Cloud computing is a massive industry. I mean $200 billion in 2020 and $760 billion estimated for 2027 massive.
This rise of cloud computing also opened the door for cloud consultants.
Tons of companies and solopreneurs now offer cloud consulting services. Unfortunately, most of them are pretty mediocre, bordering on bad.
In this article, I’ll outline the biggest problems I see with the industry and how they prompted me to start my own cloud consulting business.
But before I get to that, let’s start at the beginning.
Why Businesses Need Cloud Consultants
Cloud computing is complex, to say the least. AWS alone consists of 200+ services. No one can possibly learn all of them.
The cloud is also relatively new. I know working with AWS, Azure or GCP has been the norm for the last 3-4 years, but that’s not that long. Even 10 years ago, companies spent virtually no money on cloud computing as opposed to data centers.
Most importantly, there simply aren’t enough qualified tech people out there. As a result, hiring cloud experts takes a LONG time.
On top of that, large companies also look to hire cloud experts non-stop. If you’re a startup, good luck convincing talented engineers to ignore Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, JP Morgan and the rest of the giants.
All of this creates a massive problem for startups:
They have to wait months for the right candidate to build out their infra in the cloud. At the same time, they need to work on their products and services.
So, the choice most startups have at some point of their cloud journey is:
- Hope to get lucky and hire the right candidate right away
- Get help from a cloud consultant/consulting company
As “hope to get lucky” doesn’t sound like a business plan, many businesses choose door number 2.
And that often leads to some unexpected (and disappointing) results.
Where Things Go Wrong
Most consultancies know how wide the gap between supply and demand for cloud talent is.
That’s probably one of the largest reasons why they got into the business, to begin with. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just good marketing.
But that instantly puts most of their customers at a disadvantage. Especially startups and other small businesses.
Don’t get me wrong:
I’m not saying that every cloud consulting company out there is a scam. There are a bunch of awesome consultancies that do a tremendous job. But they’re extremely hard to find.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cloud consulting industry gets by with very shady business practices.
Let’s talk about those.
AWS offers 12 certifications. GCP – 7. Microsoft has close to a billion certificates.
And how many of these certs should mean anything to a customer with a problem?
Zero. Nada. Zilch.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with passing an exam and getting certified. To some extent, that demonstrates a level of knowledge and skill in a technology.
But solving real-world challenges is a whole different ball game.
That’s why companies that go on and on about how many certified AWS Solutions Architects or Azure Developers they have onboard miss the mark by a long shot.
For most of these businesses, certificates are just a way to get to the next level of partnership with their cloud vendor. Nothing more.
In short, if the main selling proposition of a company is “We have X certified cloud experts”, have this in mind.
The Template Approach
This is probably the worst (and most common) practice I’ve seen.
A lot of consultancies try to get things out of the way as easily as possible by following a template for every case. It’s like they check a few boxes and call it a day.
Of course, that’s a dream scenario for shady consultants. They get paid for putting the least amount of effort while also having the excuse of “We did what we do every time. It can’t be our fault if it doesn’t work”.
But it can and it should be their fault.
As a consultant, your job is to study the business and implement a personalized solution, not a general one. Every business is different and needs to be treated as such.
Not everyone needs to use Lambda, Kubernetes, or Terraform. Regardless of how “hot” they are right now.
Consulting companies that don’t spend enough effort in coming up with an individual solution are wasting their customer’s time and money. Plain and simple.
This brings me to my next point.
Unclear Project Scopes And Timelines
When a project isn’t tailored to a business’ needs, current infrastructure and future goals, it’s hard to get an idea of what to expect.
Again, this is a function of the template approach.
Without personalization, it’s hard to explain to customers why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s like describing to someone how you’ll make them a burger by giving them a spaghetti recipe. It simply won’t work.
As a result, the people paying for the consulting service don’t understand why the plan looks like it does.
Even worse, lots of plans made by these consultancies don’t even have an end goal.
