2 September 2019

Collaborative consultation and curiosity for client success

Consultants consult to get their clients the best, be this price, performance or both.


I have been fortunate enough to work with some brilliant consultants in my 25+ years of being a gaseous extinguishing subject matter expert (SME).  My opinion is consultants need big-picture mindsets and the relationships with trusted SMEs to marry all their great ideas together into a working deliverable; this invariably needs a deep enough understanding to challenge the vendor [on behalf of the client] for a robust solution and paper trail, on other occasions it might simply be from curiosity through to a sincere appetite to learn and fully understand.

Working with the airflow was one such point link.  Below is another example of where it required a great consultant (actually, a pair of) to convene a great solution.


The client, a “list-X” data center trusted with Government data, had a hypoxic fire protection system which constantly pumped nitrogen through the building to create a low oxygen atmosphere. Whilst averting the fire that never happened, it generally wasn’t great; it meant staff had to carry out work or patrols with a ‘buddy’ which doubled labour costs and still wasn’t the safest way to work.  Furthermore the hypoxic system ran 24/7/365, which was incredibly expensive, in operation and upkeep, guzzling gallons of electricity – which was far from green.

Recognising these costs, we suggested evaluating whether the system needed to be replaced in terms of financial payback.  Firstly though, we had to establish a way to install a new system that crucially didn’t involve filling closed sections of pipework with water at high pressure to test for leaks (as per Standards) – which was obviously never going to be an option for a live data centre.  Furthermore the design and approach had to minimize pipework and never interrupt critical BAU (business as usual) operations during the works.  


Siemens has a long-standing pedigree in providing human safe gaseous fire extinguishing systems; the products we innovate and solution we deliver.

Standards prescribe the common way to do things; crucially understanding the “why” things are done enabled our lateral thinking to deliver the same outcome, leveraging Siemens know-how to remove aspects that would make a traditional solution impossible. 

An extremely complex cause and effect would be too much for many companies, or system capabilities, but we could use Siemens powerful Sinteso product portfolio and our extensive application expertise. 

First and foremost you have to see the problem that others can’t. Next you have to think and reframe what is the required output, not the way to do it. Siemens has prowess here few other companies do and our innovation culture fosters this.

Technically the first obstacle was about space; space for cylinders, pipework, pressure relief, etc.  Could we make it fit, no matter how attractive the financials?

Next you have to empathise; you must think as the customer and consider the client and all stakeholders’ concerns and objections.

Collaborative working and 6-hats thinking enabled a team of product, technical, design and applications to then identify and address each of these aspects.

Concepts are then created, unearthing new issues, which principle architects then further break down. A simplistic approach, and a 6-hats thinking exercise, created an example which can be emulated elsewhere but most convincing is the high-profile showcase that Siemens can example it with.

Though some would argue this can easily be achieved pneumatically, miles of pilot line lack the certainty it is without damage that a cable provides.  Electronic logic was thus needed.  Having kilometers of pipework throughout the site, kept ‘open’, was fundamental.


It is only when a consultant knows who to ask and how to challenge them for the best, that clients can truly see the benefit in the procurement and supply chain the UK should be proud of.

What separates a great consultant from a good consultant is knowing the right questions to ask as well as the right people to ask them of

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