Expert Articles

When Clients Put You on the Hot Seat

by Michael McLaughlin, Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

I knew something was seriously wrong when my client’s newly hired CFO called to say he was “voiding” my last invoice. Well, he had promised the client’s management team that he’d be aggressive in managing costs. I had no idea he’d start with me.   We all face sticky situations and cranky clients—they go with the territory. It’s not... Read more

Rules for the Recovery - 6 Critical Focus Areas for Managing Your Business Through the Upswing

by Randy Mysliviec, CEO, RTM Consulting

It may be too early to be certain, but many economists are now suggesting that the recession may be coming to an end.  And while that’s great to hear, it also means that there’s a lot of hard work yet to be done in order for companies to ramp back up, and eventually surpass their previous financial and operational levels.  I do believe we’re going to get there - but... Read more

Designing an Effective Design Process

by Kevin Coe, V.P. of Technology Solutions, The MX Group

I’m writing this article as a follow up to my last article - “Designing Deliverables for Efficiency”. The major points I made in that article was that deliverables created in the design process of a technology project have to meet certain goals. They must help you think They must stack, and They must serve the consumer The interesting part of any deliverable-... Read more

Connecting CRM and Project Management Software

A question that is often asked by sales and project management executives is what information should be exchanged between a CRM application and project management software, and what are the benefits of connecting these two enterprise software applications? CRM and Project Management Software Data Flow The diagram above shows an overview of the various types of information exchanged between a... Read more

Big or Small - There is Work For Us All

by Jodi Cicci, President & CEO, TOP Step Consulting, LLC

Professional Services Consulting companies come in all different sizes:  small, medium, large, and enormous.  Unlike other markets, though, the size of the consulting company has little impact on the expertise, bill rates, or geographic coverage.  I have seen variances in specialized markets, but general operational consulting tends to be a pretty competitive market.  Why is... Read more

Smart Selling: Small Things Can Have a Big Impact on Organizational Profitability

by Marc Lacroix, Partner, RTM Consulting

Overview Every service delivery manager focuses on profitability. In an increasingly cost competitive marketplace, a couple points of margin can mean the difference between a good quarter and a bad one. Effective project execution and tight control of overhead costs are the most common practices for managing operating margins. There are, however, a number of less obvious factors affecting margin... Read more

One Question to Ask Every Client

by Michael McLaughlin, Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

When a client calls you about an issue or problem, it’s natural for you to ask questions, including why the client needs to address the issue. But as you proceed through the sales process, you’ll find that one question in particular, asked at just the right time, can open up your sales conversations and lead to new insights for you and the client. That question is how does the client... Read more

The Need for Speed - Why Speed Wins When Selling Services in a Down Economy

by Stephen Satterwhite, President & CEO, Entelligence

We’ve all heard the classic children’s story about The Tortoise and the Hare and how “slow and steady wins the race”.  That may be true in Aesop Fable’s.  But I’m sure that dear old Aesop never had the task of selling professional services in a down economy. The truth is speed wins.  Just ask Usain Bolt who set the world records in both the 100m... Read more

"C"- Level Selling

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

The buyers of professional services and complex solutions are seldom the same individuals who purchase products. Usually at least one and often several levels above the normal product sales relationships, these busy executives have different issues, expectations, world views, and mindsets to take into consideration when trying to influence their buying behaviors. In other words, the same... Read more

Four Disciplines Tiger Woods Can Teach a PS Leader on How to Improve Their Business

by Tom Minick, Managing Director, Catalyst Advisors

You may be tempted to tune out of this article because you think it’s an easy answer. Simply have incredible skill, be maniacally focused and ultra competitive and bingo, there’s the magical Tiger Woods formula. Right? Not so fast. After all, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson also possess those very same traits and neither has a chance to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors,... Read more

Projects or Staffing - Does it Matter?

