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What I Request IT Consultants To Change

By Vijay Sethi, CIO and Head CSR – Hero MotoCorp

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Vijay Sethi, CIO and Head CSR – Hero MotoCorp

Hero MotoCorp is one of the world’s largest two wheeler manufacturing companies based in India and has a sales and service network with over 6,000 dealerships and service points across India. Vijay Sethi has around 25 years of experience in manufacturing industry and consulting environment. He has extensive experience in development and deployment of IT strategy, systems and integration projects for Global M&As.

A CIO needs help from IT Consulting organizations at various times– be it in strategy formulation, solution design, selection, implementation,­­­­ post implementation audit or other areas. In IT consulting community, we have lots of bright and experienced people who have contributed immensely to success of our IT and our organizations and I value their contribution and always look forward to advice from them.

However, during interactions with some consultants, one comes across questions or impressions that the first meeting could potentially become the last meeting or the relationship never goes beyond initial presentation or a one off transaction and the consultants wonder as to what really happened. While reasons of this can be anything from “need of solution by the customer” to “competency of consultant”, there are times when some “interesting questions” or “behavior” are the deal breakers. I request consultants to possibly considering changing them.

During meetings, some of the “interesting questions” include:

Can you tell us something about your products and markets?” I feel consultants should spend a few minutes on Internet to get answers to all these mundane questions. I am sure you wouldn’t have to come all the way from Chennai or Mumbai or Gurgaon or in some cases even overseas to ask these questions.

“What are your pain points?” (and my response most of the times is “When I have a pain I go to doctor immediately and will not wait for a meeting” or in some cases I say “Why do you think we call consultants only when we have pain– we could also be meeting to discuss projects that may be for future and not for addressing any immediate pain”.)

“What are the problems being faced by your industry?” (what do I say – Sir, few minutes back you introduced yourself as a domain expert in our industry with decades of experience globally, you should know this or are you trying to take my test.)

“Are you doing something new this year?”(No Sir, we are still trying to finish projects we started in 1990 and we have called for this meeting to request you to help us in that.)

“It has to be a healthy, win-win relationship based on professional interactions and mutual trust where the consultants value time and knowledge of CIO and his team and vice versa”

And then come the most dreaded questions at the end of encounters as above. “How would you like us to take it forward? Can you introduce us to your team members with whom we can now engage for detailed discussions?” What does one say? “Thank you, it was indeed an enriching experience for me and my team and your first step was the last one, please excuse us now” or say “I do not want my team to accuse me of subjecting them to torture.”

Some of the other things I would like consultants to change:

  • Arriving for meetings in large groups – many times 8 or 9 or more consultants arrive – there are team leads, SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), account managers, account directors etc -  While it puts me to inconvenience where I need to run around to find a bigger meeting room, sad part is only one or two will discuss while others will be either sitting with a bored look on their face or nodding vigorously and taking down notes (whatever they are writing) or may be just smiling (I guess they are reading and answering their WhatsApp messages)
  • Not focusing on the core- In a 45-minute meeting, a consultant recently spent almost 15 minutes introducing each member of team, 15 minutes on their global presentation and some charts which had data which was not relevant to our industry or the topic, 5 – 7 minutes on some random things and then asking us “What are your views?” What do we say –I do not know views on what or time is up – let us meet next time.
  • Having PPT Slides with so much data– At times seeing slides having too much content and having font size of 6 (ok 14), one gets a feel as if slides cost money so they have tried to reduce number of slides or they are testing their and our eye sight.
  • Thinking CIOs do not know anything –In one of my experiences, a consultant came to pitch for ‘Cloud-Strategy’ and spent 90% of the time explaining difference between private, public and hybrid cloud, between IAAS and PAAS and so on.  Trust me CIOs and IT teams may not be as smart as consultants but we are not dumb.
  • Not doing your homework – In yet another encounter after a passionate presentation by a consultant, I asked them a simple question: “You said, you have done similar project for company X and that they are your biggest reference in manufacturing, can you give me some details of the project?” His answer shocked me. “I will get back to you as I do not have the details right now. That client is being handled by my counterpart in south.” (Then why did you come and not your counterpart)
  • Not following up on your commitments - There are times we hear after the meeting, I will send you a copy of this presentation (or some details one asks during the meeting) upon reaching office and after 10 days one wonders if team ever reached their office or went on a holiday straight from meeting.
  • What you See is Not What you get- Lot of times the presentation and discussions before contract is awarded are led by people who are quite knowledgeable and impressive but when the project starts the team that lands up is full of freshers with many of them doing their first project in life.
  • Show us Indian Context also - There are times the consultants keep on repeating experiences while they were in US or other countries and give all global examples and when asked about the same in Indian context, the response is we will get back – so, while global context is useful, we want to see Indian context also as the deployment is being done in India.

Having said all this, I also know that we, as IT people in our companies need to respect the contribution of consultants and not run them down just because we are ‘Customers’ and ‘Customer is King’. It has to be a healthy, win-win relationship based on professional interactions and mutual trust where the consultants value time and knowledge of CIO and his team and vice versa.

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