Ep. 16 | Atlassian Expert Matt Doar On Putting People Before Tools

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?"

Why a Ph.D. and Why Write Books?

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. Atlassian Suite expert Matt Doar of of ServiceRocket on Helping Sells Radio Podcast

Technical Consulting Is All About Helping People

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.

#HelpingSells Radio #Podcast Ep. 16 @ServiceRocket's @MDoar @Atlassian expert on putting people before tools: http://bit.ly/28MxkVR

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Companies hire technical consultants because they:

  1. Want to learn how to do something new.
  2. Need to fill a gap (to get work done).
  3. Want to blame the consultant when something goes wrong.

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.

A Case Study in JIRA Consulting 

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. 

What Skills Do You Wish People Were Taught in School?

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:Helping Sells Radio Podcast

  1. How do you report a problem: Meaning, are you just complaining or are you identifying the problem, describing what one wants to happen and then describe what actually happened, so as to be specific enough to be useful.
  2. How to ask good questions: Here is a link to that book Bill mentioned - A More Beautiful Question.
  3. Choosing the right tools for the job: We agree. This is not easy and is a growing necessary skill as technology makes multipurpose tools abundant. 

Matt's Laws of Consulting

Finally, it would not have been a complete episode without a discussion of Matt's Laws of Consulting. Here they are:

  1. Don't loose data.
  2. Try it in staging first.
  3. If you're not sure how to do something (on a client project), don't struggle by yourself. Ask the team. Matt leads by example on this one, leading a weekly "tech talk" that consultants attend to talk about the challenges they face on projects and kick around ideas for how to solve them. 

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Thanks for listening to the show.

Sarah E. Brown and Bill Cushard

Written by Sarah E. Brown and Bill Cushard

Helping Sells Radio co-hosts, Bill Cushard and Sarah E. Brown, are Rocketeers based in Palo Alto, CA. Reach out to them by emailing marketing@servicerocket.com or on Twitter using the hashtag #HelpingSells.