For the past month I’ve been in the process of scoping an OPEX engagement with a potential client. The solution required so many separate segments of different domains of knowledge that I was actually doing consulting before the project had even started.
To provide you with more context, the client was originally looking for an analytics and reporting solution to provide KPIs for their back office operational processes including finance, HR, procurement, O2C, R2R and P2P. The idea was to get some dashboards that would help the SSCs OPEX leaders identify process behaviours, exceptions, trends and the like to find opportunities for improvement, to then do a process intervention and implement change.
The client had tried to do the reporting on their own, but the variety and complexity of the systems involved – more than 30 ERP instances, peripheral applications, online forms collecting data and even excel files that were used to register work in some functional areas – had made that very difficult.
The OPEX deliverable is the understanding of what can be improved, not whatever tools you use to achieve those insights
As I learned more about the client’s intended use of the analytics and reporting solutions it became apparent to me that the end result, the ‘deliverable’, was not the KPIs, dashboards and reports themselves at all, but the client’s capacity to understand the processes, their variations, exceptions, and compliance with SLAs. But OPEX deliverable is the understanding of what can be improved, not whatever tools you use to achieve those insights.
I have been involved in KPIs, reporting and analytics solutions for more than 25 years, since the early days when you gave the dashboard design of a balanced scorecard to the CEO or CFO and told them: “get someone to calculate this every month.”
It was very clear to us that the KPIs are just a means, not the end result.
I’ve had clients that have purchased all the tools for reporting, integrated KPI dashboards and visualization analytics platforms and had an army of analysts calculating tons of KPIs every month. Still, they were never close to having performance management running smoothly. This is because the end result is not the visuals, it is the decision making derived from the understanding of those visuals. This is a key difference.
We recently brought a technology to Latin America that was created in 2010 but until a year ago was extremely expensive and was reserved for the largest companies: process mining.
Process mining has allowed us to look at our client’s problem in a different light and to suggest an alternative way to meet their needs.
But because it is a new process, it was important to explain to company experts what this new way of tackling an old problem was, how and why it was important for them beyond the software itself, and how to view both scenarios from an operational stand point for the long-term sustainability of the solution.
KPIs are just a means, not the end result
It was mini-consultation on the ‘how to’ before we had even decided on whether to do the project.
There is a need by organizations to have hands-on operational and knowledge domain expertise combined with technology delivery capability. In addition to being experts, those in the company implementing new digital tools must be able to orchestrate a complex solution that has multiple components from various domains.
Procurement Isn’t Easy
But digital knowledge and tech delivery skills are not easy to procure even in the age of ‘contactless consultants’. Identification of key personnel with this skillset can be challenging but organisations themselves must be involved.
An organization needs to do its homework and to follow best practices when hiring:
- Never take your decision to buy from a PowerPoint or a brochure. You should always avoid major corrections on key projects after they’ve been started. Starting right is key.
- Ask your Management Consulting Service Provider (MCSP) for a detailed explanation of what is that you will be experiencing during the project. If technology is involved, ask for a practical demo of the concepts you will be applying. Make sure you have a clear and detailed roadmap of what’s ahead.
- Ask your MCSP who will be involved in the project. Your organization cannot afford to be a learning opportunity for the MCSP. Even if the technology is very new, the logic and methodology of the why and how things will happen should be very clear.
- If possible, use an ISO 20700 checklist to contract your engagement. This ensures both your consultant and you are very clear and completely aligned on what the deliverable looks like. There are many accredited ISO20700 consultants worldwide.
If you have already have a trusted consultant you usually hire, ask them to become ISO20700 trained and use it in your engagements. The CMC-Global Institute, the virtual arm of the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) has ISO20700 courses for the world regions that do not have a National Institute of Consulting. The ICMCI is not affiliated to any consulting firm in particular.
Companies, NGOs and governments need to do their part too in these partnerships with consultants
The key takeaways here is that for business digitization of any kind requiring consultant expertise is to know how to pick those expertise. The consultant should not only know their trade well but have the ability to orchestrate and deliver the ‘last mile’ of the recommendations. This is a challenging task but companies, NGOs and governments need to do their part too in these partnerships with consultants.