DEV Community

Peter Kim Frank
Peter Kim Frank

Posted on

Does this sort of consulting service exist? Does it have a name?

A friend of mine is leading the "search" process for a major technology overhaul at his company. Basically, they are a large enterprise and are going out to seek bids as they look to modernize their website, CMS, mobile apps, etc.

My understanding is that they are going to a number of specialized and more general tech consultancies and dev shops, and are gathering bids through a "scoping process" with each firm.

While I would love to help act as a more informed advocate that could guide them through the process, I have neither the time nor the deep experience required to offer the best possible advice.

Is there a service out there where a client can hire an independent consultant to serve as their liaison and advocate through the search process? This person would not be tasked to perform the project; rather, they would help the client ask the right questions, advise them through major decisions, help de-construct proposals, etc.

If so, does this sort of service have a name?

Discussion (19)

desi profile image

It sounds like he's maybe looking for a Usability Consultant or User Advocate? I'm not sure if those are real things. But that's the direction I want my career to start going into - looking at products from the perspective of users, and arguing/advocating for what they'll want, finding pain points, try to preemptively find these kinds of things to reduce dev and design time in scoping/building things in a way that won't work for the user - anyway, those are two search strings they might try to look for?

andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

That would be a really cool job!

desi profile image

It's the dream! I just want things to be good and useful for users!!

vuild profile image
Vuild • Edited on

It's generally the first phase of the work I do. It falls under Consultant, Strategy, Operations or Crisis Management mostly.

Strategic consultant, Management consultant, Technical consultant type roles. It's evolved over the years. Exact names vary.

The kind of work that firms like Accenture do for enterprise.
Large scale projects, not independent consultants.

Usually it is the CTO role (top IT generalist at enterprise dept, coder/admin at startups) + a few other stakeholders (CMO/HoD etc). Honestly, even with this, there are often mistakes.

The first requirement is usually getting the team up to speed as there are a lot of basics to cover (people/product/dev/growth/legal/content/data/trends/ROI/UI+UX/sec/DRM etc). It's endless but required before choosing who executes the work mostly.

Understanding if chatbot will actually work, if ML is worthwhile, that gradients are passé, that SEO traffic is declining, 301 vs 302, React is hot, CSS subgrids, Swift issues, device bugs, browser states, data privacy laws, market shares, server responses, hardware costs, licence fees, upgrades etc is more complex than it seems (if there is a large planned investment). The exponential complexity adds another layer. The answers are also often human too, which adds more fun.

Without knowing details:

  • Do it in phases (lower risk) & iterate. This gives time for people to adjust too. The dramatic change usually goes wrong.
  • Get bids/consulting/advice from firms you know can deliver, that have shown previous results of the scale you need, rather than RFP everyone. Build relationships.
karlredman profile image
Karl N. Redman

I think this is pretty much what I would have said if not beaten to it. I'd add, though, that the position your friend is wanting to fill is also extremely dangerous unless he/she knows exactly what they are looking for -there be sharks in them waters! The person hired for this position will have extreme control over the future of the company and every detail of how it works down to the culture.

Whatever buzzword name people settle on "consultant" is probably not what you want in that situation unless it's the rarest of type. By this I mean, the very nature of being a consultant in this business means "contractor". IMHO, generally speaking, contractors do not have a deep vested interest in the business, it's future, or it's past. That's not the type of job it is by definition.

There are consulting agencies all over the place that will claim to fix/reorganize, etc. your entire business. Very few, will call themselves a 'partner' on paper (in a contract). And that is what your friend is really fishing for here -someone who considers themselves as a partner to the the company and whom respects the values thereof.

my 2 cents.

vuild profile image

These situations are often true.

The solution is to understand the big vision/direction in-house (even then, enterprise can turnover & new people often don't know the history). Then send out for the best "whatever" you need. Hire a few different consultants in different areas & get second opinions. More work (to manage), lower risk, more in parallel, constant feedback/results. Force consistency.

Large corps can often partner with OEMs or use specifically recommended providers (often ex employees of said OEM). Nike can call Apple for example. Depends on the size of the business/project/integration if this is an option.

