Hello, my name is Dan, and I'm a services addict. (“Hi, Dan”...)
Your department is in a bad way. You must roll out a major enterprise app on a tight deadline and you don’t have the bodies to pull it off. So you borrow some money from next year’s budget and hire a global services firm to help. “Relax,” the services folks say. “We got your back. Nothing to worry about. And, while we’re here, is there anything else we can do for you?”
Before you know it, a small army of consultants is bivouacked in your offices, “chilling and billing,” says Patrick Gray, president of the Prevoyance Group and a former Big Four consultant.
It gets worse. Pretty soon the consultants know more about your apps than you do, and you need their help to keep everything running. Meanwhile, they’ve identified six other critical faults in your IT infrastructure that must be addressed immediately if not sooner.
You’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to services. But there is a way out. Our 12-step program can help wean you off unhealthy dependencies on service providers, consultants, and outsourcers -- without having to check into the Betty Ford Clinic or make a tearful confession on Oprah. (For inspiration, read how General Motors handled its outsourcing.)
As with all 12-step programs, your first step is to. ...
Step No. 1: Admit you have a problem
How do you know if you’ve developed a dangerous dependency on service providers?
“One sign is when the temps you’ve hired to fill a short-term need have been there longer than your permanent employees,” says Steve Epner, who founded the Independent Computer Consultants Association 30 years ago and is now a graduate student at Purdue University. “The other sign is when you can’t afford to let a consultant go because they own all the knowledge of your processes and it would be difficult to run the business without them.”
Other obvious clues? When you find yourself granting second and third chances after a consultant has screwed up, or you’ve lost track of how much your services habit has cost you, says Darius Brown, president of the Boland Hill Group and a former consultant at Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers. “If you need a consultant to tell you how much you’ve spent on consultants, you’ve spent too much,” he says.
Step No. 2: Make a fearless inventory of your company’s needs
Once you’ve copped to your consulting habit, it’s time for some soul-searching, says Pamela Harper, president of Business Advancement and author of Preventing Strategic Gridlock. What services do you absolutely need to outsource, and what can you bring in-house?
Many firms get locked into consulting arrangements because they’ve made basic assumptions that may not be true, Harper says. They may think, for example, that they can’t meet their objectives without the help of a consultant, or they might assume they must have a certain kind of help.
“Another may be that you absolutely have to meet a specific objective, such as cutting costs,” Harper says. “But that may not be your only objective or your most important one. If you need to get a product out the door in six months, you may need to invest rather than cut.”
Step No. 3: Don’t let money already spent spook you