Ubiquity interviews Vaughan Merlyn

John Gehl of Ubiquity fame has interviewed my pal Vaughan Merlyn, a stellar IT management consultant and all-around good egg who shares some of his experiences and views. Vaughan writes a fine blog and is extremely good at navigating the rather tricky no-mans-land that still lies between business and IT. He has spent much time and effort extending and deepening some of the strategic models of IT supply and demand that we rely on in this business, in light of advances in technology and IT savvy (or, as Vaughan calls it, IT maturity) in large organizations:

When I say business IT maturity, that is a short hand way of saying business demand maturity and IT supply maturity. I think that in the majority of cases, i.e., more than a half of the situations we see – there is a reasonable degree of similarity between the business ambition and the IT ambition. For perhaps a quarter of the cases, there is a CIO who is well ahead of business. And those are the most frustrating cases. The other case is where the business is well ahead of the CIO. And that usually sorts itself out pretty quickly because sooner or later there is a change of CIO.

Here is some hard-won experience on what advisory consulting is all about:

[…] I often find that what [clients] think is the problem they are looking for help with is quite different from the actual problem they are experiencing. And very often I find some of the most important work that we do happens before the engagement begins. I think it was Jerry Weinberg, one of the great wise men of the early IT days pointed out that one of the problems with project management is when a project officially starts, it’s already been going several months. It just hasn’t yet been called a project. So there is a lot of baggage already there. I think similarly, when you sit down with a client to frame up an engagement, I find the actual act of getting clarity on what is the issue, what would the outcomes be if we successfully solved this issue, that often is enormously helpful for the client – obviously it’s important for the consultant because you can easily spin wheels trying to solve the wrong problem. But I have seen the light bulbs go on with my clients – not just little glimmers of Christmas tree lights. I mean massive flashbulbs go off as you take them through a process of issue clarification. And they realize that perhaps the problem that thought they had isn’t the real problem. So I think that is a value that a good consultant brings to the table – helping to clarify what the real issues might be.

Budding consultants, take note!