Jack of All Trades, Master of None

We’re all familiar with the consultant jargon used by today’s tech firms. Phrases such as end-to-end services, full-spectrum expertise, and my personal favorite, turnkey solutions. These claims are, in many cases, disingenuously perpetrated with the sole interest of capturing as much business as humanly possible. And it’s an attractive concept, at its root. One vendor relationship, one throat to ring when a problem arises, less administrative and management burden overall.

In reality, with the level of sophistication, nuance and specificity that exists within an organization’s modern digital ecosystem, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to provide best in class service-level across the board. Customers are seeking excellence in an ultra-competitive market, and are demanding strategic and technology-driven differentiation that is now measured in inches rather than miles.

An alternative approach that can be highly effective, is engaging with consultancies that are part of strategic alliances. These are firms that have deep expertise in unique, yet interrelated specialities within digital consulting, that work together to cover a wide array of services. In some cases, these companies may be peers, or even competitors, however they recognize the greater opportunity to best serve their clients through shared expertise and teamwork. More and more, cooperative tech agencies are forming informal guilds, and packaging services that exceed in overall competence those of larger full-service shops.

To draw a parallel, look at the evolving nature of web development. Early efforts were largely focused on developing a fully-formed, single platform with all features (functionality and data) custom built and contained within. Then during the early aughts, engineers started exploring the efficiencies of direct integration with external applications via mashups and basic web services. Today, through a vast proliferation of APIs, it’s almost unheard of for a web application to be a single source for all functions and data. It’s faster, easier and better to leverage best in class tools specifically designed to support unique business functions – such as CRM, data services, eCommerce – rather than relying on a single, overarching piece of software.

Similarly, we see more clients finding efficiency in working with collaboratives. In addition to the breadth of specialization, strategic alliances are a fantastic medium for innovation, shared knowledge, transparency and a greater diversity in perspective. A customer draws from a broader pool of more focused expertise, and benefits from a community of talent, as opposed to the single vision of an agency of record. It’s an engagement model that is deep and wide, and ultimately can deliver effectively for companies with diverse needs within the digital space.

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