Expert Articles

How to Sell Professional Services To Your Sales Team

by Uriah Hakala, Vice President, Advisory Services at Mavenlink, Mavenlink

It’s a bad stereotype, but generally product sales people just want to get services out of the way, especially if they feel that you are taking budget dollars away from their license sales. For those of us who work for product companies, license revenue is a good thing and it’s the engine that keeps our companies going. However, there is definitely a place for services too.What are the fears and... Read more

Develop Good Consultants into Great Consultants

by Matt Rausenberger, Sr. Director, Professional Services, Return Path, Inc.

There are good consultants and then there are great consultants. Every company needs good consultants who are the core of the professional services organization and can effectively project manage, write code, configure and implement systems consistently with high quality. Great consultants are those members of your team who help your organization grow and are the go-to people for complex,... Read more

Focus on Improving Your Professional Services Gross Margin

by Jay Rosenfeld, CEO & Consultant, Crescent Solutions, LLC

In over 30 years of consulting with mostly services firms, I have seen my clients face a broad spectrum of issues around revenue, sales, clients, operations, personnel and more. Whether the situations are common or unique, there is a prevailing theme that,"There’s nothing wrong that more business won’t fix". Unfortunately, that can be a trap. Remember the saying, "We... Read more

The Secret to Ensuring Project Success

by Chad Williams, Vice President, Professional Services, Castlight Health

We have all been involved in projects that have gone smoothly and ones that have gone terribly wrong. During those times of successful projects things feel great! We are at the top of our game, customer interaction is solid and we are able to have time to focus our efforts on the improvement of the practice. When things are going wrong, due to hitting unforeseen issues, critical escalations, over... Read more

Cloud and Agile: Delivering On the Promise of “The Cloud” Starting at Implementation

by Scott Brooks, Director, Project Mgmt and Analysis Services, SpringCM

As the perception of “The Cloud” becomes synonymous with “fast, cheap, and easy”, use Agile concepts to model your professional services project delivery methods to help your clients realize those benefits at the onset of implementation and beyond. As the numbers of cloud vendors burgeon and the overall quality of the solutions offered matures, IT Executives are... Read more

Integrate Business Value into Your Delivery Model to Ensure Long-Term Success

by Adam Signaigo, CEO & Founder, modalminds, inc

You’ve worked long and hard to land business. Your team and delivery practices are solid. Yet in this economic climate, new projects and clients are still at risk if you do not (1) effectively communicate the value your services will provide in business terms, and (2) establish a linkage to “the Business” (i.e., the key decision makers and leaders driving the client's core... Read more

Maximizing Employee Retention in Your PSO Starts with a Review of Your Management Team

by Michael Calkins, Sr Director, Teracore

As markets begin to come out of their deep freeze, consulting organizations are excited to be looking at a new period of growth.  Yet, with these new opportunities come the possibility of organizational pain. Numbers from research conducted by Consulting magazine show that over two-thirds of entry level and junior level consultants are potentially vulnerable to leave their current... Read more

Social Media and Your PSO: Building Thought Leadership and Promoting Your Brand

by Dmitry Shkliarevsky, Head of Professional Services, US, AppSense, Inc.

When people are your product and you are looking at branding and promoting your PSO, traditional marketing simply does not work. In fact, one could argue that in the era of social media, traditional marketing alone won’t work - period. Marketing a PSO is about identifying your niche of thought leadership; differentiating from your competitors; and amplifying a series of messages that speak... Read more

Transitioning to SaaS – An event or a journey?

by Jon Harris, SVP, LifeWorks & Strategic Alliances, Ceridian

In the old days many services organizations were run like independent business units within a software company.  With the introduction of SaaS, the lines between business units blurs as the key objective shifts to customer retention.  Selling an expensive up-front license and delivering a wide array of services over a long period of time certainly drives different behavior than earning... Read more