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

Absolutely.  While most professional services firms do both projects and staffing to varying degrees, it is essential that you choose one as your core delivery approach and that it supports your corporate strategy and vision.  The decision impacts every aspect of your company internally and externally from leadership through back office support. There is no right or wrong answer as to... Read more

10 Hottest Tips to Sustain High Utilization

by Randy Mysliviec, CEO, RTM Consulting

Introduction The most challenging aspect of running a Professional Services Operation (PSO) is managing the utilization of people.  While there are many important aspects of managing a PSO, managing utilization of human capital is fundamental to making a profit.  Unfortunately the majority of PSO’s in the market today do not achieve their full potential when it comes to fully... Read more

Five Success Factors for the Automation of Your Global Services Delivery

by Morris Panner, CEO, Networking Inc

In today’s economic situation, much has been made about the need to automate business processes to cut overhead costs and accelerate services to the marketplace.  This can prove difficult for any organization due to a variety of mitigating factors including cash flow issues, executive support, and unexpected variations to your project plan.  These issues manifest themselves... Read more

Cultivating a Project Manager

by Jodi Cicci, President & CEO, TOP Step Consulting, LLC

I’m not sure anyone ever said ‘when I grow-up, I want to be a project manager’.  It’s the type of job that is critical in many companies but not one that necessarily is anyone’s dream job out of school.  Part of this may be due to the fact that becoming a project manager is not a book-learned skill but an investment of time and gaining of experience that... Read more

Patience in Practice Development - Ten Critical Lessons

by Michael Calkins, Sr Director, Teracore

After years of attempting to build practice areas in my consulting organizations, I have come to the point of being able to present to others some of the things that have worked.  In this article I will discuss ten of my lessons learned. To begin, let’s establish with what I am referring to in the term “Practices”.  I use the term of a Practice as a focused effort on... Read more

So What is the Role of a PSO at a Software as a Service (SaaS) Company, Anyway?

by Andrea Mulligan, CEO, Sophity LLC

Software as a service (SaaS) products have many advantages over enterprise software. With no hardware and software to deploy, SaaS customers benefit from lower start up costs and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Additionally, all customers benefit equally from software upgrades and improvements - not just those considered “strategic” or with fat wallets. Yet, many companies fail to realize... Read more

Does It Feel Like Your Hair Is On Fire?

by Stephen Satterwhite, President & CEO, Entelligence

We all know the old saying in the media: “If it bleeds, it leads”.  The fact is, bad news still makes good headlines.  And today’s headlines are all about the economy.  The media, it seems, is obsessed with economic bad news.  Maybe because we, as a society, are so afraid of bad news that, when we hear even the slightest hint of bad news, we tune it out.... Read more

The Five Things Your People Want, Expect, and Deserve

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

What attracts the best talent? How do you keep them? If you want to make your life easier, then do a better job of delivering the five things that your people want, expect, and deserve. To work for an organization they are proud to be associated with. People like to be associated with organizations that have their act together--those that have lofty ideals, important missions, and... Read more

Ten Predictions for Project Management Trends in 2009

2008 was an eventful, prosperous year for the project management practice, project management service and solution providers: - Several independent vendors merged with larger entities; many more new small companies with innovative technologies emerged onto the scene. Given the poor macro picture, the amount of M&A and startup activity in this space shows how much interest there is and how... Read more

Soft Skills: The True Life Blood of a Healthy PS Organization - A Guide to Developing a Well-Rounded PS Staff

by Mark Sloan, COO, RTM Consulting

BACKGROUND Professional Services Organizations are often quite proud of the technical expertise of their personnel - and deservedly so. It is common to hear things such as “Sue is the best technical architect - there is nothing she cannot do with this product.” At the same time, how many of us have seen situations where the great technical resource:   In this article, I will... Read more

Cash is King - Solution Selling in Today's Troubled Times

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not often at a loss for words. I must admit, that with all of the negativity and erosion around us, it is hard to know what to say. It is hard to decide what to focus on first, what will reasonate best, and most importantly, what will ensure that we do not offend some very weary clients who are dealing with issues that most have not experienced in their careers. I... Read more

Designing Deliverables for Efficiency

by Kevin Coe, V.P. of Technology Solutions, The MX Group

Deliverables are at the Heart of Team Collaboration One of my favorite words in professional services is “deliverable”.  It captures the transformation from abstract thinking to tangible result.  It says, “Ideas were floating in the air between us, and now they have become something.” There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from a well crafted... Read more

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie & Business Intelligence

by Tom Minick, Managing Director, Catalyst Advisors

Spring time.  The snow is melting and it’s a time of renewal. The first buds are appearing on the trees, golfers in the Midwest and East Coast are getting in their first muddy rounds and the sounds of the crack of the bat and the ball thumping into the catcher’s glove can be heard loud and clear across Arizona and Florida. America’s past time is about to give us all... Read more

