Domain Expertise Versus Process Expertise
By Charles Besondy
The value of domain expertise
When a consultant or interim manager has worked within an industry or product category for a period of time they gain through osmosis a knowledge of the competitive landscape, the technologies, the players, the trends, and often possess a PDA chock full of relevant contacts. In short, with domain expertise an interim manager should be able to “connect the dots” more readily, resulting in more targeted strategies, more insightful decisions, and a bit more respect within the client organization.
However, often clients put too much weight on domain expertise without evaluating what the interim manager can do with that experience. Sure, they may be able to talk a good game; drop all the right names in a conversation, etc., but can they make things happen with what they know?
Just because I may have owned and driven BMWs for years, doesn’t mean I know how to tune the engine. My knowledge of BMW cars allows me to talk for hours about the engineering features, the factories in Germany and the U.S, and maybe even my lunch with the company’s lead designer, but open the hood and hand me a wrench and I’m not only lost, I’m dangerous!
The value of process expertise
An interim manager or consultant with deep process expertise knows how to produce outcomes with a degree of certainty. This is a very valuable asset!
If the BMW needs a tune-up, I could care less if the mechanic has toured the factories, knows key executives in Germany, and has friends at Audi and Porsche. Does he or she have the tools, information, and knowledge to efficiently make the engine run better? Does he or she have a record of tuning engines effectively?
In most cases an interim marketing manager or consultant is engaged to achieve a certain outcome for an organization usually in collaboration with an internal team.
Here’s a typical scenario. An interim manager is retained for six months to run a 10-person marketing department who has just lost their VP or Director. During these six months it is common for marketing plans to have to be produced, market requirements researched, lead generation programs created, new products launched, etc. An interim manager who brings best practices for these things into the organization and knows how to best support business goals with Marketing initiatives is going to add tremendous value. The knowledge transferred during the interim manager’s gig will benefit the company long after he is gone.
Not every marketing department needs new processes, of course. This type of individual will be able to readily assess if the client’s existing marketing processes are getting the job done, or if he needs to instill different processes that have proven effective in a variety of companies and product categories. This type of interim manager isn’t going to just manage the status quo if the status quo is inadequate. He is going to recommend prudent changes and help his team through the transition. The end-result is the Marketing function actually improves and sprints forward during the six month period, rather than jog in place.