And when it comes to timelines, it’s also beneficial for the consultants to say “We should be done by the end of January, but that depends on feature X, service Y and event Z.”
Before you know it, it’s May, the project lasted 4 additional months and cost $50k more than anticipated.
Of course, sometimes unexpected circumstances arise and the project has to be pushed back a few weeks or months. In other cases, it’s impossible to say exactly when the job should be done.
But, these instances should be the exception, not the rule.
Upsells, Cross-sales And Other Time Wasters
Companies usually hire cloud consultants for a specific task.
They need to set up their AWS infra, migrate to the cloud, train their in-house team, etc.
At the same time, some consultants try to push tons of unnecessary stuff as part of their service – multi-cloud dashboards, custom-made systems for tracking meaningless metrics, or some new AI-based monstrosity.
Again, this is hugely beneficial to the consultants. They kill two birds with one stone and increase their wildly inflated paycheck even more.
In the end, the customer is left holding even more technical debt. Not to mention paying for that pile of code just sitting around doing nothing.
Consulting should be about solving problems people have. Not ones that the consultancy hopes they have.
And speaking of selling too much…
Layers Of Marketers, Salesman and Project Managers
There’s nothing wrong with having marketers or salesmen as a cloud consulting business.
Between collecting data, qualifying leads and understanding the customer in general, they can make the process of hiring a consultancy much easier for both sides.
Project managers are essential when the work starts.
But at a certain point, people just want to talk to the cloud engineer, DevOps expert, or any other tech guy that will do the consulting.
A lot of consultancies drag out the process and put customers through rounds of salesmen. They do this for a bunch of reasons that aren’t important right now.
What matters is the result of all this back and forth:
Their customers end up discussing the same stuff with 4-5 different people, none of which has any idea how to solve the problem.
Again, this is a huge time waster and a massive annoyance.
And it brings me to the final and probably most crucial issue.
Between having an ungodly amount of middlemen, overworked engineers and using the template approach, it’s no wonder that cloud consulting companies fail at communication.
Not responding to email for weeks is a common practice for some of these companies. And I mean emails from paying customers, not leads. BTW not responding to leads isn’t okay either, but it’s still excusable.
Also, writing 40-page dense reports for a simple client problem (e.g. “Should I choose CloudFormation or Terraform for this project?”) is a must for some consultancies.
Again, these communication blunders often benefit the consultants.
The more complex they make a problem seem, the more impressive the solution looks. And the less likely the customer is to object when the payday comes.
Not to mention it allows them to drag out the process and cover up their lack of effort (or knowledge) on a specific problem by throwing big words around.
I can go on with other issues, but you get the point.
So, if the game is so rotten, why did I decide to start Cloud Solutions?
Why I Decided To Start My Own Cloud Consulting Business
I believe smaller businesses shouldn’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils (working with shady consultants or waiting months for an expert to come on board) when it comes to the cloud.
They should be able to get a quality service that solves their problem efficiently.
More importantly, I know that all of the issues I talked about above can be solved or avoided. Easily.
In many situations, it’s as simple as “Do the exact opposite of what you’ve seen shady cloud consulting companies do”.
Again, I also know that there are businesses that do a great job with cloud consulting. They’re few and far between and I’d like Cloud Solutions to be one of them.
And to be perfectly fair to larger consultancies, I know they have restrictions that don’t allow them to be as flexible as a small team. There’s tons of bureaucracy, not to mention hierarchy. That sometimes gets in the way of solving problems fast and adapting to change.
And if big business wants to take on that, that’s okay. Large companies tend to work with large consultancies.
That is why I currently cater to startups that need help with AWS.
We can provide these businesses with enough attention and give them a personalized solution to their problem.
We can also react fast to problems, communicate clearly and build a solid business relationship with every customer.
And for most small businesses/startups, that’s all that matters.
In short, starting a small, agile business allows me to provide quality cloud consulting while avoiding all the pitfalls that people usually face when working with consultants.