11 Stupidest Things Consultancies Say and Do

Dhanum Nursigadoo
5min read

I’ve poked fun at banks and fintechs, but now it’s time to take on the consultancies. Sometimes it can feel like you’re spending your money on bad advice and worse decisions. Sometimes you are.

11) High price low yield

"Yes I can do that but it will cost you 100 million and 5 years of your life."

 Core to many consultancies is the concept of high billing for low yield over time. They’ll drag projects out for a significant length of time purely to ensure a consistent flow of profit their way while your products languish in development.

10) You can have it all

"We use agile."

I’m probably going to tread over this ground a lot in this blogpost. But you can’t ‘use’ agile. It’s a state of being, it’s an adjective not a noun. You’re either agile or you’re not. Your company is reactive or prescriptive. Using reactive doesn’t sound like it makes sense, that’s because it doesn't. Same thing goes for using agile.

9) Magic buzzwords

"Don’t worry it will be fine we can just digitise it."

Digitising isn’t useful. At all. Digitising is taking a process and putting it online while ignoring the benefits brought by a digital environment. Why would you add the same layers of delay to a process that can be sped up exponentially by the power of fibre optic cables (the internet). What you need to do is become digital. Respect and understand the digital space and create products and processes for it instead of just doing the same thing that you’ve always done and paying millions for the privilege.

8) Expert guessers

"What do you mean have we ever actually delivered this type of thing before?"

Far too often consultancies offer their clients an out of the box solution that’s going to revolutionise the space. However, they have no-one with any expertise in the space at all. Digital is the focus of nearly every banking project at the moment and it’s a small team sport. Get yourself a team of experts with a history of delivering projects you need.

7) Scale it all

"Yes you can do ‘agile at scale’ we will train your global staff in a group wide roll out that costs $10m."

No, no, no! You categorically cannot do agile at scale. Either you are agile or you aren’t! I do not understand at all why consultants are suggesting that you can put gradients on absolutes.

6) Ridiculous mashups

"We have invented a concept called 'Wagile' - it will cost £50m to roll out the new Wagile transformation programme."

You cannot create a company that is two diametrically opposed things at the same time. ‘Wagile’ (save me from consultant-speak) is apparently the fusion of waterfall and agile structures. If you put two opposing structures together all you end up with is the same normal working structure you used to have. But probably slowed down beyond all reason.

5) Yet another version

"I think what you need is a new digital transformation programme - we can call this version 4."

If you’re doing digital transformation this frequently then you’re not actually finding the problems with your service and need to do some real research into your customer jobs to be done. You’re also probably not digital, you’ve just digitised.

4) Your work, my logo

"Absolutely we can do that strategy work. Can you just tell me all the things I need to know and how to position it and I’ll put your ideas in a pack with our logo."

This goes back to what I said earlier. Too many consultancies just throw random people at a problem rather than assembling a team of experts specific to the client’s needs. You need to have people who you can trust but also prove to you that they’re going to deliver a strategy and solution that you need. Don’t just hire your friends.

3) Team tiny

Bank X outsourced all changes to consultancy Y, who promised them 30% in annual cost savings.

I was told this particular snippet by someone who has worked in consultancies their entire career. The consultancy also promised to train and upskill the client’s workforce to help them become more agile. Once the multi-year deal was closed, they showed up with a bunch of grads with no relevant experience whatsoever. Unfortunately, this happens all the time.

2) We’re just selling

"We're just here for the pitch, but we'll pull together an amazing team for this engagement."

Similar to the one above, but it’s so infuriating it bears repeating. You should be meeting members of the team who’ll be working on your strategy. It’s not necessary to meet all of them sure, some teams are going to be far too massive for that. But you should definitely feel like you’ve got a constant point of contact. Consultancy shouldn’t be about sales, it’s about delivering a product that you and your customers can have faith in. Part of that faith stems from the team you work with, make sure the people you meet are the ones who know what will happen to your money.

1) Status Symbols

"Sign right here...you can use my Mont Blanc pen."

Consultancies are famously obsessed with status symbols. And let’s face it, that time is over. Professional dress is one thing, but showing off your rolex, your fancy but useless pen (give me a gel-pen with a decent grip any day), or your thick embossed business card before heading to dinner at the Dorsia doesn’t impress anyone anymore. It just makes you look more obsessed with money than delivering good work. If you want to work with a consultancy with experts who know what they’re doing, a team that you’ll meet, and who won’t waste your time or money get in contact hello@11fs.com