The Changing Customers of IT Consulting
Over time, the IT industry has grown from a niche segment to an essential sector that supports nearly every industry ranging from banking to healthcare to publishing and oil & gas. With this growth, a lot has changed about the customers of IT consulting.
There was a time when IT consultants had a say in choosing the solutions for their customers and, due to lack of sufficient knowledge, the customers didn’t have much insight about what was being developed for them.
This resulted in many large-scale project failures and when the projects did survive, heavy costs accrued because the customer did not understand how to turn things around, or was unable to escape the mess due to large initial investments.
Things have changed drastically. Once luxury in the 90s, information technology is now a basic need for the survival of any fledgling or mature business. It is the support mechanism for improving ROI, customer satisfaction, business transparency, efficiency and better processes in every business venture. For this reason, customers are investing in IT consultancy to help them achieve the desired results.
Today’s IT customers are willing to go the extra mile to be flexible – to adopt the processes of their vendors if it makes better business sense and if they are not able to achieve similar results following their own processes.
Today’s customers also know exactly what they want an IT project to achieve. They now have in-house IT teams to validate every milestone of a project. They inquire at every step of a project to analyze what consultants are developing and ensure it is right in the first place.
Since customers are smarter now, IT consultants need to be a step ahead to impress them with solution offerings – resulting in a higher demand for a smarter breed of IT professionals.
Customers today respect the knowledge consultants have, but only if it can be applied to solving the current business problem at hand. The smartest consultants will dive deep into a customer’s business problems and think from a user standpoint before proposing a technical solution.
Back when I was a young professional, I had a strong drive to learn new things from every project I delivered. Most of the time, I only learned things limited to the technical solution proposed or developed rather than learning and adapting the business problem we solved.
As time passed, I realized that I didn’t remember the technical solutions I had developed for past customers and even if I had remembered, I could not reuse that knowledge to build a solution for another customer because the technology, business functions and customers have all changed.
I realize now that the most important thing to learn from projects is the business of a customer. While the business processes may change, the core business remains the same. If we focus on understanding the business problem, we are able to provide just the right solution.
1. Focus on a customer’s business needs and not the technology
2, Place yourself in the customer’s role when creating solutions.
3, Use the most cost effective technical solution if it meets the business needs.
4, Always keep the customer informed. They appreciate the transparency instead of unexpected surprises.
5, Take time to analyze the solution to deliver it right the first time.
6, Every business expects to grow as quickly as possible and IT is seen as an enabler in this, so focus on the turnaround time for every request.
7, Remember if you don’t get the job done, another consultant will.