Why should I believe a consulting firm that doesn’t have a service catalog or any other company?

Let’s see you’re a technology consulting firm or any consulting firm and you don’t have a service catalog.   When you’re advising my company, you bring to the table a wealth of technology-speak: Cloud, Digital Transformation, AI, Containers, Blockchain, IoT, and the like.

Asked what your firm does I hear a jumble of more buzz-words: Agile, Digital Design, and the list goes on. Pressed for a simple answer I get “We’ll assist or execute for you in implementing the latest technologies”. So basically, your service catalog contains two items: Project Management and Technology of the Moment (TotM) implementation.   “Well we do more than that. We also provide Agile Training, Coaching, and blah, blah, blah…” Isn’t all of that in support of the two services you are supplying?

I know a few years ago your firm was trying to engage with my firm’s IT function about improving operational efficiency. You were proposing that you could help us by creating a service catalog as part of implementing a service management strategy.   We’re still working on creating our catalog. Can we see yours?

Oh, you have a list of services you advertise but no real catalog of how to perform or measure? Then a quick scramble behind the scenes to dig up you Secret Sause Methodology that no one else has. But I’ve seen this by every other firm just with different company specific acronyms.

I begin to wonder why if your firm had highlighted how important having a service catalog was so important years ago, that you don’t have one also. Especially since you still insist its key to an effective organization expecting to digitally transform itself.

While this is a rude hypothetical example. I assure you the events and thoughts are real, confirmed through discussions with many Executives over the years.

I don’t claim a service catalog is the answer to all of life’s questions, nor will it make a poorly conceived business model suddenly become profitable. What I do suggest is that a well thought out service catalog is part of good business and operating models.

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These models “guide” a company to success. Provided one understands these are models not the real world. These are the visualization of planning. Eris Ries along with other notable business advisors suggests two important concepts about enterprises and growth. First, you can expect you’ll need to change your business model or plans once you engage with the market. The ecosystem will inform you what is of value to your clients and your business. Second, if you focus on doing everything, you’ll eventually do nothing. For all the resources mega-enterprises have, these still must focus. It’s when they lose focus and try to do too much outside the core the business goes off the rails.

So where does a service catalog come into play?

Service catalogs are the details behind what your firm does and does not do, and how it does these. This may be why there are so many small consulting firms with big dreams that never grow up. Either not knowing what they do, trying to do everything, or not understanding how to do it repeatedly (a service) with consistent and measurable results.

Imagine going to a Cleaners only to get your clothes back partly cleaned one time, fully cleaned another, and having the service period vary by days without any indication as to when. Then going into the back room to see people cleaning clothes in no consistent manner: a dry-cleaning machine all the way through using a tub and scrubbing board. How long would you consider using this “service”?

While there is no guarantee that having a service catalog will ensure the perfect outcome. Having a one along with management oversight increases the probability of that desired outcome. Coupled with service agreements this reduces the risk to the client.

So why have a service catalog?

A service catalog is the guide rails to good outcomes for both client and company. The services included in the catalog are the execution details behind the key activities of your business.

Methodology Engine for Consultants

Early wake-up call…well not actually early for me.  Today’s agenda: More Data Mining and evaluating the best course to capture methodology for my consulting firm.   Four primary factors to consider: 1) Knowledge and Skills transfer 2) Job Aid and Execution support 3) Ease of maintenance 4) Accessibility for field consultants

In prior roles I help construct or constructed my own methodology engines for various domains: Marketing Management and Strategic Planning, Enterprise Assessments (e.g., ISO 9000, CALS, etc.).  Depending upon factor four the technology choices I had narrowed down to were: Lotus Notes, SharePoint, and MS Access.  Of all the platforms to build on, MS Access was the most popular as one could carry the engine into a client’s site where Internet access was limited.

 

I was consider a hybrid on desktop MS Access and Access Services, however, given the uncertain future of both I’m considering another option such as Pega which would have the accessibility limitation pointed our prior, but gains an orchestration engine and data consolidation of multiple engagements for future BI application.  However, to kick start the project I’ll likely use the Methodology Engine I created in ACCESS as it has the basics to capture the workflow, methods and R&Rs

Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Plans

Spent last week in my first Enterprise Leadership Team strategic planning onsite meeting.  It was one of the better if not best strategic planning sessions I’ve participated in.  Rather than focusing on the two extremes –what can be do now to address some mess — or — pie in the sky dreams that have no basis in reality or likely to be realized– the session focused on reviewing where they were, why and what the vision of the business is to be.  As we covered what others may mistakenly consider trivial issues in sequence, you could see how these decisions narrowed down options to a laser focus as we at the end of this sequenced redefined or rather clarified what inherently knew was the business design’s skeleton.  While there is still much work to be accomplished on this, the skeleton provides the supporting scaffolding to successfully build out.