Survive and Thrive: Selling Services In A Software Company

by Don Sloan, Director of Professional Services, Adobe Systems

Is selling services in a software company the hardest job in the industry? That’s what I’ve been told a few times in my career, and sometimes it has felt that way. However, I’ve learned some things in my 15+ years of selling that have helped me exceed quotas and keep my sanity (not always at the same time, admittedly), and I’d like to share them with you. In this... Read more

A 3-Step Process to Successfully Manage Client Expectations

by John Serri, Co Founder, CTO/COO , EyeQue Corp

One of the greatest challenges implementation consultants face is managing client expectations.  Consider the following scenario: Your company just won a large project to implement your flexible, enterprise software solution. You beat the competition by offering the best product, implementation approach, and price. Your weary client has gone through a long, exhausting and possibly... Read more

Transforming Customer Support and Professional Services in the SaaS World

by Bill Geist, President, Turning Point Management LLC

We all know how the traditional customer support model works in the software world. Specifically named representatives of the customer contact a help desk (via email, web entry, or phone call) to report a problem / issue with the software, which is then monitored through resolution using incident tracking software. Level 1 support personnel triage the issue (according to a predetermined... Read more

The Art of Successful Professional Service Training

by Cully Culbreth, Sr. Manager Global Technology Services, VMware, Inc.

As managers of professional service businesses, we are all aware of the need for successful professional service training. The pace of change in the technology industry continues to increase, so new products and service offerings are emerging rapidly. From a management perspective, effective training is the primary mechanism to enable architects, consultants and project managers to deliver new... Read more

Making Complex Projects Succeed: Know Your Client’s Mindset Before You Begin

by Michael McLaughlin, Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

You’re bound to have doubts before you start any project. That inner voice will nag at you–is this really the right thing to do and the way to do it? Will it result in the value promised? And, will it go smoothly or end up a nightmare? Given project failure rates, such misgivings are natural. Researchers say that the failure rate for IT projects, for example, can be as high... Read more

The Service–Product Feedback Loop

by Matt Kuckuk, Senior Executive Consultant, CGI

The Service – Product Feedback Loop As Professional Services leaders, just about all of our time goes to keeping the customers satisfied, the staff productive and the numbers on target. There’s another crucially important aspect of our jobs though, that’s always there somewhere on the priority list but doesn’t always get as much attention. That is the need... Read more

Unlocking the Customer Value – Professional Services As a Key Driver of the Customer Lifecycle

by David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services, Changepoint

Today, businesses understand that their relationship with the customer is not about the initial sale. That first transaction is simply the first stepping stone in what one hopes will be a long and mutually satisfying journey. To enable that journey – and ultimately the customer's happiness– the entire organization must be engaged across the entire customer lifecycle in making that... Read more

Impact of SaaS on Consulting Engagements: A Customer View

by Tom Minick, Managing Director, Catalyst Advisors

The jury has voted: SaaS is here to stay. I believe that’s a good thing. I’ve been involved in the movement to move enterprise software “off premise” from the early days of the technology, and I am a diehard advocate. Not only does SaaS deliver the obvious benefits – no hardware procurement and deployment, no need to deal with upgrades, rapid deployment, capital... Read more

Services Resource Planning – Evolution Beyond Best of Breed Point Solutions

You and I have something very important in common: we both want to see our professional services business thrive and operate as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, until recently, enterprise software was not very sensitive to our needs. Our sales teams have seen the benefits of sales force automation (SFA) tools, our finance teams have a multitude of accounting software packages to... Read more

The Butterfly Effect in Project Management - How to Make Disciplined Decisions in Project-based Organizations

Small variations of the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. The Butterfly Effect is a term used in Chaos Theory to describe how small changes can have a substantial impact on large complex systems, like weather patterns. The term has been used to suggest that the wing movement of a butterfly might have significant... Read more

Zero to 60: Building Global PSO’s within a Product Company

by Dmitry Shkliarevsky, Head of Professional Services, US, AppSense, Inc.

