Do Businesses need more “Straight Talking” IT Consulting?
There’s one thing that’s in short supply in almost every organisation, at every level, and that’s straight talking – business frankness.

It’s business’s biggest dirty little secret that in most companies, most people would hide or spin the truth rather than openly share it, making it harder for decision makers to bring the reality of the situation to the surface in order to fix it.

That’s human nature of course, and we all have an innate instinct that tells us from a young age to prevent awkwardness and avoid hurting people’s feelings. Or possibly we’re afraid of the very real organisational consequences of being candid in a company culture that doesn’t welcome openness.

But, assuming your organisation wants it, getting that frankness right – with your direct reports, your peers, or your management line – is a skill that could make or break a career or even a consulting engagement.

“Getting the overall approach ‘right’ as an interim transformation or change consultant is a key part of the no nonsense ‘straight Talking’ professional approach I do on a daily basis.” says Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCServe. “Getting this wrong can however have profound ramifications, but experience learned over time, avoids these mistakes”.

The two biggest challenges I come across, especially in interim IT consulting assignments, is the management of political change – for example; a senior executive or head of department looking to make major change will touch many other areas or people within that organisation — this naturally becomes a political ‘hot potato’. Being sensitive to people and listening to feedback is a key element to managing this process.

The other challenge, is being able to professionally but candidly tell the very leaders of the company whom have brought you into their business that their people, structure or operational process are failing the business. Ensure that the message is sensitively, factually and accurately articulated and address the issues head on, which is easier said than done.

Non-IT roles now control many of the most interesting and innovative aspects of corporate IT, while the CIO is being saddled with a massive portfolio of “utility” technologies that only generate interest when they fail. In addition the “death” of the CIO role has long been discussed and predicted, often due to the role disappearing, rather than the decrease in the number of people interested in filling the role.

There’s now a legitimate need for operationally-focused IT leaders who can manage a squad of staff that “keep the lights on” while also formulating a strategic IT digital change and vision. Where the CIO role is inherently flawed however is that it often expects the same person to be equipped to handle both these diverse disciplines.

At the executive level, companies should consider separating the operational and strategic disciplines, depending on the needs of the company. As cloud services and the ability to outsource many operational or back office functions, there’s an opportunity to accelerate this shifting separation. Even without resorting to external parties, savvy companies can equip CIOs with the appropriate authority and discretion to build effective operational staff, and stop expecting that CIOs should be equal parts strategist and technician.

Essentially, the CIO role becomes an ‘executive level internal consultant’ who charts the future course for corporate IT, and leverages internal and external resources to execute that vision of IT Business make over, while addressing business issues, needs and social agendas with the ‘right’ use of technology either on-premise or in the cloud.

“Countless years exposure with the CIO layer has convinced me that many CIOs even now in the digital twenty twenties need broader business experience than has typically been required in the past – more commercial business acumen than the typical deep technical expertise of the past,” Craig Ashmole goes on to say. “The CIO needs to be a board level business led executive with the acumen to utilise technology to drive revenue growth”.

The no-nonsense “Straight Talking” approach is about quickly understanding the underlying issues the CIO is facing, while being agile and articulate but delivering quick short term change programmes that make immediate differences to the business.

Very often this is quite a different approach to that of the ‘Big 5’ consultancy houses. The Big-5 typically throw a large number of junior graduates at their business client, who typically provide hundreds of pages of ‘nice’ reports, only to predict there will be better operational improvement in future months to come – so long as the client signs up for months of committed engagement – well synically that’s what you would expect.

CCServe is a London based IT & Business Transformation Consultancy helping CIOs and Executive business leaders globally to move their IT into the 2020’s and beyond, quickly and cost effectively. We bring the ‘right’ resource to the table.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe