As a result of more sophisticated demands on IT there is an ever burgeoning range of IT solutions, products, hardware, delivery platforms and implementation methodologies being adopted by client organisations.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for these organisations to understand whether the IT systems being deployed to them, by third party System Integrators (SIs) offer the most appropriate hardware and software solutions to their organisations. Are the systems being deployed in a best-practice and most cost efficient manner?
Many client organisations only undertake such large IT projects once every 5-10 years and therefore struggle to understand how the solutions, technologies and delivery platforms specific to their industries have evolved in the period since their previous legacy systems were deployed.
At the same time as these technologies have evolved, the costs of IT projects have remained significant. Advances in technology platforms such as Cloud have resulted in an ever increasing number of specialist solutions being offered to the market place, many of which require further integration with wider enterprise system solutions. It has therefore become increasingly vital that clients become more familiar with these solutions as failure to fill this ‘knowledge gap’ risks the client adopting IT solutions which are unable to deliver the envisaged Return on Investment (ROI).
In such circumstances, clients have struggled to identify the best approach to adopt in plugging this ‘knowledge gap’. In some circumstances, the client continues to rely on the Systems Integrator (SI) they have employed to deliver their IT solutions trusting that these organisations, who were originally selected by the client to deliver their IT systems, must surely be best suited in advising and deploying their chosen system technologies in the most efficient and best practice manner. Unfortunately such an approach inevitably draws comparisons with asking a child to mark their own homework and risks leading to situations where incumbent SIs cut quality corners on the project, such as not adhering to coding standards or not offering optimal solutions to suit client requirements.
An alternative to this approach is for the client themselves to adopt the role of gatekeeper and check that the systems and solutions being deployed by the SI are the most optimal from the client’s perspective. Unfortunately this leads us straight back to that nub of the problem – plugging the client ‘knowledge gap’.
So is there a better answer to the problem? Well many client organisations have looked to fill this ‘knowledge gap’ by asking independent specialist IT organisations who have worked for many years in the IT industry deploying similar IT systems to come on to the projects and act on behalf of the client. As an independent advisor they are best able to guide the client towards a successful project outcome. Working alongside the client, such ‘Client Side Advisor’ organisations are able to offer client organisations experienced, impartial advice providing a quality assurance role to the client whilst ensuring that the work being delivered by the SI is delivered to time, budget and of sufficient quality to increase the chance of securing the ROI set out in the client’s original business case.
The advantage to the client of using such ‘Client Side Advisors’ is that they are able to benefit from the extensive experience these specialist advisors offer who are able to be deployed to projects in small numbers yet able to remain impartial within the project and focus on key areas for project improvement.
A further benefit of deploying the ‘Client Side Advisor’ role within projects is that the role is able to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ within a project and target key areas of project risk such as core customisations from a quality assurance perspective before these areas become too embedded in the solution and too costly to rectify. The main focus of the ‘Client Side Advisor’ role therefore tends to be in areas such as reviewing key system specification documents before they are built ensuring that any suggested system solutions are developed in the most cost effective and best practice manner from a client perspective. Similarly, advisors can act as ‘gatekeepers’ to review custom code being returned from SI development teams ensuring this code adheres to best practice and client’s specific coding standards and contains sufficient information to allow the client to support it downstream.
Clients adopting this ‘Client Side Advisory’ model have seen real benefits to the delivery of their IT projects. The placement of a specialist independent advisors acting alongside the client predominantly sends a quality control message to the SI that they need to ensure their client side deliverables are of a sufficient standard to be validated quickly as failure to do so may reflect badly on the SI. Further, with the Client Side Advisor being accessible to both the Client and the SI organisations alike, the SI is able to consult the Client Side Advisor to get their knowledge input at an early stage of the development process ensuring that all parties are in agreement about adopted solutions or practices before they reach the review and build stages.
The adoption of specialist ‘Client Side Advisors’ is therefore becoming much more prevalent in the IT industry, especially in large IT programmes with numerous clients approaching small experienced specialist about adopting such roles within their projects. With the increasing pace of evolution being experienced by the IT sector, the role of Client Side Advisors can only become more important into the future.
If you would like to speak to Claremont about our experience of acting in a Client Side Advisory capacity, please contact us.
As Principal Functional Consultant, Ian is primarily responsible for designing and implementing tailored functional client solutions relating to the Service, Contracts and Financials business areas. He has extensive involvement in functional presales.