Tuesday, Jul 12 2011

Consulting: A Barrier to Enterprise Innovation?

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What do PC’s, Linux, MySQL, Eucalytpus, public clouds and many other products have in common? They all leverage the phenomena of personal decision making power inside enterprises to create innovation adoption. In the last two decades of IT, this is also referred to “going around IT”. The current adoption of cloud overwhelmingly dominated by individuals, swiping credit cards or downloading opensource/freemium products. The “grass roots” approach is typical for enterprises at the leading edge of the diffusion of innovations curve.  These companies have the resources with the technical skills and business motivation to drive the adoption. Does this model “grass roots” model have the ability to continue the momentum cloud adoption into the enterprise.

rogers-innovation-adoptionMarten Mickos (ex-CEO MySQL and current CEO, Eucalyptus) most clearly defined the approach;
“There are some people with lots of time and no interest in spending money and there are other people with lots of money and no interest in spending time,” Mickos said. “So we’re trying to sell something to those with money and give something to those with time.”
The recent acquisition of Cloud.COM by Citrix System might be viewed of one proof point that cloud need traditional selling and service capability to successfully penetrate enterprises and particular those companies Mickos identifies as “those with money”.

The Next Wave of Cloud Adoption

So who are these companies who spend money to adoption innovation. These are often considered the early and late majority, large companies with significant infrastructure, high operational costs and growth profiles that are incremental. Typically, they look to innovation to drive down costs or to take advantage for specific revenue growth opportunities. So much focus is on maintaining business-as-usual operations that it is difficult to provide the time to internal resources to focus on adoption and gain the experience with technologies to successfully implement. For this reason they consider spending money on products, and services to implement new solutions.

The choices they have are;
  • staff augmentation – hire contractors to free resources for working on the projects
  • managed services - purchase the solution from a vendor on a annuity basis
  • consulting – purchase the solution for a price and they transfer operation internally
Consulting is a common choice because it brings skills and experience from external companies in both technology, execution and project management, but does not have the complexity and risk of outsourcing.

The Barrier

typical-consulting-lifecycle-300x257The problem enterprise face is the methods and practices of vendor or independant consulting are still based in the Big 5 audit practices on the 80′s. It is the implementation equivalent of the development waterfall method which is extremely expensive and prone to failure. The allocation of effort is generally 50% analysis and planning, and 50% implementation. This distribution of cost and delay in value is often due to the need of the vendor to understand the problem, and to reduce the project risk before scoping and committing to the final solution.

Too many consulting solutions start the process with “Development of a Strategy” or “Perform an Audit” or even worse, “Perform an Assessment”. This is then followed by some form of architecture requirements gathering and design phase. During this time (maybe 4-6 months) the entire technology landscape may have changed and the customers environment has changed to invalidate the data gathering. This is often the point of failure for consulting projects, if not, the project starts implementing a design based on invalid data and using aged technology. The result being a failed implementation or a system that starts its life as a legacy system.

The game has changed. Implementation of monolithic commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications is becoming less common. Enterprises are increasingly demanding more agile approaches, faster path to value and are more capable to iterate solutions while in production.

The lack of providers this type of solution reduces the options to acquire cloud skills and creates a slower rate of adoption.

Getting it Done

Approaches like Armada’s Fast Track Method follow an interpretation of the Agile Manefesto;
  • Individuals and interactions – design the solution fast using the knowledge of internal staff and experienced consultants, no assessments or audits
  • Working software – first milestone is an implemented solution, not a report or design document
  • Customer collaboration – trust, long term commitment to customers and shared project risk
  • Responding to change – design and implement with expectation to iterate

This approach limited the design, planning to less than 20% of overall project effort/expense and follows more closely the approach a customer would take internally. It is a true collaboration between experience in technology and its implementation with a customers knowledge of environment and requirements. Implemented solutions can be in production in weeks and not months.

Contributed by: Brad Vaughan