Solution Engineering and Why You Need It
Have you heard of a solution engineer?
Take a quick journey down memory lane. Recall the last vendor your company hired.
Why were they hired?
What problem were you trying to solve?
What product or service did they sell you?
Now, ask these two questions.
What elements convinced you that the problem you were trying to solve was, in fact, the problem?
What made you believe that you truly needed that vendor and their solution to solve your problem?
Your decision to hire that vendor is part of what we call solution engineering. When you identified what you believed to be a problem, you started yourself down a particular path. It was a path that is different from another path you would have taken if you believed that another thing was the problem.
When you believed that thing to be your problem, you did your homework based on that belief. Your investigation, discovery, and due diligence was guided by your belief about the problem.
Eventually, you came to a place where you concluded that you needed a vendor to help you resolve your problem. But your belief about your problem guided you to a specific type of product. And the specific type of product is sold by vendors who specialize in those products.
You’re a sharp person, though. And by now you have already picked up on one flaw in this process. And it is a philosophical one. Within this framework of thinking, your solution options always become increasingly narrow. Which is a good thing, of course. Yet it happens in a bad way. Here is the problem:
You have created your own version of reality.
The vendor and their solution is then invited into this reality to participate in resolving your problem.
Nine times out of ten, what happens next? The inevitable happens.
The slow and subtle process of implementation begins to reveal that what you bought wasn’t quite what you thought you needed.
Or perhaps the solution introduced new issues you didn’t realize you struggled with before. Or maybe the solution unlocks ideas you didn’t have before. Or the solution just doesn’t seem to be resolving your problem in the specific way you were hoping. Regardless of the inevitable challenge, you feel stuck. You’ve already established a very expensive relationship with the new vendor.
Ultimately, you begin growing dissatisfied. When we’re not happy with a vendor, what do we often do? We complain, right? It’s always the vendor’s fault. And of course, the vendor team sits in their offices and blames you for the breakdown or confusion. But examine the relationship for a moment. Who ultimately hired who?
Who can help with small business solutions engineering?
Enter consultants. The word makes most people shudder. Perhaps it should. As with any industry, a few bad consultants can give the consultation industry a bad rap. Much could be said regarding the ethos of this market. So let’s use another term that better describes a consultant worth their salt: solution engineer. They are highly trained, skilled and experienced in a variety of practices, methodologies, and often times various solutions.
The value of a solution engineer is four-fold:
- They help you get a big picture view of your entire business so that you can see the problem, issue, or challenge in its bigger context.
- They facilitate discussion and discovery with proven methodologies and principles that allow you to have your own “aha moments.”
- They assist with vendor and solution research, serving as a go-between, representing your business to the vendors.
- They aid in the implementation of the solution, integrating it within the bigger context of the business and its operations.
It’s always wisest to leave the construction of a solution in your business to people like that. When they are handed a project that has been properly analyzed, solution engineers can create the best solution for the actual business value or need. If all they do is point out what’s going wrong and propose ideas that sound good but can’t be proven to add value in soft or hard cost savings, it’s time to rethink the money you’re spending.
The role of the solution engineer is to iteratively interact with what the client says they need or want in order to determine what they really need.
Discovering the real business value-need has two key effects when it comes time to finding and/or building the right solution.
- First, it reduces a myriad of solutions down to the ones that are the most appropriate to the real business value-need. There is no end to the making of many solutions. And there is no end to the spending of labor and capital on the wrong solutions. Cycling through various solutions that don’t scratch where the business really itches is a cancer to organizational traction and momentum.
- Second, discovering the real business value-need ensures the requirement is met with accuracy and delivery which equals quality. When a biz or org comes with their own predetermined solution without the skill, expertise, and experience of solid analysis, they have already cut themselves short. They’ve limited themselves up front from discovering what they really need (and just don’t know it yet), and from implementing the right solution for that need.
If you’re a leader in your business or organization, don’t cut your feet off before you can even start running. Find and include a seasoned analyst in your process prior to going any further. And when you do, don’t give in to the knee-jerk reaction you’ll probably feel inside, which tells you that they’re slowing you down and choking organizational progress. They’re really not.
Solution engineers are actually helping you discover what you really need.
Here’s why you should never come to a solutions engineer with your solution already in hand. You end up saddling them with what are really just administrative tasks faking it as pseudo-analysis. You’re wasting your money at that point. And your time, which is money. And their time, which is more money. And anybody else’s time who intersects with either of you on the matter.
I call it pseudo-engineering because the work you assigned to them to do are engineering-type tasks that appear to be engineering but in reality are just skilled admin work aimed at a goal you’ve already decided on before you engaged them…
…a goal which nobody really knows for sure is even the right one to head for in the first place…
…because the whole project started with a solution before it started with analysis…
…probably because we allowed ourselves to become temporarily dominated by the emotion of rush and demand…
…which is another issue altogether that requires analysis of its own!
And I digress.
But on purpose.
The rush and demand of a client usually mean one thing: they just want someone to stop the bleeding, fix what’s broken, or make yesterday’s revenue opportunities a week ago. And that’s generally where solutioning wanders to the wrong place in the process and workflow. If that’s you, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, commit yourself to discovering the real business value-need, no matter how long it may take.
Take it from me, as one with years of small business experience working with leaders, managers, and owners on a variety of challenges and opportunities. If you’re in this spot right now, you do not want an admin. You want a a solutions engineer. It’s worth your time, your money, your career, as well as the future and legacy of your biz or org. And it’s worth listening to them thoroughly once you’ve hired them.
You’ve invested too much up to this point to come up with solutions on your own that probably don’t even address your pain points!
Typically, most organizations end up in a difficult predicament with software vendors. If so, you’ll find it helpful to begin doing your own solutions engineering by understanding 4 Important Questions to Ask Your Software Vendor.