Software Development vs. Technology Consultation

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Imagine you have a brilliant idea to improve a mission-critical aspect of your business.  You’ve sketched out a few wireframes and can visualize the outcome, but you know you need to collaborate with an expert to bring the project to fruition. Do you choose a software company or a tech consulting company? If you tap the wrong type of resource, you can quickly put your business objectives — and even your entire business — at risk.

A software company is a tour guide.
Many software companies (sometimes called "dev shops") execute on pre-defined, specific plans to take a client from point A to point B. When there’s little variation in the destination, minimal chance for taking side trips, and if the route is straightforward and clear, a guide can be an effective resource. Good software companies can help develop software based on an already-defined spec.

But what about when the path isn’t clear? What if the project is potentially risky and expensive? What if the solution requires insight and definition?  What if your business’ success depends not only on building the right solution from ground up, but also defining the solution from the get-go? You likely need a more sophisticated expert who goes beyond the limitations of a dev shop.

A technology consulting company is a navigator.
A tech consulting company positions its clients for success by taking a more proactive view of risks and goals. A strong consultant works to grasp the nuances of your most fundamental business factors long before diving into the specifics of a proposed technical solution. A consultant should listen, ask, analyze, and then build direction. Your technology partner should take the lead in shaping a valuable and risk-aversive plan, not simply following the outline of a plan that already exists. The right partner will work to understand the best way to navigate clients through uncharted territories with the ultimate goal of landing in the best possible spot. 

At times, being a consultative navigator means knowing when to apply the brakes over hitting the gas. There is tremendous value in recognizing when a project would be best served if it were reduced in scope or otherwise simplified in some critical way. In the initial consultative stages of a client engagement, consultants look to discover factors with potentially deep implications for solution identification design and then constantly tune, re-tune, and refine the path to a goal.  

Navigators work rigorously to identify a structure for success. Circumventing up-front investigation and analysis invites risk of disruption, scope creep, and uncontrolled costs.   

From a general industry perspective, software companies can offer a specific set of executional services. However, a strong tech consulting company provides wider and longer-term value through true technology stewardship. So, examine the vision around your project idea. Do you see every step along the way, or do you need insights to build a better map?