The Importance of Community and Communication

by Jodi Cicci, President & CEO, TOP Step Consulting, LLC

What is the most effective way to communicate with your team and your organization?  Probably one of the most classic questions asked with no best answer other than “it depends”.  Why does it depend?  We’ve got access to all kinds of communication devices now - email, Instant Messenger, text messaging, e-newsletters, websites, etc.  The key is getting to know... Read more

Take Back Your Customer Experience

by Stephen Satterwhite, President & CEO, Entelligence

If you’re a services executive at a product company, and you sell through channel partners, then I have a story for you.  See if this sounds familiar. A friend of mine in Austin, TX started a candle manufacturing company.  A few years ago, after he had just started the company, I stopped by his house to say hello and see how things were going. When I showed up at his house, it... Read more

8 Tips to Improve Your Relationship with Sales -- Building Trust between Sales and Services

by Joe Longo, PSA Principal, NetSuite

One of my favorite contributions in the book Tips from the Trenches: The Collective Wisdom of Over 100 Professional Services Leaders is Tip #54 by Matt Jacobson. Matt starts by saying: ”Blame it all on Sales - That usually doesn’t work so you better keep reading!” I smile every time I think about that tip. He’s referring, of course, to the challenge of building... Read more

Job Search Essentials for Professional Services Leaders: 8 Sales Techniques for Landing Your Next Position

by David Brown, Managing Partner, Esspresso B2B Marketing

According to TechCrunch’s Layoff Tracker, nearly 120,000 employees in the tech sector have lost their jobs since August 27, 2008. And the number is growing.  As a result of the current economic climate, many Professional Services Leaders who once considered their jobs safe are now finding themselves back in the job market. It’s an uphill slog to be sure, with few open slots and... Read more

The Nine Guiding Principles of Services Marketing - A Framework for Effectiveness

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

Getting your services marketing efforts “up to the nines,” may be easier than you think. The following proven maxims are aimed at helping you reach the highest degree in services marketing. They’ll show you how to identify your value, better use your resources, and determine project outcomes. These nine principles create a philosophical framework in which services marketing... Read more

From Box Pusher to Services Sales Professional What It Takes

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

I am constantly asked by services leaders and sales executives what must be done to turn box pushers into effective services sales professionals.  Based upon my personal experience over 20 years, here is what it takes. Begin at the Beginning Determine what level of overall strategic business importance your top executives place on services. Necessary evil? Nice to have revenue?... Read more

Heroic Delivery: The Hallmark (and Death March) of Most PS Organizations

by Mark Sloan, COO, RTM Consulting

A Guide to Building a Scalable PS Organization and Avoiding Burnout of Your Best People Background Through our work with clients, RTM Consulting has been able to analyze the utilization data of a variety of Consulting and Professional Service Organizations (PSOs) - both large and small.  In virtually every situation, we have seen that 10-20% of the population is 90% or more utilized.... Read more

Which Resourcing Model Should You Choose? - Aligning Development Resourcing with Service Maturity

by Alan Randolph, Sr. Program Manager, Looker Data Sciences

As a long-time practitioner managing large-scale, service development teams for product companies, I can safely predict that a well produced service offering will help sell and consistently deliver quality solutions to customers. Business leaders want predictable profitability and to avoid the pain of problem escalations.  The Sales team wants services nicely packaged for quick sales. ... Read more

Must Do's for These Economic Times and Beyond

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

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...” Those words by Charles Dickens open his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, about the French Revolution.  And just as sinister Madame Defarge sits knitting her ominous visions, we, too, are seeing visions of uncertain and troubling times ahead. Will we experience revolutionary times?  In some ways we may.  Many... Read more

Integration is More Than Just Connecting the Dots

by Jodi Cicci, President & CEO, TOP Step Consulting, LLC

Are you considering connecting your systems to remove that double data entry overhead?  Where do you start? The most logical starting place is what data does the receiving system need that the sending system can deliver.  Break down the low level details fields and perform a mapping exercise to determine what type of programming is required.  Other logic to consider is data... Read more

