Joining Helping Sells Radio is Matt Doar, Chief Toolsmith at ServiceRocket and author of the O'Reilly book Practical JIRA Administration. Sarah and Bill talked to Matt about why he considered laziness as a means for driving him to write books, how technical consulting is more about helping people than it is about configuring tools, and the great big question, "What should schools be teaching that they're not?"
Kicking off this episode, Sarah and Bill dug into Matt's background to discover why Matt pursued a Ph.D. in computer networking and why he chose to write books. The most interesting part of this discussion was how Matt described being motivated by laziness to write books about JIRA. He was motivated, in part, by a drive to not want to answer questions over and over again. That was the laziness he talked about, but not laziness as you may see it. It is not laziness described by an unwillingness to do anything, "I can't be bothered." It is other kind of laziness that asks, "Isn't there a better way to do this?" A book, it seemed, was a better way to answer repeated questions.
Once we got that out of the way, we started talking about Matt's approach to technical consulting. Matt's helping sells approach to technical consulting begins with the assumption that the relationship between a consultant and a customer is all about expectations, managing ongoing difficulties, and the two-way street of communicating progress. If you get any of those three things wrong, the relationship can go down hill quickly.
In other words, technical consulting is about people.
In order to be successful, technical consultants need understand why people hire technical consultants. Matt says there are three reasons ... and not all of them are good reasons.
Companies hire technical consultants because they:
Obviously the third one is "bad," and must be avoided. Matt suggests consultants to look out for the following warning signs in order to identify the third reason as quickly as possible: 1) Lack of executive support or 2) a sole project champion dragging everyone else along. Unwilling participants.
Bill and Sarah could not help themselves. They had just set up a JIRA instance for the marketing team at ServiceRocket and asked Matt questions about how the process went and shared their experience working with a technical consultant from Matt's team. The process was a "text book" example of how a consultant can help a customer anticipate the future, help themselves, and not let the customer hurt themselves, which is to say, not let the customers completely drive the process when the consultant sometimes knows better.
So, yes. Bill and Sarah got some free consulting.
Matt is obviously passionate about education, so we asked him what skills people should be taught in school that they are not taught. Matt suggests three skills: