Is Consulting a Waste of Money?

For data warehouse implementations, many IT buyers offer their vendor a baseline budget and ask for the most hardware and software they can muster –sans the consulting. Perhaps the IT buyer has a mindset that either they can “do it themselves” a la home improvement stores, or that services really aren’t a necessary component of a data warehouse purchase. Let me relate a personal story to illustrate the fallacy of this approach.

A month ago, my watch band snapped and I had a choice to either replace or repair it. Walking into a jewelry store, the manager behind the counter mentioned that $40 bands were available for replacement, or he could fix it for $12. Naturally, I took the lesser amount and waited for my watch repair.

In no more than three minutes, the manager had my watchband repaired. “That’ll be $12 please,” he said. My initial reaction was that I was an easy “mark” in a very simple scheme of charging too much for too little; after all $12 for three minutes sounded pretty ridiculous.  That is, until realized that I didn’t have the knowledge, tools, or parts to repair my watchband.  To repair the watch correctly and save $28, I had to rely on the expertise and knowledge of a jeweler.

This personal story reminds me of a video clip on artist Paula Scher.  In the video, Ms. Scher discusses how she came to design the Citi logo when Citi and Travelers merged in 1999. Within minutes, Ms. Scher quickly sketched out the new logo (on a napkin) and completed the project in record time. “It took me a few seconds to draw it (the new logo), but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in seconds,” she says.

Beauty, simplicity, and the exact results the client wanted –all in minutes. And I’m guessing the price tag for logo design wasn’t $12. Clients ask Ms. Scher; ‘How can a logo be designed in a second?’ to which she responds, “Every experience, every movie, every thing of my life that’s in my head (goes into the process).”

A data warehouse implementation can easily be one of the more critical IT projects for any company. And to be clear, there are undoubtedly some organizations that really have “do it yourself” capabilities, but those cases are rare.

Warren Buffett once wisely said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” So then, that “unnecessary” data warehouse consulting can provide structure; design and execution know-how to get a data warehousing project completed on-time and on-budget. It’s the experience and knowledge of a consultant that can ultimately help reduce waste, provide less rework and potentially bring business results to an organization much faster than a do-it-yourself approach.

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2 comments

  1. Great to the point. Lately I like to watch clients face expressions when I offer the advice or explanation.

    And yes, when I use all my past experience and knowledge, I can offer simple, “in a few seconds advice”, that is actually worth thousands of Euros. So how much can I charge that advice then? 0,25€? Or 998,90€? 🙂

    I also have fun lately when I go to shop with friends for any high-tech product, like mobile phone. And then the conversation goes like this:

    Friend: Well… 199,00€ is quite a lot for a mobile phone, isn’t it?
    Dusan: Can YOU make such for that money?

    I really really push people to see that cheap is really not good for anyone.

  2. Dusan, great point on “cheap really isn’t good for anyone”. To me “cheap” represents risk. Sometimes you come out better than an more expensive alternative – though most times, cheap really is “cheap” for a valid reason!

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