Are Big Consulting Companies On The Verge of Extinction? - Part 2
Click here to read the first part of this article.
Problem #4: Ownership, but no responsibility. The BCCs are really good at taking ownership, but not responsibility. It's surprising to see how many multi-million dollar SOWs are executed without any real responsibility to deliver. It's completely understandable if the client has time to manage thousands of consultants, knows what it is doing and takes responsibility of bringing in a team of developers to execute a project; but in practice, this works well for smaller teams and fails for larger ones.
The Solution: Consulting is about nothing more than helping friends, friends of friends and maybe even, friends of friends of friends. Righteousness doesn't get anyone anywhere. In our company, every employee is asked to complete one simple task: make the client look good. The client needs to have ownership; we take the responsibility. The CIO, Senior Architect or even a developer who brings us in, has the right to credit if the project is successful, more than us. We are only there for making the project successful. Once completed, we move onto the next client that needs help. We take pride in accepting fixed-bid projects and assuming the responsibility that goes along with hitting those deliverables. We also do time and materials projects, but in a highly unconventional way. For example, I remember being part of a sixty-person developer team that I led to success by achieving an impossible deadline. Only about 12 developers on this team were my employees, the remainder worked for my competitors. In order to ensure this project was successful, we all needed to work harmoniously towards our common goal. To achieve this, I helped train the other 48 developers who didn’t work for me. Helping your competitors? That’s right—there’s no better way to take responsibility for a project than that.
Problem #5: The limitations of consulting practices. BCCs create practice leads. Usually, the practice leads are responsible only for their own practice. For example, a BCC might have one practice lead each for Microsoft, Open Source, iOS development and Back End. Breaking it down a little bit more, Microsoft practice leads might have leads for Web development (.NET), Windows Development, CRM, Sharepoint etc. Let's assume the client needs to do web development. The BCC might have all the talent needed to get the work done, but simply because it falls under different practices, more thank likely, the practice lead might just work with what he has. For example, the client needs .NET for the server, Angularjs for the front-end, Mongodb for the backend. However, the practice lead might just use an ASP.NET MVC developer on the staff and convince the client to use Sql Server. Bottom line: the practice leads are doing the best they can, but it's not what’s in the best interest of the client.
Interestingly, creation of niche practices, in one way, completely removes the possibility of using people who are experts across practices. This specialization, in itself, creates a void of the right talent needed to be successful. Client options are very limited and once the decision is made there is no easy way of going back rather than re-writing the whole application years later. One good example is Practice Leads that forced clients to use Silverlight vs HTML5. Siverlight was a great technology, but the writing was on the wall. With popularity of iDevices and Apple's lack of support for RIA (be it Silverlight, Flash, etc.), it was very evident that HTML5 was the way to go; however, many big corporations had to invest tens of millions of dollar into projects using Silverlight, thanks to these BCCs.
The Solution: These practices are really nothing but divisions that work for some niche needs, but in the real practical sense, they are the cause of failure. The solution is to be bold, branch out from your technological “one-ness.” We have experts who are in technology just because they love it and are in consulting because they have figured out how to deliver what the business needs in the most optimum fashion. They are aware of the changing needs of the business and pace of technological advancement. These experts are not married to one technology, one operating system, one browser, one framework, or one of anything really—they have broken free from that “one-ness” philosophy. They use the technology that fits the client needs the best. The bottom line is this: "Technology is for us and we are not for technology. Client's success is our success."
Problem #6: Fears of executives. There is a popular saying in the executive circle: "Less than 5% of executives actually know what they are doing." There is another saying that was very popular about ten years ago (not anymore though): "You will not be fired for hiring a BCC over a local consulting company." Both of them are related, so stay with me. First, I don't believe that executives don't know what they are doing (even though that may be the case). And second, I believe they should not be entirely responsible for failures and successes both, especially when it is not the executive making the decision about who to hire to complete a particular project. With that said, I do believe that they should not delegate everything entirely. Steve Jobs personally paid attention to recruiting for his projects. Generally speaking, how many executives do you know who do that? It's really mind-blowing when you come across executives who would tell you they got fired because they trusted a BCC to deliver, and upon failure, lost their jobs and sometimes entire careers.
The Solution: The truth, nowadays, is that the executive who fails constantly will have to go regardless of whatever brand name he hires. It's up to him to be true to himself and not live in a lie. BCCs survive on fear of executives who try to follow a politically correct route and stay away from attracting attention to the fact that they are bringing in a vendor that doesn't have a billion dollar a year revenue. They are willing to pay tens of millions of dollars of the company's money without asking a simple question to the BCCs: "What is your success rate on projects? Do you do fixed-bid projects? How many projects have you ever delivered on-budget, on-time? If it's a public company, what's the minimum margin you have to have per candidate?" I can go on with this list, but it's important to understand that the infrastructure costs of a consulting company like ours compared to a BCC are almost non-existent. There is no way they can even survive with margins like ours and we can be profitable at a rate way below theirs. Executives need to come out of their political shell and pay attention to how the world has changed. Perhaps the saying should be revised to, “You will not be fired for hiring a consulting company, any consulting company, that gets the job done right.”
Conclusion: We are probably one of very few companies in the world that has a 100% technical recruiting staff. Our clients range from Fortune 100s all the way to start-ups, and we get kudos for supplying the best resources compared to any other BCC. We also pride ourselves on our success rate on fixed-bid projects (something that is almost non-existent in our industry anymore). We have grown tremendously in such a small period of time and the journey has been challenging and exciting at the same time. I personally believe that our intellectual property, when it comes to recruiting top software developers in the country, is second to none. It's high time we fix recruiting, consulting, and training in our industry and share the benefits. Food for thought: Could the upcoming recession could be averted if this goodness spreads?