Honestly, a lot of it can be common sense, standard practice & pretty straightforward too. As it is a big money earner (for anyone doing the work) there will be layers of 'abstraction' to increase the value of the service offered to the enterprise. There can be a lot of risk (depends on the company/product/tech/maturity) or it may be imagined risk.

Tech companies tend to try to behave like startups (it works) & this may be a good way to go (risk/legacy dependent).

It all depends on product/goals/resources & in-house knowledge/skills really.

eli profile image
Eli Bierman

I think most senior consultants or architects do that work, but usually not only that work. I might call that specific role a "technical partner," or "vendor relations."

It's a good sign that your friend is thinking about bringing on a partner to help with the search process, as it can be very difficult to navigate all the parties' different incentives.

The one thing I would warn about is: be careful not to choose an agency just because their business development people make you feel heard. Often you only interact with their sales or business development people, and it's very difficult to evaluate an agency based on that. Agencies can have amazing business development people and dysfunctional development teams, or vice versa. It can be very tricky to navigate.

For clients that don't have as much experience working with agencies or other vendors, they usually look for larger agencies even though they charge more. Those agencies typically have dedicated business development people that serve two roles:

  1. Serve as an advocate for the client and learn about their needs (what you described).
  2. Use that understanding and knowledge to sell them consulting services.

There's an uncomfortable aspect of this dynamic where many of the consultants who would be able to serve as a technical partner for this search process are also trying to sell you on having them do the implementation work as well. So you have to be really careful about misaligned incentives.

For example, a React shop might look at your needs and say you should overhaul your whole system to use Gatsby and React Native, regardless of your current tech stack. That's where their experience and your needs intersect, so that's what they feel comfortable offering.

A larger agency might not push a specific technical solution as hard since they have broader expertise, but that will also be reflected in the higher quote they'll give you for the implementation work. They might even be motivated to convince you to postpone any architectural decisions so that you need a larger agency like them.

vgrovestine profile image
Vincent Grovestine

Alas, I can't provide any specific insight about such consulting services; however, I'm VERY curious to know if folks are doing this in any sort of formal, organized sense. It's just the sort of concept that creeps into my mind every now and again when contemplating "What's next?" career-wise.

itheorize profile image
Greg Gardner

Yes, vendor selection is a common service and one I have done both in my former position at Accenture as well as at my current employer Point B. Point B and others also provide essentially 'owners agent' type services to large companies during implementation. This can be highly valuable to both the client and the 3rd party provider as general consultancies can leverage insider knowledge of the client to mitigate risk.

laurieontech profile image

Absolutely. This is considered a due diligence. It's similar to hiring a consultant to before an acquisition to check out the tech of the company they're acquiring. We actually do this at Ten Mile Square. Would be happy to talk to anyone who is curious about the process.

davidpfarrell profile image
David Farrell • Edited on

I would file this under Technology Consulting / Request For Proposal / Vendor Selection and its a service I offer (I’m sure others reading this do too) - Happy to discuss the project further and see if I might be a good fit to help with it.

imthedeveloper profile image
ImTheDeveloper • Edited on

Sounds to me much like a solutions architect in a consultants role.

I've done this for many clients now ranging from banks to universities and small local businesses.

Reviewing user requirements and taking it through to market research, shortlisting, advice and strategic fit.

Right now I'm working in this role for a startup bank. Eveything from their value chain model to strategic capabilities and the through to vendor selection, due diligence, technical demos, integration and usability, then finally on to contract advice. A decent architect can cover any subject in reality so I wouldn't worry about needing to find an expert on just CRMs for example.

jenmusing profile image
Jennifer Napier

Hi Peter!

Business Talent Group can assist with this. They have the largest marketplace of independent consultants and former executives and place consultants to do this kind of work at F500 companies all the time.

jrohatiner profile image

Senior Consultant, Technology Architect (of some kind / depends on the stack and goals)

desi profile image

Maybe something like

acoh3n profile image

Interesting. 6 months ago I did just that for the Smithsonian Channel. They wanted to get into the video streaming world so I helped them get there. The result is

gsto profile image
Glenn Stovall

I think the word you're looking for is "Procurement", and yes, there are consultants out there who can help with that.