Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Reality Check for IT Consultants

In an event for CIOs, I had the opportunity to meet with, and listen to a bunch of IT consultants from global consulting and IT companies. All of them presented their view of the CIO challenges and opportunities, and without exception sounded like they had dug into the same library or archive to create slides which said the same thing — though the words were different, to their credit. This presentation made to a gathering of more than 50 CIOs stunned the audience. And this was not because the CIOs were bowled over by the analysts’ insights, but because the presentation was disconnected from reality.

Consultants have a wonderful habit of looking down upon their audience in a condescending way while preaching their version of truth, which says, “I know better than you, and I have a prescription for the ills that pain you”.

So the consultants under discussion were attempting to advise CIOs of their current challenges, reality and cures for the situation. While the number of points was consistently at 10 (wonder why everything has to be “top 10”!), the order of appearance of the topics was not in sync. The most interesting part was that no one, I repeat no one, in the audience agreed with the consultants. So the questioning began:

  1. Did you actually survey or speak to CIOs and CEOs to create this list?
  2. What was the sample size?
  3. How many of them were located in India (since the presentation is being made to Indian CIOs)?
  4. Considering the sample of more than 50 CIOs in this room, did anyone here participate?

As the cross-questioning got uncomfortable, the consultants were tying themselves into knots and literally sweating (despite adequate air-conditioning). One of them had the audacity to state that, “I am the consultant and speaker for this session; you have to listen to me!”
That was the last straw for most, and the duel almost resulted in an unsavory situation. It was rescued by the organizers — just in time.

It is evident that the CIO has a better connection with reality and business. The challenges and opportunities for Indian CIOs do not revolve around Business Speak or Alignment, but Value Add, Enabling Business and Growth. Global consulting companies are slow in realizing this trend, as the world at large still revolves around the US for them (maybe because most of them are headquartered in US).

The post event networking saw a face-saving quote from one of the consultants. “I was asked to provoke the audience, and I succeeded in doing that”.

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