Strategic Planning and Strategic Plans are all well and good until the touch the reality of engagement.  What made the past weeks activities worth the effort were the last two days of the onsite.  With knowledge of where we want to be and where we are, we started deployment planning.  This is appears to be the fatal flaw in almost all the strategic planning sessions I’ve attended in the US.  Without planning how to deploy the plan, strategic planning results in pounds of paper and dilutions.  This seems obvious but somehow often gets overlooked.

One could say that’s because the strategic planning activity is designed that way. Or because there are no tools to translate strategic plans into actions.  However, both assertions are false.  Whether its because strategic planners don’t wish to get involved in deployment or as software designers often say small matter of programming 😉 or they are unaware of intellectual tools to assist, I find it more attitude that capability.  If I was to draw a parallel.  Design Engineering is often viewed as more glamorous and desirable that manufacturing Engineering, though its the later that can make or break a company.

With that said I’ll point to several approaches I’ve used, when I’ve been able to make the case to actually plan out implementing a strategic plan:  Hoshin Planning, Results Chain (DMR Consulting), Benefits Dependency Network (Cranfield), Strategic Capabilities Network (IBM), and Elyon Strategies own planning methodology.   My preferred methods are Hoshin Planning and Elyon’s as both focus on alignment to the strategic goals and a sequence of activities that logically contribute to achievement of the goal.  As I write this post I’m thinking of how-to merge Hoshin, Results Chain, and Elyon’s methodology as each as a strong point but a small gap that the other methods address well.

 

Technology an Business Change White Paper

This morning’s activity before planning session was relooking at some aspects of research I was going to bring into the Center for Understanding Change. However, now I think its more worthwhile for Elyon Strategies. With all the hype around transformation (i.e., moving off-prem to the cloud) I think analyzing the interdependencies between business transformation and technology change is worth research effort to look at the nth level of consequence of each and real options involved. The white papers I wrote for Microsoft on BCDR & DR touched on that be think I can dive deeper on my next whiter paper for Elyon.

So you’re innovative, Now what?

Over the weekend, between home projects, I started reading “The Corporate Startup”.  The one standout comment so far was the authors’ definition of Innovation: “The creation of new products and services that deliver value to customers, in a manner that is supported by a sustainable and profitable business model”.  This suggests several things to me:

First creativity is not necessarily innovation.  One can be creative but not necessarily creating value to a customer, e.g., Rube Goldberg

Second value is in the eye of the customer, so maybe a new and novel approach that doesn’t reduce cost or produce more effective results but provides a more entertaining or satisfying experience is of value. Pines & Gilmore highlighted this idea in their book in 1999.  Examples of experience multiplying value are demonstrated by such corporations as Apple with the IPhone, etc. Where style and experience are often the major differentiating factor IPhone verse Windows Phone.

In earlier research I came to the conclusion that value for customers is manifested in at least one of follow three categories:

  1. Efficiency, reducing costs or time
  2. Effectiveness, producing better results
  3. Experience, enhancing enjoyment or prestige.  Consider how Rolex, Apple, DeBeers, etc. positions themselves and products

Lastly a sustainable and profitable business model, is a fantasy.  A look at the Dow Jones 30 over the years indicates sustainability is ecosystem dependent.  As it changes a business needs to change its business model to remain profitable.  U.S. Steel and U.S. Leather Company are entities that are no longer included in the top 30, their offerings and business models no longer enable these firms to continue as before.

In some cases companies tried to be “creative”: six colors of pens.  But those efforts failed to reach a tipping point in the experience category, neither did these enhance the other two categories.  So the musing for today are your company’s efforts creative or innovative?

 

CAD for Enterprise(TM) R and D

Picking up this morning where I left off a few weeks ago on learning Tensors well enough to integrate ontology and taxonomy concepts to create a coordinate system for the Enterprise Design System I’m building based upon the Zachman Ontology.   This week I’m looking into converting Organizational Structure concepts into a vector.   I’m reading an excellent book on organizations: “The Connected Company”, Dave Gray.  Reminds me of von bertalanffy insights on systems levels building higher behaviors & attributes at each layer.

 

Internal Transformation

Past week has been working on internal transformation projects for my firm.  A classic case of eat your own dog food.  The interesting situation is everyone is excited to participate and help in the transformation.  –makes the task 1) easier 2) much more enjoyable — and confirms that I joined a awesome company, with awesome people.  Revising Business Model and putting into place a strategic execution system to ensure alignment with Biz Model, Designing, building, and implementing a client acquisition system to improve getting and keeping desirable clients.

This morning’s insight

A part of a good strategy is knowing what not to do; besides what to do.  I see too many companies run off the rails by going after the wrong type of business, markets and clients. Or trying to be everything to everyone, thus ensuring you’re nothing to everybody.