Technical assessments have been the bread and butter of my consulting practice since 2004. I’ve done so many that they are one of the few types of engagement that I can scope as a fixed fee rather than time and materials arrangement. A typical assessment (fewer than a dozen stakeholders) can be complete in a couple of weeks of calendar time. Larger assessments, for universities or pharmaceutical companies, can take longer – stretching out to multiple months. The largest assessment that I’ve done was an analysis of blockchain technologies for NASA’s earth science technology office. That took six months and required extensive travel, including visits to the Pentagon and to the Goddard Space Flight Labs.
I meet with contributors, stakeholders, and customers in focused blocks, usually onsite. Next, I do research, including follow-up conversations, fact-finding, and industry comparisons. All of this leads to a report synthesizing what I heard, placed in the context of my years of experience. These reports always focus on specific, actionable recommendations. My experience suggests that when somebody pays me to answer a question – I should provide a clear answer.
My practice is to plan for at least a few iterations on the report to close the gap between presenting results and having those results understood. The goal of hiring a consultant is never, actually, just to receive the report. Rather, the consultant and their report are a tool to drive decisions and create change. These edits and iterations give a chance for us to turn the report into a living document that is part of the cultural conversation. Sometimes I present my findings to leadership and other stakeholders. Other times, I take a back seat and support my customer / partners as they do the presenting. On one memorable occasion, a company engaged me to return after a year to evaluate their progress against my recommendations. It all depends on what will be most effective.
Whether it’s advice on a particular technology decision, a recommendation about how to structure a team, or context on how an emerging technology might apply to you, I very much enjoy doing assessments and I’m happy to help.