Technology Consulting

Inside the Business of Technology Consulting

Welcome to the Technology Consulting season on Design Talk where we talk about tech consulting with people in the business: experts, technologists, clients, educators. This series forms part of a set of resources for a short course on Technology Consulting taught at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

Outline of themes:
  • Frameworks for Control: waterfall, the project management perspective...
  • The Move to Agile: extreme programming, scrum, kanban...
  • Problem Solving: creative consulting organisations
  • Scaling Agile: contemporary digital enterprises
  • Collective Creativity: practices for creative organisations
  • Personal Consulting Process: boundary spanner, knowledge broker
The Technology Consulting theme links ideas around design with technology strategy, organisational action and strategic change. We tease out the realities and practicalities of being a consultant: problem solving, advising, designing, and effecting action and change in organisations. We want to draw attention to compelling reasons for bringing consultants in - what might be termed the opportunity-benefit of tapping into a knowledge intensive organisation larger than the client's own. We also touch on management approaches to technology consulting, for data science/analytics teams through to software engineering and strategy - covering topics such as technology management, life cycle, the project paradigm, design thinking and creativity.
"...instead of selling off-the-shelf solutions, tech consults should be comfortable with researching and describing context, framing and reframing questions, problem-solving processes, solution creation and design action."

Format: Interview/chats typically run for 30-40'. Each guest selects 5 or 6 prompts (below) or may offer their own. The audience may ask questions towards the end. We like a little improvisation and space to let the conversation flow. 

(range of questions and discussion areas)

  • How do you become a consultant and what do consultants do?
  • What does it take to be a consultant?
  • What tips would you give someone starting out?
  • What is your consulting style?
  • How do you tap into the knowledge of an organisation?
  • Would you consider yourself generalist or a specialist, a T shaped or π shaped person?
  • Is it enough to know a little about a lot and a lot about one thing in particular.
  • Do you ever admit the limits of your knowledge?
  • Is the work always time-boxed and project-oriented?
  • Is there room for design in consulting? 
  • Where and how does design happen?
  • Any thoughts on how to become a better communicator?
  • You're on a job and you discover that they didn't tell you the full story...
  • You're with a client and it becomes clear that they haven't identified the real problem...
  • How do you cope with resistance on a project?
  • Talk about dealing with 'flat' versus 'hierarchical' client organisations.
  • Is failure an option? How do you deal with failure?
  • Fail fast, fail forward has become a business mantra, but does it have a place in the consultant toolkit?
Comments on the big picture...
  • Changes happening in consulting?
  • Culture of consulting?
  • Ethos of consulting?
  • Values of consulting?
  • Ethics of consulting?
  • Politics of consulting?
  • Regulation in consulting?
  • International consulting?
Metaphors of consulting...
  • The consultant as an analyst.
  • The consultant as a designer.
  • The consultant as an outsider.
  • The consultant as problem-solver.
  • The consultant as a knowledge broker.
  • The consultant as a technical expert.
  • The consultant as a fast learner.
  • The consultant as facilitator.
  • The consultant as a change agent.

Focusing on problem solving through business analytics...

  • What are the links between business analytics, data science, statistics, software solutions?
  • Dealing with data is tough, why seek to expand the number and types of data sources?
  • How do you commence solving a problem statement?
  • An example where the problem needed to be reformulated?
  • Dealing with people is tough, an example of improved outcomes through consensus?
  • What are your go-to methods?
  • If you had to choose between a good visualisation versus a good story? Why? Examples?