When we think about big shifts and transformations in the ways we work and interact with technology, there are many components that need to work together perfectly in order for the transformation to be successful. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to have experts in every skill set at your organization, and that’s where consultants come in. Consultants don’t just give you technology tools, they reshape how you work and how you accomplish your mission.
Although typically underutilized, consultants for the social sector are just as important as for-profit organizations. When you’re dealing with the ever changing human landscape of education or social change, it’s critical to set aside funding for transformational work whether it’s technology, process, or people development.
At Elevation Solutions, our consultants’ goal is to make sure you have not only the best-in-class technology, but also the skills and mindsets to understand what a shift in technology means for your people, your process, and your future. Here’s what you should know about the role of consultants in technology transformation, including helpful tips about how to work with your stakeholders to ensure shared success!
First, let’s define who consultants are. Consultants are experts in all aspects of business from strategy, marketing and finance, to business process, operations and technology. They are the experts that see the big picture and can design a comprehensive strategy, but also dig into the details and provide expertise on things like your core technology infrastructure and data. The best consultants demonstrate the following qualities:
- Third Party Objectivity: Great consultants will assimilate themselves into your organization to understand your culture and how you operate, but still provide true objectivity as a third party. Consultants are removed from the internal politics and the paycheck, and can provide valuable perspective from their experience working with hundreds of other organizations both similar and different than your own.
- Honesty: For consultants, honesty is essential. Although you might not like what they have to say, the key to successful transformation is to be transparent throughout the process about where we are and where we have to go.
- Hearing without Judgement: Consultants don’t judge your people, data, or process. They truly listen, understand your perspective, and then inform knowing that every organization is different.
- Championing Your Organization and Your Goals: Whether it’s internally or externally, consultants will be your advocates to help you communicate with all your stakeholders to get your project across the finish line.
Why is it in your best interest to bring in consultants when you’re considering a large scale technology project like an enterprise platform implementation, data warehouse, student portal build, or donation management system?
It’s important to understand that when technology projects fail, it’s not the technology itself, rather the process and the people behind it. Remember the age old saying that your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Unfortunately this happens all the time with purchasing technology. Our reaction is that technology will solve all problems, but without purpose and a clear plan, a lot of money and time is wasted. Consultants will develop a pragmatic plan for your organization. We stand at a 30,000 foot view and make sure all dimensions of a successful transformation initiative are aligned up front. Your processes and people control the technology, not the other way around!
Think of it like hiring an electrician. You might understand the concepts of electricity from learning them in high school, but that’s not enough to open up your electrical panel and re-run wires throughout your house. Similarly, it’s risky to tackle a large technology project internally. It can be challenging when you’re on the inside and lack expertise to guide the technology transformation. If you clip the wrong wire, you can dismantle an integral process or team. This can lengthen your project timeline in addition to wearing out your people. Focus on making sure your house is in order and let the experts handle the wiring.They’ll make sure you and your team stay away from any exposed circuits and don’t get shocked!
As you evaluate all dimensions of a successful technology project, check out the following stories to understand how a seemingly straightforward technology project actually morphs into something more and reimagines how organizations operate and fulfill their missions:
Example 1 (Higher Education): While deploying a CRM at a college, we ended up making a recommendation for the college to re-architect their entire student services processes to become a one-stop-shop. Students were struggling to access services in an easy manner, and the technology itself would not solve the problem. In order to create an effective one-stop-shop service center with new technology, we first had to realign the organization’s internal departments, retrain people, rewrite content, and rebuild business processes before we deployed the technology that supported staff and guided students through a premier service experience.
Example 2 (K-12): When working with a K-12 supplemental education organization, we knew that many students didn’t have a stable internet connection at home given the demographic we were serving. It was clear that mobile solutions for students to access their portal was a must. However, knowing the importance of great mobile technology in order to keep up with expectations of today’s youth, we first needed to figure out how the organization was going to maintain added mobile infrastructure given that it was a new skill set for their internal team. We helped the organization streamline their bux fix and release management processes and trained their staff on mobile infrastructure to ensure a successful rollout of mobile technology.
Example 3 (Nonprofit): An organization wanted to deploy a texting solution to communicate with its constituency about business microloan reminders, however we found that the majority of their constituents have temporary phone numbers. We could have easily deployed a texting tool for the organization to utilize, however we could not prove the value given the demographic. As a result, we needed to rethink how the organization was reaching their people. We ended up recommending that they employ a task force of volunteers to visit people’s houses four times a year prior to the loan deadline, which was much more valuable and impactful for their mission.
We hope your big takeaway when beginning a technology transformation is that technology cannot be built in a vacuum. Your people and process formation is just as important to your success as the tools themselves. For instance, if you just have a software designer or developer to implement your technology but are missing out on the people and process dimensions, you’re going to end up with misunderstandings and process gaps. If you just have a project manager but no strong technical architecture expertise, then you may receive an unstable technical implementation. It’s critical to address all dimensions – people, process, and technology – to ensure your transformation is successful and permanent.
Do you have questions regarding your next technology transformation? We love talking strategy and helping our clients make it real, so connect with us to talk though your goals!