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The Benefits of an Outcome-Based Approach to Software Consulting

Solving Client Problems Effectively Requires an Outcome-Based Approach from the Beginning

The Outcome-Based Approach is a non-traditional consulting approach focused on the outcomes of projects and ideas. The Outcome-Based Approach is an opportunity to move away from 'business as usual', and learn how to make progress in your organisation by focusing on critical thinking and questioning assumptions.

"According to an Enterprise Customer Success Study and Outlook conducted by Deloitte, 76% of enterprise customers at some point have discussed outcomes with their technology providers, indicating the direction of the evolution of customer preferences."

Scaling XaaS - Outcome-Based Monetization Models, Deloitte

Modern, successful consulting firms should focus on an Outcome-Based Approach when working with clients on building or modernizing their applications.

Consulting firms should help clients deliver success based on their business. They should talk to clients about the outcomes they’re trying to achieve and what success means to them.

That's how consultants should approach every conversation — understanding client goals. Why? Because it ensures they will help their clients deliver results that are going to make their businesses successful.

We spoke with Felicia Schwartz, NearForm’s Head of Delivery in the Americas, about how we take an Outcome-Based Approach to helping our clients. This blog post shares Felicia’s thoughts, along with some of our other insights and observations.

How an Outcome-Based Approach Can Help Consultants Deliver Better Solutions

Every client is going to have a vision. If they don't, then a well-established consulting firm can help them.

Sometimes clients have difficulty quantifying their vision and that's where a consulting firm can come in. They can help clients understand their vision and how technology delivers against it.

In today's world, many companies are saying, "I want to move to the cloud." But if they request the cloud, a good consultant should be asking, “Why? What are they trying to get out of the cloud? What results are they expecting to see once they have moved to the cloud? Cost savings? Shift to opex vs. capex etc?"

A Real World Example

An example of companies asking for things that require consultants to understand how they fit into the client’s business vision is how Kubernetes became a buzzword in recent years.

Everybody was all of a sudden saying, "Oh, containerize, containerize, containerize."

One of the challenges to understand, though, is what's in the container.

The container will standardize things. If something goes down, it automatically rolls back up, but there wasn't much focus, until recently, on what's in the container.

Consultants should be asking the client, "What is the value you're trying to get by containerizing?"

If they say, "I want consistency in deployment," great.

If they say, "When something goes down, I want to make sure it automatically comes back up, I don't want to have to worry about manual intervention," awesome. That does it.

But sometimes they might say, "I want a better customer experience," or, "I want my app to be more responsive." A lot of clients think that if I containerize it and move it to the public cloud, I'm going to get that, and now, they're realizing, "I don't. I haven't looked inside my little container." If an app takes 5 minutes to start up, every time the app comes up, it will take 5 minutes. This may not be the customer experience they want.

What's in the container is really critical.

Consulting firms should incorporate client goals into a solution with an Outcome-Based Approach from the start to define what they are trying to achieve. This is so their consultants can provide the right advice, framing their recommendations in a way that leverages their strengths and expertise to solve client problems in creative ways.

An Outcome-Based Approach Will Work Across Industries

Software consultants that work with clients in multiple industries can benefit from focusing on outcomes from the beginning, no matter what industry they’re dealing with.

Let's take a look at three different industries and how adopting this approach can work in any situation.

Health & Life Sciences Consulting

In the healthcare industry, COVID really changed a lot about our world.

A lot of people like the idea of being able to do at-home care, instead of sitting in a doctor's office and waiting. There's always going to be value in personal consultations, particularly for people who want the reassurance of being guided through the care process. But there's also value in being able to do some things at home.

By focusing on how to help clients that are in healthcare industries to prepare for the future, it's important to help clients understand how technology can best be used to deliver on this vision. Be it at-home care, or even the hospital of tomorrow, how can that be set up to be more efficient?

There were shortages of hospital staff during COVID. People were being overworked and overstretched. Well, that's a problem that health care companies have.

To help healthcare companies solve these problems, consultants should be asking, "How can we be their partner by using the right tools and techniques and to continuously iterate in solving these challenges? How can we help clients build their various systems to work together?"

Airline Consulting

US airlines lost nearly six bags per every 1,000 items of luggage checked in by passengers in April 2022. That doesn’t seem like a lot and not all of those losses were permanent. The thing is, though, it was a 67% increase in the amount of luggage lost in April 2021.

If airlines were to continue losing luggage at the same annual rate then every single item checked in would be lost in April 2032. That is a lot.

However, before we get even close to such a scenario, it should be noted that there are ways to use technology to tag luggage and avoid items being lost.

As software consultants, we should be asking, "How can we use technology to drive the outcomes our airline partners are striving for?"

By asking the right questions, understanding specific needs and defining quantifiable outcomes, consultants can help their clients formulate the solutions from a business idea, through the execution of an experiment, and iteratively deliver it and scale it as they go forward.

Financial Services Consulting

One of the biggest opportunities for consultants is the financial services sector.

Now more than ever before, there's a push to modernize applications in the financial services industry. Why? Because the arrival of newcomers that are not burdened with old technology has put the issue of legacy systems into sharp focus.

A lot of financial services companies have been around for a really long time. There are many newcomers in this space that are competing with them that don't have the baggage of, "I've been doing this for 50, 60, 70 years. I've built things."

A lot of the work in the financial services space is still COBOL — old mainframe technologies. But these can't be shut down so easily because they run the core of the business.

Take trading applications. Firms are putting beautiful frontends for users to interact with, but the real engines of these applications are still the backend. So, they look pretty and they're no longer the old green screens (if you remember way back) they're prettier frontends.

However, the business logic is still all these old mainframe legacy applications. But even if they're not mainframe, they could be a 10-year-old Java application, or even a Node.js application that's five years old that just became monolithic in nature that's blocking the business from moving forward.

Great software consultants understand the pulse of the industries they are working with and appreciate the difficulties faced by clients in these sectors. For example, the issues financial services companies face when migrating from legacy systems to modern solutions.

But to deliver exceptional solutions it's absolutely crucial to understand their ultimate goals and ask deeper questions about why they are modernizing. What specific problems or innovations are they seeking to address? This will allow consultants to tailor their solutions to meet client needs.

How an Outcome-Based Approach Works at NearForm

At NearForm, we help our clients think through their ideas and we have the analytical and technological expertise to go deeper in any area we need to explore further. We understand the complexities of getting an idea into production and running and are able to scale.

We understand the entire development process, from ideation all the way through production. While we hire experienced people, we don't just bring tech talent that knows a specific technology. That's important, but it's vital to put it into the right context and to see how it integrates with everything else, so we achieve the correct outcomes.

We've got the base skills here to do a wide range of projects. But more than just having the right skills, we talk to our customers about how to put all our expertise and practices together to solve their problems, determine how to measure success for them, and understand their end goal.

We ask, "Why are we doing this? What's the outcome we're driving?" We want to really build that relationship with our customers to say, "Let's talk about the desired outcomes. How do we want to implement this in the best way possible?" We are there throughout the engagement and help our clients deliver the solutions they need.

Our approach means we help our customers achieve their goals faster and make sure they're driven to the real outcomes in as short a timeframe as possible. We achieve this through our years of experience, knowledge of the Open Source landscape and by understanding and following the right trends. It means NearForm solves crucial business problems by building solutions that are robust, have a solid foundation, and are able to evolve into amazing products.

Insight, imagination and expertly engineered solutions to accelerate and sustain progress.