Do you need Consultants to create a great IT Strategy?

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

I’ve experienced probably all permutations of answers to the question of whether you need consultants to make a great IT Strategy:

The reason why the subtitle of this post is “It depends…” is because if you are the person in 1, 2 or 3 the answer really does depend on your own self awareness as to where you are in terms of you maturity in approaching IT Strategy. Scenarios where consultants can be useful in helping create IT Strategy are:

1) When the in-house IT leadership have lost the confidence of the Exec/Board.

IME This scenario rarely pans out well for the incumbents. The best case scenario is the consultants work in a positive, collaborative way with the incumbent and and deliver an IT Strategy that their senior stakeholders are happy with and the incumbent can get on implementing. The risks in this scenario are:

I have seen this scenario work positively and help rejuvenate a flailing incumbent, but more commonly i’ve seen this scenario herald an inevitable (and often imminent) exit of the incumbent. Sometimes in this scenario bringing in consultants to work on IT Strategy is a sticking plaster over the fact that the wrong person may be in the IT Leadership role.

2) Bringing outside perspective and expertise

When this works well consultants can bring their experience and skills from previous engagements to help their clients avoid costly pitfalls and mistakes, saving time and money, that is sort of the main value proposition of consultants isn’t it?

When this scenario doesn’t work well is when consultants do a find/replace (sometimes not even that) on slidedecks and ‘assets’ used from previous client and apply them ‘cookie cutter’ style to the new client, I’ve seen several big consultancies (and in my experience it is the bigger consultancies that are more likely to do this, just due to their business model) do this several times and its basically white-collar fraud that is enabled by both weak senior management, weak IT leaders,weak procurement processes and of course the wrong incentives driving the wrong behaviours in the consultancy.

3) Lack of in-house resource

Creating a great IT Strategy takes effort, some IT Leaders simply don’t have the time to spare. Obviously the proper solution is for the IT Leader to have managed their IT Organisation so that there is enough resource for strategy, but sometimes, this just isn’t the case. In this scenario consultants can provide much needed capacity to do the necessary Mobilisation, Discovery, Analysis and Strategy creation.


In order for an in-house IT Leader to really answer the question “do you need consultants to make a great IT Strategy” you really need to honest about the following things:

If you answer no to any of these questions, then using external consultants could be an option for you. However i’d caution it is probably not the most effective option and should only be used as a last resort. why? well lets run through those questions again:

So thats the end of this week’s post, i’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on the question ‘do you need consultants to make a great IT Strategy?’ please let me know your thoughts either in the comments section, or @ me on Twitter



CTIO, Creator of the ‘How to IT Strategy’ Newsletter Course https://howtoitstrategy & Podcast

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