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Friday, June 10, 2011

Are you sure I'm not a consultant

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I'd like to mention the growing (in my mind anyway) disparity between an operational support person and a consultant.
Having spent some time in contact with various recruitment agencies, I can understand how single words specified on a requirements brief from the client must be followed as accurately as possible.
The client, after all, wants the perfect candidate don't they?!

I've worked on both sides of the coin you see.
I started off as an apprentice in an IT department in the late nineties.
Customer satisfaction is key when you're in an IT department working the helpdesk.  Even if you're second line (which infers a military comparison, doesn't it?
http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&biw=1385&bih=862&q=second+line+of+defence&aq=f&aqi=g7g-v2g-sv1&aql=f&oq=), you may be rated on your comms skills, how efficient you were and how accurate (first time fix).
So I can understand that supporting something that is already installed and working would be viewed as operational support and not consultancy.

I've also worked for a consultancy, quite a big one.  I wasn't called a consultant, but if you work for a consultancy you must be? right?

But wait, doesn't an internal IT department upgrade stuff?  performance tune?  generate ideas?
Are we saying that IT departments just do these things without talking to the business side.  I think not.  I remember many meetings where new ideas had been conceived in the IT department and were conveyed to the business.
Is this not consulting? Advising what would be best for the business and the technology.  I don't know any IT department today that would contemplate changing anything without consulting with the business first.

So if we're saying that IT departments do consult, the difference between a consultant and operational support must be in the *type* of consulting right?
You could argue that a consultant has more "soft" skills.  Um, like a salesman perhaps?
Or would you argue that a consultant may have broader knowledge.  Possibly.  More of a fish eye? (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_of_all_trades,_master_of_none).
Hmm, I can't see how this is different either.  You are either very good at these things (IT skills) or you're not.
The only difference is when you consider a company wanting change, but not having the skills internally.  Wouldn't that force them to use an external consultancy?  Someone *else* to consult with.

I think a "consultant" today is someone who has managed to escape the IT department.  He's a free radical (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_(chemistry)).  But without the other elements he's not got anything to bond with.  He's able to offer unbounded ideas and generally gets the biggest budget (and sometimes some training), but he's not able to evolve into anything more complex.  He came, he saw, he implemented, he left.  There's a bigger side to this implementation lark, and it happens to be operational support!
Hurrah to the helpdesk operators, the backup tape changers and the email mailbox size limiting people (
http://www.winserverkb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/exchange-admin/5313/Why-limit-people-s-mailbox-size).

Some of the best, most talented people I've ever worked with have been working in operational support.  Fantastic, creative ideas ingeniously devised in the smallest of rooms at the eleventh hour (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eleventh_Hour) to stop the world ending (or the system from crashing) on a system that was implemented 20+ years ago.  How can these people not be consultants?  Maybe they're too honest ;-)

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