Why IT Consulting Can Be a Vicious Triangle - and 5 Steps to Escape the Pain
September 28, 2016

Dennis Drogseth

Share this

Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) is looking to extend the reach of its consulting practice, and we'll be soliciting your inputs on your priorities. (The URL for participating in our 5-minute survey is at the end of this blog.) But before you do, I'd like to share some of what we've learned from our work in the past.

Lesson 1: Try to avoid the vicious triangle of IT consulting by learning how to stand in the middle

Just about everyone's heard of the Bermuda Triangle. But the IT Consulting Triangle, though arguably far less elusive, is not nearly as well known. This triangle has three clear corners, each of which can generate its own mini hurricanes.

Let's call the first one process consulting or best practices. This can be very valuable, as it can lead to support from best practices ranging from the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to Six Sigma to the IT Balanced Scorecard to fill in the blank.

The second corner of the triangle, which often comes with a premium price, is organizational consulting. This, too, can be of value, especially as IT often needs to reshape itself in the face of shifting business priorities.

And the third corner is systems integration in all its variations — where actual software and other solutions for managing and optimizing IT are selected, configured and deployed. There's no question that this is often essential.

So what's wrong with this picture?

The problem comes when investments are made across all these areas without a common awareness of interdependencies. Organization, process and technology are indeed not separate discussions in IT, but closely interrelated. This is ever more the case given the dynamic options associated with cloud and the pressures for agile and digital transformation. Investing in advice in each of these areas can be essential. But doing so without common oversight of how they interrelate can lead to a lot of expensive wheel-spinning and sometimes destructive decisions that contradict each other.

Lesson 2: Embrace the need for documenting what's true and what's not

My favorite example here, and one I frequently cite, is a case where EMA required 20 stakeholder interviews in support of a strategic, cross-domain technology initiative. At first the CIO tried to dismiss this. "I've sent out an email," he said. But we insisted and did the interviews. Afterwards that same CIO not only accepted the value of what he'd learned, but wanted us to do 20 more.

The lesson here is that what's really going on within anything more than a mom-pop IT organization in terms of priorities, issues, favored toolsets, and processes (or lack of them) is often full of surprises. And it's rarely consistent across stakeholders and roles. Building a strategy to support all of operations, or all of ITSM, or all of IT (how often do development, security and operations see eye to eye?) requires understanding the human dimensions of what's going on, as well as the technology deficits that are keeping you from going forward.

Lesson 3: Find your true maturity level(s)

I put this in the plural because your IT maturity level can vary across organizations within IT, sometimes in surprising ways. For instance, I once interviewed a development team that pushed a configuration management system with associated automation into development using SCRUM, because development, not operations, was too siloed. Finding out which IT teams relevant to your initiative are ready to fly and which aren't is one of the key ingredients to success. And of course, doing this, depends in large part on honoring Lesson 2.

Lesson 4: Only invest in generic technology winners if your IT organization is also generic

Adopting the right technologies, especially when it comes to managing and optimizing IT business services, is rarely a simple, linear scorecard decision. Generic "winners" are only right for generic IT organizations. But then, happily, I've never encountered a generic IT organization or a generic IT professional for that matter.

Try to find what fits your environment, your skill sets, and your unique needs — which isn't always necessarily what just scored the highest on "Dancing with the Stars."

Lesson 5: Invest in a staged approach to a strategic initiative, both in selecting your technologies, and in integrating them into your environment

EMA, and I'm sure we're not alone, has a ladder with clearly defined steps for going forward with major strategic initiatives — one that can apply to everything from operational and even digital transformation, to analytics, to DevOps, to ITSM-centric initiatives in service modeling and dependency mapping. But whatever staged approach you take, be sure to include dialog, process, technology, communication (a lot of communication!) and listening (a lot of that as well) as you go forward and evolve. Strategic change is not likely to make everyone happy. But needless alienation can not only cause individual pain, it can bring down the effectiveness of the entire organization — leaving digital transformation up to Penn & Teller and not up to you.

I'd like to practice what I just preached and learn from you!

To participate in our 5-minute survey just click here.

Dennis Drogseth is VP at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)
Share this

The Latest

March 26, 2020

While remote work policies have been gaining steam for the better part of the past decade across the enterprise space — driven in large part by more agile and scalable, cloud-delivered business solutions — recent events have pushed adoption into overdrive ...

March 25, 2020

Time-critical, unplanned work caused by IT disruptions continues to plague enterprises around the world, leading to lost revenue, significant employee morale problems and missed opportunities to innovate, according to the State of Unplanned Work Report 2020, conducted by Dimensional Research for PagerDuty ...

March 24, 2020

In today's iterative world, development teams care a lot more about how apps are running. There's a demand for fixing actionable items. Developers want to know exactly what's broken, what to fix right now, and what can wait. They want to know, "Do we build or fix?" This trade-off between building new features versus fixing bugs is one of the key factors behind the adoption of Application Stability management tools ...

March 23, 2020

With the rise of mobile apps and iterative development releases, Application Stability has answered the widespread need to monitor applications in a new way, shifting the focus from servers and networks to the customer experience. The emergence of Application Stability has caused some consternation for diehard APM fans. However, these two solutions embody very distinct monitoring focuses, which leads me to believe there's room for both tools, as well as different teams for both ...

March 19, 2020

The 2019 State of E-Commerce Infrastructure Report, from Webscale, analyzes findings from a comprehensive survey of more than 450 ecommerce professionals regarding how their online stores performed during the 2019 holiday season. Some key insights from the report include ...

March 18, 2020

Robinhood is a unicorn startup that has been disrupting the way by which many millennials have been investing and managing their money for the past few years. For Robinhood, the burden of proof was to show that they can provide an infrastructure that is as scalable, reliable and secure as that of major banks who have been developing their trading infrastructure for the last quarter-century. That promise fell flat last week, when the market volatility brought about a set of edge cases that brought Robinhood's trading app to its knees ...

March 17, 2020

Application backend monitoring is the key to acquiring visibility across the enterprise's application stack, from the application layer and underlying infrastructure to third-party API services, web servers and databases, be they on-premises, in a public or private cloud, or in a hybrid model. By tracking and reporting performance in real time, IT teams can ensure applications perform at peak efficiency — and guarantee a seamless customer experience. How can IT operations teams improve application backend monitoring? By embracing artificial intelligence for operations — AIOps ...

March 16, 2020

In 2020, DevOps teams will face heightened expectations for higher speed and frequency of code delivery, which means their IT environments will become even more modular, ephemeral and dynamic — and significantly more complicated to monitor. As a result, AIOps will further cement its position as the most effective technology that DevOps teams can use to see and control what's going on with their applications and their underlying infrastructure, so that they can prevent outages. Here I outline five key trends to watch related to how AIOps will impact DevOps in 2020 and beyond ...

March 12, 2020

With the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), CIOs should focus on three short-term actions to increase their organizations' resilience against disruptions and prepare for rebound and growth, according to Gartner ...

March 11, 2020

Whether you consider the first generation of APM or the updates that followed for SOA and microservices, the most basic premise of the tools remains the same — PROVIDE VISIBILITY ...