Sadly as 2013 begins it seems that it is once again open season on consultants and our contribution to the ITSM community.
Oddly I'm finding that most of this criticism is couched in language that sounds more like consultancy speak than anything that I've heard from any consultants over the last year. As a result I must admit I'm finding it hard to understand what exactly it is we stand accused of, apart from not being practitioners not talking about things that practitioners perceive to be of immediate use to them, and generally dominating the conversation.
Whilst I do understand some of the frustration, perhaps it is time for a bit of a reality check, or at least a more balanced point of view.
I'll admit I have limited time for "consultants" who fall into the category of instant expert., and that some of the criticism has them in mind. It might be the company I keep, or just that I avoid Linkedin discussions, but I don't see as many of them as I used to.The majority of consultants who have high profiles in the ITSM community aren't of that sort. Neither are they pure blood consultants who came straight in to a mainstream generalist management consultancy before the ink was even dry on their MBA. The majority of the ones I know have all spent time at the coal face. Not only that but having become consultants doesn't mean they are no longer involved in real world ITSM. Moving from client to client and solving ITSM problem after ITSM problem they probably see more of the wider real world than the average practitioner. Trust me, not many ITSM consultants spend their days getting called in to have cosy chats about blue sky thinking with CxOs over tea and biscuits.
I have to come clean and admit that I did spend several hours this week doing the blue sky thinking, but it was with analysts, not CxOs, it was challenging in a good way rather than cosy and there certainly wasn't time to grab a garibaldi. Don't forget that I'm lucky enough to work for a company big enough to absorb the overhead of sessions like that; many consultants in smaller companies or running their own companies effectively have to do all their non-client specific thinking in their own time and at their own cost.
Meanwhile my teams were getting their hands dirty......
....you see, that's the other problem. I can't tell you what my team have been doing for two very important reasons. The first is client confidentiality and the second is protection of IP. Those limitations are very, very real. So there is a whole raft of stuff I could have shared with you over the last three years that I'm just not going to. Again this is even tougher for those in smaller companies where clients are more readily identifiable and IP is hard won. In the early days of the itIMF, before the second I got substituted with ans S, I was amazed at how often people expected to get free advice from consultancy companies just because they had made the inquiry via the itIMF office rather than directly.
So since I can't talk about what my teams are doing, let's get back to the blue sky thinking.
I get the feeling people think that debates about whether a process is right or wrong is akin to debating how many angels can dance on a pin. And if at the moment you are at the bottom of a deep, deep hole with your budget slashed, your staff unhappy, your customer screaming and a service desk tool that isn't fit for purpose I can understand why you feel like that., and why some of the discussions might look more like a display of competing egos rather than anything of practical importance.
Be kind, rewind. As I said most of the consultants I engage with in public have a background as practitioners, but with the luxury, and it is a luxury, of being to step back a little to take in and analyse the big picture. We see people blindly following a process workflow just because it happens to be in a book, and not questioning if it is right for them, or even if following it comes at a net cost. We see people implementing "silver bullet" solutions, and we see people looking for that sense of comfort that comes from doing what everybody else is doing, Above all else we see people doing these things and not even realising it is what they are doing.
And we see what happens as a result.
That is why we debate some of these things. We would love to tell you some of the specific experiences that have led us to think the way we do - but that would mean revealing things about past and present clients and that wouldn't be professional. If what we are saying seems to conflict with your own pet theory it might also be worth checking whether we've seen other people try and put that theory into practice.and seen what happened next. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
Peter Brookes posted an interesting quote today
"The wise do at the beginning what fools do at the end.":
I'm not accusing anyone of being fools, but sometimes people are saying things that aren't obviously important or useful to you today, but might come to be highly significant down the line.
Do consultants dominate the ITSM SocMed channels too much? Almost certainly.We aren't paid to be shrinking violets and we are passionate about what we do. We do hate silences , so if there is a gap in the conversation ti is likely to be a consultant who rushes in to say the first thing on their mind. That's probably why I don't get invited to so many parties these days. Equally though we are passionate about uncovering and encouraging new voices from the practitioner community.
In fact I briefly considered writing a section about what ITSM consultants would like to see practitioners bring to the SocMed table, but I think that would be to misunderstand the community every bit as much as the blogs criticizing consultants. Instead I'll just say this:
Practitioners give what they available to give, just as consultants do.
Remember, recognise and respect our differences and we'll all get along just fine.