One of the things that I have learnt – from many years of experience gained from senior positions both within companies and working with technology consultancies – is that you really need to talk to experts in some depth in order to determine: firstly, if they have useful insights to share and secondly, if they are able to work collaboratively at the same speed with the client’s team.
The best experts often don’t have time to publish their work as they are busy using their knowledge in real situations. So to find the right people you have to immerse yourself in the relevant community of practice to gain ‘word of mouth’ recommendations for new experts – this takes time, experience and tenacity.
Desk work alone is not sufficient as it won’t reveal the more subtle information that results in the right dynamic within a collaborative project.
Once selected the first opportunity for experts to engage with the client is often within a workshop.
The client’s own team will be specialists in their own sector and significant footwork is needed ahead of any workshop to ensure that all parties are sufficiently briefed so that the objectives are aligned and valuable time spent together is as inspirational as possible.
At nu-Angle we now have a network of well over 1,000 experts from across a range of industry sectors and technology areas and from these we can leverage many times more, based on personal referrals from peers within their communities of practice. Following a successful initial engagement often the client is keen to continue the relationship and external experts provide guidance on the development and implementation of a technology strategy.
A technology strategy workshop that includes external experts is not an endpoint in itself but often just the starting point of a fruitful relationship.
Key factors for successful engagement of experts
External experts bring challenges. How do you select those that offer the type of insights that would be valuable? How do you manage their input so that it is constructive? What will your internal experts think of these outsiders?
My colleagues have produced a white paper to answer these questions and capture our learning points, but some of the factors for success include: –
- Mix – There needs to be a mix of very narrow specialist and also a polymath to cover all the bases. By using a network of external experts it is possible to locate these individuals. It is unlikely that a technology consultancy would employ in-house someone with a very narrow specialism so these experts are usually academics or sector specialists.
- Collaboration – It is crucial to identify enthusiastic experts who work well within a team – it only takes one person to disrupt the dynamics of the session. This can only be determined by talking to the people involved in some depth.
- Ownership – Take care to ensure that the client owns any new ideas created in workshops. Careful legal construction of terms of business is important well ahead of engagement.
- Open-minded – Be open to all suggestions, those that might at ﬁrst sight look irrelevant often on deeper research are found to be very useful inputs.
- Use of tools – There are a number of tools available to create virtual ‘think tanks’; these asynchronous forums have a role in providing external challenge and capturing the inputs.
- Timing – it’s possible to link different teams and communities of practice together wherever they are in the world using the new web-based conferencing. However, to get the most of these conferences make sure that they are carried out at sensible times for the experts – even if it means difﬁcult times for the facilitator.
If you would like to find out more about the benefits of working with experts on technology strategy or if you are an expert and interested in collaborative projects do get in touch.
A white paper on this subject is available here: Expert networks used in technology strategy creation.