Why IT Consulting as we knew it is gone - part I

I've started working in IT consultancy in 2003 & I had very little idea about what I had just stepped in ;P I already had some professional experience as a programmer, designer & even a team lead of a small squad, but I had yet to learn a lot about IT projects:

  • how huge, complex & absorbing (even for a big corporation) they can get
  • what kind of unreal & undreamed of problems you can encounter during them
  • why large enterprises invite huge mercenary enterprises to mess with the most critical elements of their IT landscape, instead of doing it on their own

I've learned all of that the hard way, in the heat of battle. And I had the opportunity to see with my very own eyes the twilight of so-called "traditional" IT Consulting.

This post series is about what I mean by that & what's the outcome.

What has changed since I've started?

  • Access to information & suffocation of closed technologies

    10 years ago development was very expensive & slow, development skills were rare & technology stacks were very hard to integrate. Software vendors were reluctant to reveal their internals or even APIs or to allow anyone mess with their software too freely (vendor lock-in FTW!). And the competition in particular market areas (types of large, enterprise systems) wasn't that fierce because it was a huge investment that took helluva time to build something market ready (not mentioning software credibility -> something that wasn't present for at least 10 years was considered scarcely credible).

    That's why many vendors were limiting access to information only to their large partner companies that specialized in integrating their particular solutions.

    But it's all PAST now:

    Integration technologies are open, genuine, well documented - if someone doesn't follow the open standards, he's out of the game. Software development is faster, more accessible & just cheaper these days - every company can do that without huge investment in licenses, infrastructure, training. Competition is much, much stronger, so vendors struggle to make their wares more accessible, flexible, approachable & easier to integrate - you don't need super-specialized, inner-circle company to do that any more. Internet is a huge help, it's much easier to publish (& find) content in any form you want (docs, videos, tutorials, online courses, etc.).

  • IT is everyone's business (digitization of services)

    When I had started my career, IT was an inconvenient necessity for many companies - something to have been done, but not as a core part of business, but more a supplement & gap-filler. That's why huge enterprises didn't want IT-related long-term investments like maintaining their development teams. It wasn't their core competency, it was definitely something they could outsource, for instance - use IT Consultants (yes, these were the times were outsourcing was a greatest idea for cost-cutting). Because what could investment in IT bring in terms of ROI? ;P

    But it's all PAST now:

    IT is not a sole industry, computer systems are an ever-present dimension of every business -> one of the few (most likely, the most important now) ways to advertise, sell or offer any kind of service your company provides. IT is a great differentiator, a very agile & low-inertia way to gain a competitive advantage with such a speed that is not possible to the traditional ways (due to virality, power of social media, the universatily of the Internet).

    Now, as it may have such a huge impact on your company scores, it really make sense to have such critical people on-board, holding the steering wheel as your own employees (not external Consultants) and these days it's not that hard as skills are much more available than 10 years ago.

  • Big doesn't get along well with Innovation

    10 years ago, innovation & causative potential was still all around large tech companies (big IT Consultancy companies included) that had all the means (mainly in terms of money) & were the only ones to attract your, ambitious people to join their ranks. Their PoVs (Point of Views), real-life project cases & proprietary methods were the best determinant of how stuff should be done in the world class well: the measurement of success was how well past cases were copied into new context.

    But it's all PAST now:

    With access to information liberated & the incredible burst of open technologies, large companies can't and won't keep the pace of small, independent think tanks. Start-ups & their -alikes that are devoid of large corporate inertia are incomparably more innovative and flexible in thinking & adjusting their course - we have all seen it already many times.

    Where large enterprises rely on building their own "methods", "templates", "patterns" (that all get outdated before they got finalized ...), flat-structured tiny start-ups learn on their mistakes in endless streaks of value-driven, short experiments and get light-years ahead. Hence the trend of open sourcing everything (to utilize the potential of community to improve your own key products) - even Microsoft has realized that recently.

Part II can be found here
Part III can be found here
Part IV can be found here

Pic: © fresnel6 - Fotolia.com