As software and hardware continue their downward spiral toward more and more commoditization, services become the key differentiator. That is why all major commercial software vendors have ongoing initiatives to strengthen this part of their value propositions. As disparaging as I have been toward the usual suspects, the professional services sector that they dominate is becoming increasingly important to the success of mission critical projects.
All growth will come from intellectually based services.
—James Brian Quinn
My primary complaint against the usual suspects is not, obviously, that talented consultants do not bring significant value to the table, but that their business models often work to the detriment of their customers, especially in the software space. Here’s why. Maximizing billable hours is their principal mechanism for increasing revenues. They develop sophisticated techniques for achieving this end, including a never-ending obsession with account control. The goal of software reusability and components is to minimize the amount of time it takes to develop and implement software solutions. These two goals are diametrically opposed.
Consider the fact that, for the usual suspects, maximizing revenues translates into, for a given project, providing more warm bodies instead of fewer. My company, theB2Bdepot, Inc., is a boutique Internet consultancy that focuses, primarily, on architecture. Our consultants get paid top market rates as well, but our value proposition includes an emphasis on reusability that results in fewer warm bodies per project. We are absolutely obsessed with doing more with less and transferring knowledge as fast as our customers have the bandwidth to absorb it. Our business models couldn’t be more different, even though we often fish out of the same pond.
The reason that I dwelt on this issue, other than the obvious shameless plug, is that, while services continue to increase in importance, not all service providers have the best interest of their clients in mind, caveat emptor! The question you should ask any service provider is “How do you intend to reduce the number of project hours required for closure?” Enough said.