Consulting the CYB Way - How to do things differently
On the surface, consultancies are all the same. They support clients on specific projects by providing the skills which clients find hard to retain, they deliver a thing, then leave.
Well, that was certainly the ideal in the past. But society and people have evolved, and consultancies need to evolve too.
I've been fortunate enough to have seen consultancy on the client side in a range of positions. I’ve worked with:
huge software consultancies when I was working in Local Government and on the 2012 Olympics
small medium enterprise consultancies when I was working at early Government Digital Service
a huge range of consultancies providing a range of skills when I was Chief Digital Officer at University of London (Cosector)
This has given me a critical understanding of what clients really want and how to make things work for them. I've since taken those principles into creating a consultancy, Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB), which has taught me it’s not just about being able to deliver what clients want - it’s also about building a brand, mission and culture which attracts the best talent too.
It’s led us to think differently about how we do things here at CYB. Here’s a few examples of principles we’ve developed that push forward our core aim of using digital as a force for good:
1. Find clients who are true partners
With a growing business, it’s so easy - and very tempting - to take any and every opportunity. That won't work - it will damage your culture, and good people will leave.
Picking the right client, one who has similar values to you, is crucial. It gives you the best chance at building a true partnership where success can be achieved for both sides.
When CYB is choosing a partner, we always ask:
do they want to truly get things delivered, ideally outcomes?
will our cultures align and will we learn from each other?
does their mission align with our mission - to use digital as a force for good?
It’s very hard to find good clients - but it’s very painful to work with bad ones.
2. Treat consultants like fantastic experts - because they are
‘Never reward good people with additional work’. Rich Cassidy taught me that and he’s absolutely right. A consultant is someone who has a specialist skill, and the role of a consultancy is to support that skill to develop in whichever direction, enabling clients to benefit from that person's brain.
Undermining this through multiple projects, reducing training days and pestering people while they are on leave all damage the person. In turn, that damages the quality of work the client can expect.
A few things we do:
allow everyone a regular ‘firebreak’, time away from a project to work on something which matters to them. Recent examples include one of our design team learning about doughnut economics and our Head of Engineering spending a week prototyping new data pipelines to deliver true data driven services in the future
make annual leave unlimited, as we know giving people time to recharge is essential to having a healthy work-life balance
run bi-annual hackathons, where we solve problems aligned to our mission and give our people’s brains time to focus on something else and try new things
3. Never stop changing
CYB consultancy started out as 3 people in a WeWork. No venture capitalist, no PR company, no superstar egos - just 3 people who wanted to create a company which balances consultancy and product, helping people to lead better lives.
Now 5 years later, we have been selected by the UK Government’s Digital Specialist and Programmes framework as one of the top 50 digital consultancies. That hasn’t happened by accident - we’ve achieved this through hard work, the talent of our people, and being willing to change and adapt as a company when people bring in new ideas.
A consultancy has to act like a family - each person has their own passions, and we support each other in those. For CYB so far, it’s been about establishing our professions and how unique they are, and supporting our teams to take time to work on things they personally care about, such as our groundbreaking XGovFormBuilder. We are always listening to new ideas that people want to try.
You’d never want your clients to stand still and stop progressing, so you must adopt the same attitude to your own consultancy. CYB is forever changing, forever adapting and forever delivering digital as a force for good.
Caution Your Blast is looking for passionate developers, user researchers and designers to join its team at an incredibly exciting time for the company. If you think our organisation and the role matches your skills, experience, and interests, send your CV along with a few paragraphs outlining why you’d like to take on the role to firstname.lastname@example.org.