What do we do when we don't know something? We ask an expert; or Google; or, in a pinch, Karen. In business, organisations from all sectors and industries have become reliant, to varying degrees, on professional services firms who have spent a lot of time, effort and money on building their reputations in specific fields of expertise. Herein lies the problem: how do we know they're right, when we don't know if they're wrong?
The late American business academic and developer of ‘disruptive innovation' Clayton Christensen said: "When hiring a management-consulting firm, clients do not know what they are getting in advance, because they are looking for knowledge that they themselves lack. They cannot measure the results either, because outside factors, such as the quality of execution, influence the outcome of the consultant's recommendations."
Luke Pilfold-Thomas, aitemologist™ and co-creator of the Playbook series, explains: "We all know a client that was sold a supplier's services by their A-team but were given the Z-team to deliver. Technological advances have outpaced many consultancies' skillsets and it's the clients that suffer.
"Organisations have started doing their homework; knowledge and experience is being shared through online forums etc. They still need professional firms, but they only need them for specific aspects of the job."
Paul Kearney, director at Push Group, agrees: "In an increasingly complex world it's our responsibility to understand the scope of our own challenges, because you can outsource anything except responsibility."
‘Show, don't tell' is a great adage used in creative writing; it fosters a style that allows the reader to ‘be in the room' with the characters, as showing illustrates while telling merely states. Organisations now not only want to be in the room, they want to own it. They want greater transparency, understanding and emotional buy-in to the advice they're paying for, or they'd be better off tackling the project themselves. This revelation is timely as the world paradigm has changed, new cost-effective ways of working are being explored, and ‘self-serve' is the digital dish of the day.
Abby Eaton, fellow aitemologist™ explains: "By nature, old-school consulting firms are very much in the business of DDIY - don't do it yourself. Of course, I'm not suggesting anyone watches a 30-minute YouTube hack of ‘Moving to Cloud made easy' and thinks ‘I reckon I'll have a stab at that next week', but businesses are now squinting through the looking glass to see what lies beyond consulting's smoke and mirrors. And guess what? It's not all unpredictability and strange happenings! It appears to be clarity, control and a good measure of confidence. So, all a business needs to rid themselves of those expensive billable consulting hours is to replicate these three Cs."
The benefits of self-serve are far wider than just financial though; if you're well prepared, managing your outcomes and assuring progress and delivery success is not only feasible but should be expected. The concept is sound, but we're back to where we started; namely, how do we know what to do etc.?
Is self-serve the replacement for professional services right here and now, or is there a less scary half-way house?
Co-aitemologist™ Mandip Bharj thinks so: "Aitemology disrupts the entire ProServ offering. Traditional management consultancies operate on the principle that ‘value follows money'. Our core belief is based on the opposite: that money follows value. We don't have customers who buy services from us, we give our clients the knowledge to buy what they need and when.
"Managing risk and alleviating anxiety by placing control firmly in our clients' hands is the way forward. Take cloud migration for example; our Cloud Playbook is ready and waiting for clients to personalise and deliver their own transformation programme or even help themselves out of trouble if they've started and are already feeling the pain. We're in a world of everything-as-a-service now; our Plug and Playbook series has been built by pioneering experts using old school experience. It's a win-win situation!"