Russell Kennedy Partners provides expert advice in business software. We use “tech advisor” or “tech advocate” as shorthand for the software expert who fills that role. For many years our team has focused on developing software that connects people, data, and services, and that creates or supports a primary business process. Often this involves an innovative custom application that serves or interconnects the organization. This is often referred to as “enterprise software,” to distinguish it from commonplace business applications and systems, such as web browsers, email, and office suites. Unlike conventional applications, different users may have completely different experiences when they interact with the application, as the tools, information, and capabilities they work with will be tailored to their roles and position in the process. This kind of software almost always requires a custom perspective, and is therefore one of the most difficult for organizations to plan without expert guidance.
There is an important gap in expertise that often happens when organizations plan large-scale software systems like this. (Large-scale is relative to the size of the organization, and even small companies can face these challenges.) If the organization lacks internal resources to develop the system, it will go about identifying, hiring, or purchasing from a software vendor or consulting company. In some cases it will hire new employees or contract workers to work on the project. These are big decisions, with a lot at stake, and high expectations for positive results and return-on-investment. However, the organization may not have adequate internal expertise to perform the due diligence necessary to make the best decisions. This is a chicken-and-egg problem, because the expertise only arrives once a commitment is made, which is too late to help them make the best choices and use of their internal resources wisely in the planning stages. Often high level managers put in large amounts of time and effort in the preliminary system planning. In many cases, much of this effort is wasted or only marginally effective.
Tech advisors offer a genuine alternative, and can fill the gap. They are not in general total solutions providers — not because they are lacking in qualifications, but because they choose to do advisory work as their service. Since they typically only represent a small commitment of the organization’s time, money, resources, they can often be brought in without the full screening required of the solutions providers, who represent big budget items. They can support the system and project planning, and make it both more efficient and effective. In fact the time and energy high level managers can save because they have expert support will often more than pay the total cost of bringing an advisor on board. Moreover, the tech advisor’s role will ensure that the results of that planning are truly useful for the incoming solutions provider, and that the solution laid out in the plans will be an optimal fit for the organization’s needs, goals and priorities.
A tech advisor is more than just a software expert. The profile includes a number of other characteristics, such as communications skills, project management experience, leadership abilities, enjoyment in working with a range of people, creativity, and a history of solving problems and enabled companies to get out of precarious situations and move forward. Tech advisors generally have at least twenty years of experience in software, with diverse backgrounds spanning a variety of industries. They may work in teams, in order to cover a broader range of technologies.