Going from zero to sixty is about time to market (speed) but also about critical mass (people) and building a sizeable business (revenue); yes, there is a double meaning here which applies. Time to market along with quality is important but can be categorized as competing priorities when racing to drive product adoption with customers, maximize revenue potentials within a sales process, and... Read more

4 Sure-Fire Ways to Bring More Value to Your Customer Relationships

by Michael McLaughlin, Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

This may sound odd, but I really like my dentist. My loyalty to his practice isn’t because of the services he offers. In fact, it seems like there’s a dentist on every corner, and most of them could probably do what he does. Nor is it because of his prices–I’m not even sure how his charges stack up against others. Mostly, I go back to him because he knows how I... Read more

Making the Case for Remote vs. On-Site Implementation Consulting

by John Serri, Co Founder, CTO/COO , EyeQue Corp

Recently, I visited a potential client with my Sales team to give a product demo and discuss implementation methods. When we moved into the discussion on how to implement our SaaS ERP solution we began an all too familiar exchange about where the Implementation Consultants would work. I described our typical approach for this type of engagement, which is to start with an On-Site Kick Off... Read more

5 Key Components of a Software Implementation Methodology

by Jenny Johnson, Manager, CX Managed Services, RightNow Technologies

I have been involved in quite a few discussions lately regarding waterfall and agile software implementation methodologies, specifically, debates about which one is better. I understand the pros and cons of each, but we continue to talk in circles about which methodology is the “perfect” one for our Company. I decided to put aside the waterfall vs. agile debate and solely focus... Read more

Broadening the Business Case for Professional Services Automation

by David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services, Changepoint

The business case for a professional services automation (PSA) solution is very well understood by the services executive.  If you are at the helm of a growing services organization, you can readily recognize the value of PSA in helping you to manage your billable resources more effectively, streamline operational efficiency, manage services projects and engagements more holistically, and... Read more

5 Specific Actions Every Professional Services Leader Should Consider When Deploying New Products

by Kevin Marion, Consultant - Program/Project Management, Aceso Interactive

You sold what? And you want it installed when? These two oft-recited phrases that emanate from Managers of Professional Services to Sales can elicit belly-busting laughs, hair-pulling groans or crying in your beer at the local tavern, but these days in Professional Services these two statements seem to be ever more prevalent. Constant competitive pressures consistently push Sales to sell products... Read more

5 Key Components of a Software Implementation Methodology

by Jenny Johnson, Manager, CX Managed Services, RightNow Technologies

I have been involved in quite a few discussions lately regarding waterfall and agile software implementation methodologies, specifically debates about which one is better. I understand the pros and cons of each, but we continue to talk in circles about which methodology is the “perfect” one for our Company. I decided to put aside the waterfall vs. agile debate and solely focus on... Read more

3 Tips on the Road to Cloud Computing Success

by Tim Dilley, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Services and Chief Customer Officer , NetSuite

By now, the advantages cloud computing provides are clear, and more and more services organizations are reaping the benefits of the perfect match the cloud provides for their unique strengths and capabilities. With naturally mobile and tech-savvy teams, services leaders are eager to rapidly expand into new markets, quickly cut ties with unprofitable lines of business, and enable their... Read more

Leveraging Workflows for Agile Project and Professional Services Delivery

There is a lot of market buzz around agile service delivery. But when you push anyone who talks agile to give you specifics of how to do it, you discover that there is little actual agile service delivery getting done consistently. If the process works partially or at all it is built around the knowledge of a few agile promoters and a supporting set of spreadsheets or a mishmash of tools. This... Read more

Rethinking Utilization as a Compensation Measure

by Michael Calkins, Sr Director, Teracore

I understand that having utilization in consultant compensation plans is rich in tradition, and there is a belief that doing so contributes to an organization’s long-term success.  Often, this inclusion of utilization rate is a major determinant in the compensation plan.   It is a metric that is easily identifiable, computable, and comparable, but does the presence of... Read more

