill set of a Niche Consultant and/or All Around Consultant.
In that case the Consultant's ability to work in a team could be a factor favoring one consultant or another consultant.   

 A Personal Note
 I was fired in the age of 44 after more than twenty years I worked for a unit of a governmental ministry. When I was fired, the unit of the governmental bureau was completing a Privatization process. 

After working as a Systems Group Manager, Systems Programmer and a Programmer, I started to work as an Independent IT Consultant.

I was a Niche expert in Mainframe MVS Operating System

It was not easy to find assignments in my Niche, due to the following reasons:

1. People believed that the Mainframe is Dead. For more information read the post: Mainframe and the Dinosaurs Myth revisited. If you would read that post, you will probably discover that the Mainframe is not dead yet. At 2014 it celebrated its 50th year.

2. I was considered as too old for Information Technology assignments. Read the post: Information Technology: Are you out of Business if your age is above 50?

3. I was considered as overqualified for technical assignments

In order to earn money for the daily needs of my family (including three children) I had to work.

I found Consultancy assignments in other Niches. Each time I learned new Subject Matters, technologies, Architectures and various Organizational Cultures.

I adapted to a new form of Pareto principle:  In few months understand and know more than 80% of the Niche Consultants working for years. This principle is applicable to any Niche you happened to get an assignment.

After few years of working according to the new form of Pareto Principle cited above, I was no longer a Niche Consultant but an All Around Information Technology Consultant.

About Me

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