Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Domain knowledge – the only thing that matters in consulting?!

A frequent complaint that one hears about consultants is that ‘one team sells’ but another delivers…the implication being that the more senior folk are involved in winning the work, but when it comes to delivery, it’s often handed to the less experienced with the expected consequences. Like all professions that deliver a service, the tendency is to try and win at all costs and think about delivery at a later stage, at which point you discover that unless you make some radical changes to resourcing, the project will lose rather than make money!

More recently however, I’ve come across a dichotomy which is interesting. Often, in fact in about 90% of cases I’ve been involved in, there is a very specific emphasis on having domain knowledge. The word ‘domain’ seems to have drifted into consulting speak from the world of technology and effectively means knowledge of sector and sub-sector, and often very specific area of activity. An example from financial services might be some of the specific areas of regulatory change, such as Dodd Frank, would be considered domain knowledge, without which you will struggle to win the project.

Now there are areas of consulting where without this kind of very specific knowledge and perhaps more importantly language, the ability to deliver is impeded. There are many others however where, from an implementation perspective, the client is looking and values highly a broader perspective and knowledge. A recent example might be the challenge of complexity reduction in financial services. From our experience, bringing consultants with strong automotive knowledge (a sector which has gone through this over the past 10 years) was very successful.

So, put simply, the dichotomy is this: To win the work you need to show strong domain knowledge, but to deliver successfully, it’s often your experience outside of the sector which may prove most valuable!

Perhaps bringing in two separate teams (one to sell and if I’m being less cynical, understand and develop the business requirement with the client) and the other to deliver (by bringing some domain but also some broader experience to bear) is not such a bad idea after all!

 

Categories: Career development, Consulting, Human Capital, Learning, Selling, Training, Transformation

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