Expectations -The Key to Customer Satisfaction

by Debbie Stovall, Founder, SuccessRealities, LLC

Managing Expectations - It’s an art .... not a science In the 1982 Academy Award winning film Gandhi there is one scene that will tell you everything you ever need to know about managing expectations.  The year is 1917 and Gandhi is visiting remote villages in India where famine and poverty are the rule not the exception.  When villagers ask .... no beg .... Gandhi for help he... Read more

6 Steps for Making Your Conference Calls More Effective

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

I dreaded conference calls for years. Finally I decided to stop complaining and do something constructive. To my surprise, I discovered that with a few simple changes conference calls become highly effective meetings. The hardest part was screwing up the courage to ask people to try something different. Turns out there was nothing to fear. People were ready for a positive change. Here are the... Read more

Lessons from Wall Street - The PSO Survival Guide in Turbulent Times

It is fair to say that the most unflappable, were phased recently, as we patiently watched what seemed to be an unraveling of our financial system. I think I must have over heard the question “What are we going to do now?” a million times if I heard it once. I was one of the cynics that politely stated “this is what happens when we lose sight of what is real”, insisting... Read more

What Wolfgang Puck, Tom Colicchio and Other Celebrity Chefs Can Teach Us About Marketing Our Services

by Tom Minick, Managing Director, Catalyst Advisors

Over the course of my career I have observed that both consulting companies and IT organizations generally do a horrible job of marketing, selling and communicating. I’ve discussed this with many of my colleagues over the years and found that not only do they usually agree with me, but many actually take pride in doing a bad job!!!! Technically-oriented professionals seem to have something... Read more

Seven Best Practices to Guarantee the Success of SMB Deployments of SaaS

by Larry Goldberg, Head of Enterprise Solutions, FinancialForce.com

Background Although growing trends illustrate that enterprise corporations are moving towards on-demand Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, traditionally this platform has been most popular with small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs).  Online, hosted offerings present a cost effective option to more expensive, slower to deploy client server options.  Regardless of the size of the... Read more

3 Ways to Handle the Crunch of a Tough Economy

As of the writing of this article, the top headline on Yahoo! news is Oil soars on dollar, Energy Dep’t report on falling supplies. The top video is Floods threaten economic disaster in Midwest. Dow down 1.4%. Nasdaq down 1.9%. Regardless of whether or not we are actually in a recession, the economic news and outlook hasn’t been good for about a year. As I speak with leaders of... Read more

Catch 22's with Technology vs. Business Processes

by Jodi Cicci, President & CEO, TOP Step Consulting, LLC

In working with many companies regarding process definition and efficient operational tool usage, I’ve come across a Catch-22 of sorts:  process driving tool selection and usage tool features and limitations driving process Let’s take the example of a company with well defined processes and looking for a tool to introduce business efficiency and perhaps automation... Read more

How to Manage Projects While Reducing Travel Costs

Just two years ago, more than 75 percent of our implementation work was done on-site and face-to-face across the globe in places like New York, Sydney and London.  Higher gas prices, increased airline fees and travel hassles have made it far more challenging to fly or to commute long distances to deliver projects. With the cost of travel skyrocketing and with some 800 customers worldwide,... Read more

Rev Up Recruiting For Just-in-Time Resourcing

by Randy Mysliviec, CEO, RTM Consulting

Are your recruiting methods keeping pace with rapidly changing needs in human capital management for today’s professional services?   As has been said many times in many publications, it bears repeating to say, in an ever increasing “knowledge economy,” a company’s human capital represents its biggest asset.  Recruiting new and varied talent... Read more

Getting What You Want

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

Once upon a time, I imagined that clients would tell me exactly what they wanted. It hasn’t happened yet. I’ve learned that many people don’t know what they want until they get something else. Then their disappointment reveals what they really wanted. I used to blame clients for not knowing what they wanted. I don’t do that anymore, because I’ve realized how often... Read more

One Foot on the Boat, One Foot on the Dock

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

Every boater knows the feeling, the queasiness in the stomach that comes the instant you feel you are no longer in control--stretched (literally) between where you have been (the dock) and where you’d like to go (the boat). Docking line in one hand and boat hook in the other, while your feet continue to move in opposite directions, you immediately grasp the meaning of “between the... Read more

