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I’ve been involved with and even sponsored a number of great (and not so great) consulting engagements in the context of corporate I.T.

And while I can often appreciate the level of effort and experience that the consultants come with, one thing is almost always true. The end of the engagement is signaled by a set of documents. This is often true of the very big consulting firms like Deloitte, PwC, Accenture, etc.

I have nothing against those agencies and as I said, there are some very smart people there. They also have their fair share of indentured recent college graduates working on their CVs, but I’ll ignore that for the time being.

Again, the engagement ends with a document, often in PowerPoint form that capture the inputs, assumptions, discussion, decisions and ultimately an action plan. But in my experience, that action plan quickly finds its way to an executive’s desk drawer instead of being managed over time to represent the reality of day-to-day changes.

Everyone leaves the engagement referring to the document as living but in fact, it couldn’t be more dead. Sure it’s used to promote the value of the engagement to executives one step away from getting involved, but that’s about it. Some organizations may be lucky enough to use it to impact decisions within the next 30–60–90 days, but it usually doesn’t stretch beyond that.

So calling a document living rarely makes it so. Why? Well because it isn’t, first and foremost. More importantly, though, that document was actually designed to be a working document up until the close-out. Then the cement hardened, and it moved from a work-in-progress to a “finished product” thus removing the ability to modify.

So, what’s my point? I would love to see organizations engage consultants in a way that builds out systems instead of PowerPoint decks. And I don’t mean build out systems as a system integrator on an ERP program, I mean put their findings in an actionable tool.

If they don’t, then they will be a proud owner of an expensive living document that couldn’t be more short-lived given the day-to-day distractions of reality.