Sunday, November 01, 2009

Consulting and Creative (un)commons

Santa and Banta submitted the tender for digging the second underwater Euro Channel Tunnel connecting England with France and continental Europe. This was perhaps the first time that a bid for such an extreme engineering project was coming from India, and apparently so it raised a few eyebrows and steered interest. An outsourcing relationship with India was not a new thing, but bidding for second Euro tunnel - that had got to be special...

Mr. Santa and Mr. Banta, the proprietors of Santa Banta & Co., were also among the main invitees to present their ideas describing their technology, tools, budget and time-lines to the consortium presiding over the project. As it turned out S B & Co had the lowest quotation, the shortest time-line for the project, the simplest possible plan and most straightforward execution using the most standard of tools: Santa would take one team (of a few hundred thousand labourers) digging from England towards France, and Banta would do the same from the opposite direction. The consortium was now specifically interested in the technology that S B & Co would employ like Global Positioning GPS for estimation and co-ordination of their efforts and meeting midway through the English Channel.

To the bafflement of all the engineers and architects of the world, budget owners and state leaders attending the consortium meeting Santa and Banta declared that they had no such plans of using any such satellite technology or high-tech machinery. (Most likely, limitations of the outsourcing budget was the issue.)

After emerging from the initial shock and chaos, when someone tentatively asked what would happen if both the teams failed to meet in the middle, S B & Co reportedly replied: "That is even better for you... you would get two tunnels in the budget for one!"

FROM A PROJECT MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVE this clearly is a disaster. Yet, there is a lot of creativity in the above response. And that is why S B & Co is more attuned to a consulting business than perhaps digging tunnels.

One of the basic lessons that I learnt from seasoned consultants is that consulting is all about options - How one puts one’s skill-set at the disposal of the clients to create multiple set of solutions for a given problem statement. The value-add of the consultant then is to compare the options in the context of the clients' situation and help them choose the best one.

There are many senior folks in the IT industry at the moment with decades of hands-on expertise and domain experience. But only those with the right blend of creativity shall succeed at consulting.

At least in their classical sense designing Logic and creating algorithm and programming is a creative activity. By that design Information Technology has to be a very creative field since it has Logic as the central premise. Further, I have found Solution Designing for IT as one of the most creative fields to work with. As against to project management paradigm, solution design desires a certain creative license to commit Santa Banta & Co kind of "crimes" of missing each other midway. These are also the folks who happen to tumble over the best of product ideas most of the times.

Some of the creative attributes of the job that can be listed out of experience are:
  • Creative Analysis involving business models, product fitment, solution re-usability, scalability models, etc.
  • Creative Communication focusing onclient interactions, RFP responses, email communication, creative writing, presentations, collaterals, etc.)
  • Creative Thinking with out of the box ideas, cleans slate, devil's advocate, constructive critic, etc.

There are only a handful of successful consultant, and consulting and product companies.

Apparently, these skills and attributes, this creativity, is uncommon.

P.S.: Trusted and highly placed sources suggested that following various presentations the consortium dropped the plans for building Euro Tunnel 2, at least for the time being.

  • See also:
  • Related post: Change, and Catch Words of Consulting I
  • Go here to know more about the Creative Commons licenses. This website also makes use of them. This post makes a rather 'creative' use of the catch phrase.

No comments:

Post a Comment