Sometimes You Can’t Save People From Themselves

Recently, I was exploring a new opportunity to provide some consulting support to a mid-size firm interested in extending their online presence. Unfortunately, the senior-most leader saw the effort as a means to reduce headcount. My thought was it was much more strategic than that.

In its most modest incarnation the project would improve the customer experience and enhance the firm’s intimacy with its clients. From a slightly “bigger picture” perspective, if the project were to be done right, there was an opportunity to lock-in customers through technology.

My proposition to provide a simple project review and risk assessment prior to vendor selection was met with a classic case of the “we can do that ourselves” mentality. The president asked his project sponsor, “why should we pay someone to tell us something that we already know?” She didn’t have a good answer – mine would have been, “because you don’t know, what you don’t know.”

To their credit, the firm’s senior leadership team was successful entrepreneurs that had grown their business to a reasonable size. Sadly, they continue to manage it through the same small business lens – a practice that will probably lead to the failure of this project and, if the competition is watching, more loss of business – as their discerning customer-base seek greener pastures with other firms that can provide them with a richer online experience.

I wish them luck, but, I’ve seen the ending of this movie too many times to know better.

The story starts out innocently enough — the vendors get started and client sits back and reviews the work being done. At some point, it becomes clear that more invovlement is needed from the client because there is a disconnect between what the client thought they were buying and what they actually received. Meanwhile, all of the money has been spent, the project went well over budget and deadlines were extended to accomodate misunderstandings. After the appropriation of additional funding and a fair amount of frustration on the part of client and vendor, alike, victory will reluctantly be declared by both parties.

My prospective client will be left with another add-on technology component part that isn’t integrated with the rest of the business, headcount requirements will have gone up (instead of down), in order to support the new front-end and more business will be lost in the process.

Now, all of this could’ve been avoided, of course. But, why pay someone to tell you what you already know, right?

Alas, I can’t always protect a client from themselves — no matter how hard I try!

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