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Jun 28, 2023 Danny Herbert

IT transformation; why you can't trust top consultancy firms to deliver

Many companies appoint top consulting firms to implement their IT transformation strategies. Here's why you should never do the same.

You may not have the in-house skills to plan and implement Salesforce projects or Blockchain tech. But digital transformation often requires short-term, intense effort from dedicated teams. So, it's often not worth appointing permanent talent to fill the gap.

That's why the top consulting firms offer not only to advise on digital strategy but to implement their solutions, too.

Here's why you should turn them down.

Digital transformation is a top priority - but a significant risk

According to Flexera, digital transformation is now a top priority for 74% of organisations. But many of these projects are doomed to failure. The BCG says only 30% of these projects are successful due to a lack of an overarching strategy or in-house expertise and bodged executions. 

With that in mind, it's no wonder many companies turn to the big, trusted consultancy firms to help them scope their digital transformation projects.

Consultancies advise on and implement IT change

But as far back as 2018, it was noted that the brands like Accenture, PWC, E&Y and KPMG were not only advising, but muscling in on the resulting implementation projects too. 

And that's no surprise. 

It's a no-brainer for the big firms, who have the access and the trust they need to create recurring revenue streams for themselves:

"They have access to a broad set of stakeholders necessary to drive transformation. In addition to access, they already have trust. They are engaging in conversations and activities, helping to plan transformation. This gives them a natural entry to stand-up teams – often in uncompetitive sole-source environments."

Peter Bendor Samuels, Everest Group 

But is it a no-brainer for your business too? Will it make your life easier or just tie you into expensive and protracted projects over which you have little control?

11 reasons why you should never use big consultancies to implement change projects

So what's the reality around the big consultancy firms' skillset, speed and flexibility?

1. It won't be fast, and it won't be cheap

Sure, no one ever got fired for hiring PwC. They'll get the job done and dot all the 'i's, but it might come with a hefty price tag and perhaps not as swiftly as you'd like. Communication could be lacking, and they'll proceed at their own pace, regardless of your specific needs.

2. They won't give you their best people

Here's a trade secret. Many of these projects are given to trainees to cut their teeth on, working from the blueprint put together in the strategy phase. The revenue is valuable for consultancies, but they'll put in whoever they've got available 'on the bench' rather than get you the best in the business.

3. You'll have to wait for their in-house specialists

If a firm like Accenture wins your IT project, the work might not start immediately. If you need a particular skill set, such as an enterprise or solution architect, you might have to wait until their internal specialist completes their current project.

4. They may end up using contractors anyway 

Here's another trade secret. When a big-name consultancy is engaged to implement digital projects, they often end up coming to recruiting companies anyway. The recruitment agency will put a margin on top of their fee, and so will the consultancy. When this happens, you end up paying twice.

5. They won't give you flexibility

A consultancy firm will likely quote you one price to implement its strategy. But you may prefer a time and materials approach, particularly if your needs change as the project progresses. By handing over control to a consultancy, they will dictate the resource available to you and the timetable for delivery. And that might not work for you.

6. They could bring conflicts of interest

Sometimes these firms have relationships with specific vendors or partners. They could end up pushing solutions that are not necessarily the best fit for your organisation but serve their own interests. 

7. Complexity and scope creep

Sometimes these consulting firms over-complicate solutions, making them hard to manage or understand. There's always the risk of scope creep, where the project expands beyond its original objective. If you're not on top of the detail, you can end up facing new and unnecessary costs. And by that time, you'll be in too deep to withdraw.

8. Culture mismatch

The culture of big consulting firms might not align with your company's culture. This could cause friction, lack of trust, and ineffective collaboration between employees and those implementing the change you desperately need. You could end up losing valuable team members or creating solutions that your team don't understand and can't use.

9. Intellectual Property concerns

Some information and strategies may be shared across the consulting firm's other clients, potentially resulting in a lack of proprietary advantage for your company.

10. Long-term viability

The consulting firms may focus on immediate solutions and not give enough attention to the long-term sustainability and scalability of the implemented systems. Indeed, they may have a vested interest in keeping you dependent on their expertise to help you scale and upgrade with them in the future.

11. Data privacy and security 

Handing over sensitive company data to an external party always has risks, including data breaches or misuse.

So, why not use contractors to deliver in-house instead?

Using a consultancy firm to scope out and then deliver your digital transformation project can feel like the path of least resistance. But they can be slow, expensive and unresponsive to changing needs.

If you want to take an agile approach, where you can keep oversight and control of costs, then you should consider using a specialist recruitment business to supply contractors with the niche skills you require.

Working with modern recruitment agencies, you can source all the experts you need with the specific experience to deliver big digital change projects at a fraction of the cost. These recruiters can get the right people in place fast wherever you are in the world. And, crucially, on the terms that work for you. 

The big consultancy firms may deliver bright but inexperienced project leaders. They may move slowly and rob you of control. In the age of agile, you want to avoid locking yourself into hyper-scale partners who will keep you waiting for change. You need partners who can help you manage complex projects much more dynamically.

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Published by Danny Herbert June 28, 2023
Danny Herbert

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