Avoiding Project Pitfalls in a SaaS World

Simplicity, flexibility, and speed of implementation are some of the key benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS).  Indeed, these attributes have revolutionized enterprise application computing over the past decade.  But all too often, these same benefits lead to false expectations and a sense of complacency that can take a project off course.  Anticipating these expectations,... Read more

Why Value Selling Falls Short, & What You Can Do About It

by Timothy Matanovich, President, Value and Pricing Partners, LLC

  "Trust in God, but tie up your camel." - Mideast Proverb  There is no doubt that over the last three decades value selling has transformed how America does business. By shifting the focus from features to benefits to value delivered, value selling has put the focus in business where it belongs: on the payback to the customer. In turn the focus on value has translated... Read more

Getting a Handle on Revenue Recognition / VSOE (Thank you, Enron!)

by Kevin Marion, Consultant - Program/Project Management, Aceso Interactive

Do you remember the good old days of managing projects when all you had to do when a project was completed was just report that “It’s done”?  There were no questions from anybody in finance asking: “What was the date it was completed?”, “Who was the project manager?“, and “Where is the customer signature?” among many other questions. It... Read more

6 Ways to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your PSO

by David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services, Changepoint

The make up and focus of the embedded services organization has changed dramatically over the last ten years.  Here are just a few of the ways the services picture has evolved  - particularly within the technology sector where embedded services organizations are rapidly gaining traction and where we at Compuware are spending a great deal of focus these days: The rise of ... Read more

Resource Management: Turning ‘Bad News’ Into Your Secret Weapon

by Dave Sorem, Director, Service Operations, NICE Systems

How often is it that a statistic jumps out and grabs you?  It happened to me recently.  A few weeks ago I was thumbing through a recent industry benchmark report.  I wasn’t surprised to read that the most “mature” PS organizations enjoy the highest bill rates, the highest margins, the highest EBITDA, the highest customer sat and the highest employee retention.... Read more

The Importance of Having a Well-Defined and Documented Professional Services Methodology

by Joe Longo, PSA Principal, NetSuite

"Displaying Maturity in Your Services" PS process mapping is often an area in which PS organizations stall during organizational maturity. Often overlooked is the need to define and document a clear methodology that describes the unique value proposition of the services organization.    Let's take a quick survey:   a)    Does your PS... Read more

8 Steps to Creating a Strong Professional Services Brand

by MaryAnn Whiteman, CEO/Program Manager/Marketing Consultant, Whiteman Consulting, Inc.

As in any business, a professional services firm or organization must win customers' hearts and minds by building a brand that will attract customers to the business.  By taking a strategic approach to define who you are and why customers should do business with you, you can create your brand identity—how you want to be perceived. Once this is in place, the challenge is to align your... Read more

5 Good Reasons to Partner with Systems Integrators

by Uriah Hakala, Vice President, Advisory Services at Mavenlink, Mavenlink

Every successful software company needs to partner with systems integrators (SI's). We all have our own professional services groups, but there are many logical reasons to work with other firms that provide what might potentially be competing services.  At the end of the day, if handled properly, it will allow you to expand your business much more quickly than you could by working without... Read more

Why Your Project Management Sucks

From Sucks to Bucks for Technology and Software Businesses The world of software and technology has changed. Most technology and software professionals know this but seem to be caught like a deer in the headlights … waiting and staring until they get hit hard by a truck or the competition, whichever comes first. Your competition today comes from anywhere in the world. It can be a... Read more

What's to Become of Professional Services in a SaaS World?

by Laura Roach, Chief Marketing Officer, OpenSymmetry

What's to become of services in a SaaS World? To get started with answering this question, I felt it important to cover two primary concepts. First, what is SaaS? And secondly, what are typical types of services. Then I felt it would be easier to discuss the impact of services in a SaaS world. What is SaaS? SaaS is Software-as-a-Service with the common theme of paying for... Read more

Internal Client Communication: Early Validation Prevents Projects from Starting Off Sideways

