Technology Consultants Must Lead to Succeed
by Terri Eyden on
I recently learned of a situation that underscores what can go wrong when the consultant doesn't take leadership of the whole system. This consultant is a true expert, but he isn't familiar with, or skilled in solutions for, the rental equipment business (which represents about 25 percent of the client's business). Therefore, when the client asked for advice on what software to use, the consultant took the easy way out. Instead of researching the problem and gaining the needed expertise or finding another expert to refer, he told the client to check out a vendor solution on his own.
Since the client trusts this consultant implicitly, having built a strong relationship over the past several years, the client naturally thought that because the consultant made the recommendation, the vendor would have the right solution for his needs. The vendor salesman, upon learning that the consultant referred him, naturally assumed that his product was a good fit, otherwise the consultant wouldn't have recommended it. Then, as the sales process continued, when questions came up, the salesman did everything possible to help the client learn how, "with workarounds," the vendor's product could in fact solve the client's needs. Of course, the salesman was acting in good faith and only trying to help solve the problem, but the saleman should have stepped back and realized the product was a bad fit for the client's needs.
Of course, we wish vendor salesmen would ask probing questions about each client's needs and do everything possible to ensure their product is the "right fit" instead of just a force-fit solution, but you can see why that didn't happen in this case, and you can see why, in general, vendor salesmen are incentivized to make sales however they can, rather than doing everything they can to discover a bad fit. Simply put, their job is to sell. The consultant's job is to ensure a good fit between vendor product and client need.
Advance the clock forward a few weeks and you have product sold, installation in progress, and finally, the client starts seeing how it really works and starts to panic. "This isn't going to work for us," the client says, and is beginning to wonder what the business has gotten itself into. The client has already spent tons of money, time, and staff frustration trying to get this new system up and running, and now the client is realizing that the solution simply doesn't fit the need, and it never should have been recommended in the first place.