Browsing through Expert360 last week, I came across a great question.
‘What are the key differentiators to look for when choosing a business technology consultant?’
As an online marketplace Expert360 connects companies with expert consultants and flexible teams on demand. At Sheda we provide technology solutions and strategy consultation services to startups and established businesses.
We came up with 6 factors that we consider essential when looking to hire a business technology consultant.
1.) Does the Consultant take a Design/Design Thinking approach to Software Solutions.
Design thinking in the technology ecosystem is being used as a method towards effective problem solving. The design thinking process in tech, aims to match user needs with what is technologically feasible and what is a viable business strategy.
Nir Eyal best-selling author of ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’, summarised the 3 pillars of the most successful tech products as growth, monetization, and engagement. Engagement is a critical statistic for investors, founders, and employees to understand the key motivators that bring people back to your product. Why and how the product is valuable to users, will they come back and use it again?
Paul Graham of YCombinator frequently talks about the importance of ‘building something that people want’. So much so it became the motto of YCombinator. New fields such as Human-Centered Design, Service Design, and Design Thinking, are all relatively new terms to in the process of understanding the end user. With this in mind, can your consultant articulate how and why the user will use your product. If we build technology and users find it difficult to use and hard to understand, we’re likely to find we’ve wasted time and money. More intuitive and easy to use software wins out against clunky software that takes too long to get the job done. In today’s fast paced society users have high expectations for speed and ease of use.
2.) Does the Consultant Match user-needs to business outcomes?
Ash Maurya creator of the one-page business modelling tool ‘Lean Canvas’, points out that your product is NOT “the product” of your company. Your business model is “the product”. A good consultant must be able to match the technology and user-experience to business outcomes. Do solutions offered take into account the key business value for the customer and the business? Technology is often created with the wrong use-case in mind, causing the business to implement solutions that don’t provide value to consumers. If we can create enough value for consumers, they can justify paying for it. If the solution is not valuable enough compared to the other alternatives in the market, we’re wasting valuable time and money.
3.) Is the development and design team offshore or local?
The pro of an offshore team is often price. The downfalls can include cultural barriers, communication breakdowns, time-zone constraints, longer development cycles and often wasted development. Well designed software builds a solid foundation for future tech development hires to work on. It should also communicate the brand and vision of the product to customers.
4.) Can the consultant match your communication style? How will you keep communication lines open?
The most common issue that prevents success when working with a consultant or agency is a communication breakdown. Wrong product features get built, or the features being completed are not communicated clearly to the client. This issue can often be solved by just finding the right fit and meeting with the agency to see that your communication styles match. Make sure you will easily be on the same page. This is often more likely when the team understand and share the vision for the product.
5.) Does the consultant share in your vision?
The chances of your communication remaining on the same track often comes down to a shared vision. Simon Senek author of the best seller ‘Start With Why’, tells us that everyone knows what they do, we know how we do it, but few understand why. If your consultant understands your vision the synergy and communication between your team is multiplied. The company vision is the compass that guides us through tough decisions. For example, making a decision on which customer to target and which feature is most important is determined from our ‘why?’.
It’s important for the team to all share in the future vision of the product. For team synergy to happen all team members should be heading in the same direction. If deep down the team can’t see the future viability and value that the product can give to customers, work is likely to become sloppy, late, and misguided. This can come down to a combination of being able to communicate the vision to the team and finding the right team that understands why this vision is worth working towards.
6.) Does the consultant have a portfolio with experience in your domain?
This is the best filter to verify if the consultant can achieve the desired outcomes. It’s common for agencies to promise the world in order to get the client on board. Try and ascertain if the consultant has a history of succeeding in the problem you are trying to solve. Have they demonstrated the skills or insight you really need? Checking testimonials and looking into past work should be critical in the decision making process. If you can find a particular consultant that specialises in your problem or in particular skill that your business is lacking, that’s a great start.
If you want to chat further about digital products and design thinking get in touch with us below.