We all want projects to start off smoothly. Nothing sets the stage better than a solid Kickoff presentation that introduces all the team members (from the client and the service provider), explains the anticipated benefits from doing the project and identifying at a high-level what the scope of the project entails. This implies of course, that the Project Managers from both sides and the client... Read more

The Trouble with Elevator Speeches

by Michael McLaughlin, Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

Your elevator speech—that scripted, thirty-second intro—should pack as much information about you as possible in an engaging, persuasive, and interesting way, right?   Unfortunately, even the “best” elevator speech can be an express trip to oblivion for anyone hoping to shine in a personal marketing moment. Your short spiel can drain the power from that all-... Read more

Professional Services in the Clouds – The Art of Implementing Complex SaaS-based Solutions

by John Serri, Co Founder, CTO/COO , EyeQue Corp

With the continual improvements in cloud computing, the future of software consulting is all about providing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based solutions.  In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and potential pitfalls of SaaS, and how a SaaS-based world impacts the art of implementing complex enterprise-level solutions.   SaaS Primer   By way of a quick... Read more

A Professional Services Field Survival Guide (Abridged Version)

by Shane Anastasi, Founder, PS Principles

As professional services managers, we are always looking to improve our chances of delivering repeatable success. A common approach is to identify shortcomings in our own process maturity and begin building out enhancements or entirely new methods to achieve better results. While there is no real substitute for the implementation of robust frameworks and processes, some organizations... Read more

Service for the Seasons: The Top 7 Things You Can Do for Your Clients in 2011

by Katherine Jones, Founder, Independent Consulting Services

Start the year out right for your service clients: as companies prepare to face the new business year, there are seven specific areas that professional service professionals can address that will grease the skids for client success in 2011. Provide a Technology Tune Up Have you ever done a remodeling project in your own home? And about three years afterwards, wished there were a... Read more

Can Enterprise Software Companies' PSO Employ Agile/Scrum?

Thirty-five percent of IT departments follow agile delivery methods, according to Forrester. No, they’re not just following iterative methods and calling it agile, but a little over twenty percent are and only thirteen percent are still following a waterfall method, including the famed CMM. These thirty-five percent are adopting a working style that empowers our highly skilled and highly... Read more

Improving the Financial Management of Your Services Business

by David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services, Changepoint

Financial systems and controls are fundamental tools for operating any business. They generate reliable accounting statements and automate financial policies and processes necessary for corporate governance and risk mitigation. However, if you are at the helm of a rapidly growing professional services operation, you probably know the pain of managing the financial view of your services... Read more

Setting Your Price -- T&M or Fixed Price

by MaryAnn Whiteman, CEO/Program Manager/Marketing Consultant, Whiteman Consulting, Inc.

You can’t see one or touch one. The customer must purchase one before experiencing it and measuring the results. How do you price something that is invisible? How do you price a promise? Many professional services organizations start with hourly rates, move to cost-based pricing, and then to value pricing as they build their brand and become more experienced in scoping projects.  ... Read more

7 Tips for Empowering Your People

by Michael Calkins, Sr Director, Teracore

My high school driver’s education teacher was Mr. Jack Crabtree, a truly good man and a great teacher.  Now Mr. Crabtree wasn’t a corporate citizen or a business leader, but upon reflection of his teachings I can see where he taught how to effectively empower others.  Please let me digress a moment and share a story about Mr. Crabtree.   Mr. Crabtree had... Read more

Scaling Services Excellence

by David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services, Changepoint

Recently, I was speaking with the head of a large professional services organization within a technology company. His team is rapidly expanding in size as the business increasingly turns to services as a key driver for product sales enablement and customer satisfaction.   Like many service executives today, he is looking to scale services excellence across his global organization... Read more

Skills Tracking: Taking Resource Management to a Whole New Level

 As a professional services executive, you know all too well that resource optimization is essential to success. Being able to put the right consultant onto the right project at the right time is essential to your job and to the success of client engagements, and leads to greater business benefits, from improving billable utilization to reducing the need for using subcontractors. ... Read more

