Choosing Digital Consultants

2015-05-24 10:44
To be the master of all the required digital business skills is unlikely, and therefore you need to select business partners, that can make your company's digital team stronger.
Digital business development is about “connecting the dots”, about seeing what other companies don't and exploiting this timely and decisively. Digital business development takes place in fast growing segments, and an element of surprise can be highly valuable as an alternative to always facing competition head-on. Think of the dolphin, and how smart, fast and elegant it maneuvers around the slow, big turtles.

A company heading for the digital transformation needs to set the strongest possible digital business team. This blog is a quest for the core disciplines that shapes the digital executive. The digital executive will plant, grow and guide this team, leading from the front whenever needed.To create a “make-do” team with the people readily will most likely fail. At this stage, there are simply not enough qualified people available in the "average-joe enterprise" heading for a digital transformation.

There are 3 generic approaches to how to create the strongest possible team: Train, recruit or source. Training is only viable as a long-term approach. Depending on the talent pool in reach, training might be a good choice if things are not at all urgent. Hiring new people will be a preference for many companies, but there is a significant lead time for search, selection, and on-boarding. It will often not be sufficiently timed for the strategy process itself, and is mostly a medium-term fix.

Neither training, nor recruiting, can solve short-term needs for digital business development and transformation capabilities. Attempting these approaches exclusively might kill the digital strategy in embryo. But there is no reason to panic; there are swarms of consulting firms waiting to serve you. The digital consulting houses come at a cost, but they can shortcut years of exploration and learning.

Selecting partners for digital work can be difficult. The choice will generally be based on the preferences and style of the executives of the customer company. If they are digitally savvy, it's fine, but if not, they might find themselves evaluating their digital consulting partner on analog evaluation criteria soon to be irrelevant. As a starting point for consultant evaluation, have a look at the following questions:

  • Are the consultants really strategic? Do they understand the fundamental shifts in your industry? Do they convincingly present an understanding of your possible specific role in these shifts?
  • Do the consultants truly understand the dynamics of digital operating models? Can they convincingly illustrate how digital operating models apply to your company and your industry?
  • Are they technology savvy? Are you tapping into a thick pipeline of technology inspired ideas that can easily be adapted to your business environment and challenges?
  • Are they creative? Can they facilitate the inductive “connecting the dots” process? Or are they merely suggesting a catch-up with the leaders of your industry?
  • Are they careful enough? Are they aware of the risk you take on behalf of your company and yourself, pursuing these ventures? Or do they possess the youthful freshness of being willing to discard everything and start from scratch whenever a new business venture seems better?
  • Do they hit the ground running? Are they ready to surprise and impress you at the first meeting, or do they need a few (consulting) weeks of information gathering, research, interviews and analysis, before they will suggest anything? You don’t want to witness consultants “dry out” with you as the sponsor.
 
The magnitude of business investment, effort and risk of implementing a major strategy is only justifiable if a true competitive advantage can be achieved. A situation of parity with its competitors is not enough. The consulting partner must support a winning strategy agenda.