Getting fired for hiring IBM – the change in corporate consulting customer experience

29th February 2016

We have all heard the old adage in the workplace that ‘you don’t get fired for hiring IBM’. This has come to be the umbrella term for de-risking the corporate partner procurement process and providing a defensible position on personal judgement by giving a project to the perceived market leader, whether they are the best fit for a project or not.


Time and time again over my career in running B2B companies we have come up against this mentality and each time I have stopped momentarily to think that while it was unfair and we could have done a great job, would I (having been in the same procurement position) done it differently. Sure the 800lb gorilla of a company is not going to be as interested in me as their biggest clients, their technology and systems may be slightly last year, they are not as flexible as my business requires and their staff are bonused in ways that aren’t aligned to my company’s goals but ‘everyone’ is using them so when my boss asks why all these things are not considered I can say “well, just look at their team size and financial results, they must be doing something right…”.


This approach has served us well over the last 30 years, big service and consulting companies getting bigger and better at winning business (winning certainly breeds an environment of wining) but there is a fundamental shift in the way commerce is taking place and I wonder now whether SME’s and PLC’s require a different approach to service provision across the board? Something more agile, more modular and more contextually relevant to ever changing medium-term demands.


There are so many examples of this changing landscape – Take cloud computing, while this is certainly a complex technology it is designed to make the client experience more agile by giving them access to more modular and granular services that scale from zero to infinity. Gone are the days when a company had to commit to a big up-front infrastructure cap-ex, it can now be all dialled up and down as required with minimum up-front investment. The same is true of corporate finance, with companies like Funding Circle providing businesses instant decisions on loans on a scalable and flexible platform that works for borrowers and lenders alike; why go to one of the High Street banks which take an eon to provide an answer when you need one the next day?


From Uber to Tesla, iPlayer to SKY Q, Adobe to even the biggest Gorilla in the room, Microsoft, business models are being successfully challenged at an alarming rate and the consumer is driving the requirement. We live in a world where this is the expectation, so why not apply this to the corporate consulting experience?


Here at Rokker this thinking is the very essence of our Business Design methodology and its application to the corporate environment. We use MVI’s (Minimum Viable Initiatives, a pastiche of the MVP process in agile product development) to allow our clients to quickly test ideas and roll out innovations and strategic projects without systemic and expensive company-wides changes. We offer access to a wide number of flexible consultants supported by a small, focused project team that can be dialled up and down without long programme or resource commitments and we work with a human-centred, design-led mindset to align MVI’s from strategy through implementation (internal teams), customers and shareholders.


Importantly we have this as a native approach, we are not trying to bolt on digital teams, or customer experience units or carry any legacy overheads and processes which extends projects beyond the required time and ultimately drive up client fees. If you want those things buy the corporate consulting equivalent of a mainframe and have 50 people employed just to keep it up and running.


A number of the world’s PLC’s with their own legacy infrastructure and sub-optimal organisational processes may still hire the dominant players in the consulting market as their corporate culture and pace of execution may be similar but I wonder how long it will be before these companies challenge themselves (and the perceived wisdom) and it becomes the norm to ‘get fired for hiring IBM’?


Andy Rogers

Founder & Managing Partner