Cloud Services - More than Just Another Service Offering

by Todd Bursey, VP R&D, Appirio

  At this point, there is no question that cloud computing is firmly established in the enterprise. More and more enterprises are looking to accelerate their adoption of cloud applications and platforms. IDC forecasts that spending on cloud solutions and services will grow at 26% (6 times the growth rate of traditional IT offerings) over the next 3 years and account for 10% of... Read more

Ten Major Trends for 2011 and How They Impact Professional Services and Project Delivery

I am no futurist but Jim Carroll is. I was returning from a PSVillage breakfast meeting when I ran into Jim at the airport. I have worked with Jim on a number of occasions. He was gracious enough to write an excellent forward to my last book Rise of the Project Workforce. He eloquently explained that the way we work and are motivated to get things done has fundamentally changed, focusing... Read more

"There’s Still Gold in Them Thar Hills": How to get Revenue from SaaS ERP Deals

by Katherine Jones, Founder, Independent Consulting Services

 The software-as-a-service delivery method radically changed how customers bought services: no painful upgrades that required extensive assistance; no multi-year implementations that could not be accomplished without a cast of thousands, no “forklift” upgrades that required replacement of the hardware infrastructure.   But for Professional Services professionals,... Read more

A CEO’s Perspective on Professional Services Management – Part 2

"Managing an embedded services team in a high tech company" In Part 1 of this article, I shared some of the challenges an embedded service team encounters from the perspective of senior management. The observations were based on our experiences at Tenrox and my discussions with other Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and executives in various software and high-tech companies. In Part 2... Read more

PSOs: Good Financials are the Symptom

by Jeff Wilhelm, , Head of Americas National Accounts Professional Services , ACI Worldwide

Some believe that running a world-class professional services organization requires the absolute brightest staff, others will hang their hat on processes, others on the belief that sales and selling is the key, and some even believe that it can only be achieved by having the most brilliant leader. Although common sense and an innate appreciation of today’s competitive business environment... Read more

The Worst Thing about Best Practices

by Michael McLaughlin, Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

It’s tough to pinpoint when, but somewhere along the line, copying the tactics of other companies morphed into adopting “best practices.” The notion that an organization can transplant the ideas of another has become so widespread that it’s no wonder so many banks, supermarkets, airlines, retailers, and professional firms look remarkably alike.  Best practices -... Read more

Is Cold Calling Dead? Does Internet Marketing and Social Media Signal the End of Dialing for Dollars?

by David Brown, Managing Partner, Esspresso B2B Marketing

Hey! What happened to my market? A VP of Sales at an IT services organization recently told me, “Sometime in 2008 cold calling just stopped working for us. At first, we thought it was the economy. Now we see a fundamental shift in the way people buy.” Some of my best friends are sales guys. It’s true. Normally a cocky bunch of souls, most have been in the business for... Read more

Top Professional Services Management Challenges – Part 1

Perspectives on managing an embedded services team in a high tech company Managing the professional services team has been and continues to be one of the most demanding positions at any fast growing high tech company with an embedded service team. Our professional services team went through some major organizational changes and process improvements as we transformed our business starting five... Read more

Metrics that Matter: Quality vs. Quantity

by Tom Minick, Managing Director, Catalyst Advisors

Gauges on the boiler…business analytics…scorecards…performance management…the list goes on. The software industry’s focus on measuring and reporting business activity is large, vibrant and growing – and for good reason. As leaders it is essential for us to know how well our business is performing. In fact it’s critical, especially as a business gets... Read more

Services as an Agent for Organizational Change

by David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services, Changepoint

The world around you is changing. Your company has recognized the strategic value of professional services, and has acknowledged that your organization can be an engine for revenue growth, competitive differentiation and customer satisfaction. But now the work begins.   As a services executive, you and your team are now more active participants in the broader business mission, a role... Read more