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The Ethics of Consulting

truthThis post was not written to attack any specific person or company, but it serves to point out a major flaw within our industry that I hope we can all strive to resolve.

As a (relatively) young SAP consultant, it is heartbreaking to see bad ethics being allowed, and even promoted in the consulting business. I am appalled by the amount of greed and the lack of conscience.

The great fathers of capitalism had the belief that it’s expected for businesses to maximize profit, but only if the process of doing so also promotes good morals and beliefs within the society. Consulting firms nowadays make maximizing profit the end goal, when the end goal for all businesses should really be providing quality and value, not only to customers, but to everybody involved.

When we decided to start Holland Systems, we had stopped believing that big consulting firms are here for the good of all. The main method employed to maximize profit, which involves placing as many consultants as possible regardless of value provided, is wrong on every level.

The main stream consulting industry’s approach to maximizing profit is wrong; sacrificing quality and honesty for profit hurts everybody.

How many of you have been on projects with 50+ consultants? 100+? 200+? Do you believe that all 200 consultants worked at 100% utilization? And the project could not finish because the scope was “simply too big” and the solution “too complex”? I can’t even imagine the amount of results that would be generated if 200 skilled people all worked at 100% utilization, because I have seen the incredible results driven from 5 people at 100% utilization.

Stop selling to customers people who don’t truly contribute 100% to a role, and stop giving recommendations that are geared towards profit. Just because someone buys doesn’t make it right. We are supposed to be the people who guide our customers on the right path.

Without honesty, there will be no trust, and without trust, we will be left with no customers, and no profit. The consulting market is currently in this downward spiral.

This approach hurts everybody in participation. The reputation of all consultants, the customer’s trust in consulting firms, and the customers’ business are all in jeopardy. Most importantly, it is demoralizing a large part of the society by fostering dishonesty. The great British thought leader John Ruskin pointed out that being honest should be a basic rule of businesses and those with money and power.

When we founded this company, people of all kinds advised against our approach on being blunt about the faulty methods of big solution integrators. I was able to quickly identify that as their own fear of the unknown. It’s an unknown because so few in business have ever been this passionate of their purpose based on real field experiences. If you have never felt this level of passion, how can you possibly know? The outcome we will achieve by standing up for our cause, and by speaking the truth is absolute. Sure, we might get backlash, we might make some enemies, we might make some important people very angry, but the sure outcome is that we and our customers know exactly why we are here, and that empowers us to march on towards the goal.

Under today’s circumstances, I do understand that the ideal of wanting to change the workings of an entire industry is naïve. I still hold on to the belief that business doesn’t have to be just business. Thank you for spending the time on my rambles.

by Juichia

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  • It would be great if large consulting firms thought as you do.  But unfortunately they don’t and they probably never will.  It’s one of the reasons I am an independent and probably always will be.  I have been hired independently for specific projects by almost all of them at one time or another.

    On one of my earlier projects I basically told a client that one of their processes “sucked”.  Ok…maybe I could have said it a bit differently.. 😀    But it did!

    A few hours later, the project manager (from a big firm that was the consulting partner), told me that from then on if I had something negative to say to the client that I had to do it through her.  We can’t alienate the client she said and wanted to know who I was anyway to comment on a client’s business process.  They had been doing it successfully that way for years.

    They didn’t really want a functional consultant to help the customer streamline their business and use standard SAP processes.  They wanted to do customizations.

    I like working on smaller teams with the smaller consulting firms.  They seem to get it much better.  I get in trouble once in while when I work with the really big ones! 


    • Really?  After 6000 points and several years here now my postings have to suddenly be approved by a moderator?   😯    

      First time I’ve ever seen that!

      Did I tick someone off?


    • Ah yes, a valuable consultant skill is to keep one’s mouth shut but it tortures those of us who actually care! Thanks for sharing your experience.