Professional Services Automation - Choices and Challenges

Professional Services Automation (PSA) systems have many potential benefits to Professional Services (PS) organizations but realizing the full benefit has its challenges. PSA systems are the “ERP” for PS organizations in that they can encompass selling and forecasting business, managing deliverables and resources, time and expense management modules to name a few.  The potential... Read more

Are The Can'ts in Control?

by Debbie Stovall, Founder, SuccessRealities, LLC

As leaders of large groups of people, it is all too easy to get caught up in the tales of the charming few - The Can’ts.  This can be time consuming and costly not only to you, but your organization - because if you are caught up in it, you can bet a lot of others are too.  Can you say unproductive? We all know them, see them daily and have them on our teams - the Can’ts... Read more

Transforming a Professional Services Organization

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

As leaders, we have all taken responsibility for an organization that "isn't running optimally". The initial goal when assuming ownership of the sub-optimal organization is to determine how sick the patient is. At this juncture in the assignment, it isn't uncommon to hear analogies such as "We might need to do surgery" or "This patient is on life-support". You may... Read more

Effective Teaming for Customer Success

by Mike Lopez, Vice President of Customer Success, Firstlook and Max

Teamwork among individuals is a fascinating dynamic in the consulting world.  Webster defines Teamwork as:  “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” Likewise, Consulting is defined as:  “providing professional or expert advice.” “Subordinating Personal... Read more

Minding Your P's and Q's - An Organizational Management Approach

by Michael Calkins, Sr Director, Teracore

It is my belief that the saying “minding your P’s and Q’s” did not come from a bar owner’s tally of the pints and quarts for a bar patron, as often is believed.  Instead, I heard it is how owners of such establishments looked after their enterprise utilizing this statement, and help them remember and keep track of its various components.  What is... Read more

People and Projects: An Integrated Framework

in·te·grat·ed [in-ti-grey-tid]-adjective1. combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole.2. organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively. Services today are a more important part of the revenue and profit mix of technology companies than ever before.  As a result, we are tasked with constantly improving the... Read more

Networking with Your Services Peers: It's Easier Than You Think!

by Joe Longo, PSA Principal, NetSuite

Have you ever wondered why people in professional services rarely seem to network? It’s a mystery. A great mystery when you consider how the same people will work all hours for their customers; they’ll travel great distances and give up much of their private time to get there; they’ll answer calls at night; negotiate with engineers; train salespeople; advise the third parties;... Read more

What Political Campaigns Can Teach Service Leaders

by Tom Minick, Managing Director, Catalyst Advisors

Politics and religion are two topics my mother told me to avoid unless I wanted the conversation to end in an argument. However, given that politics is the “topic of the year” (and was also in the forefront for the better part of last year!) it provides an interesting framework for discussing an issue of critical importance for all leaders: meaningful communication. Communication by... Read more

Should Consultants Own The Utilization Metric?

by Randy Mysliviec, CEO, RTM Consulting

Introduction This article discusses the merits of assigning a metric to your consultants for utilization and driving accountability via governance of that metric.  I’ll start by declaring my bias for doing this, although there are certainly those who would suggest otherwise. Few would debate the need for professional and consulting service providers to achieve consistently high... Read more

Selling Professional Services

by Jodi Cicci, President & CEO, TOP Step Consulting, LLC

  The Importance of Teamwork Within the Company and in the Marketplace   Throughout my career I’ve been on the technical side as a programmer and the managerial side as a project manager, team manager, and now company owner.  What has been interesting is seeing the different professional services business models across the various commercial companies I’ve crossed... Read more

Managing Offshore Operations: So, You've Been Offshoring for a While?

by Mandli Sathyanarayan, President, Global Development Consulting, Inc.

So, you have been offshoring for a while.  If your experience is similar to most companies, issues begin to creep into your offshore operation; expectations do not continue to be met consistently; and some in your management team may even question the wisdom of offshoring.  How do you address this situation? Facing the Inevitable Offshoring Hurdles Recently I was called in by a... Read more

The PSO's Very Best Customers

by Bill Morton, Vice President Services, Acesis Inc.

During my years of managing services delivery organizations for enterprise software companies, I have had contact with many great customers across a wide variety of industries.  The customers have been both large and small and have been located all around the world. One distinctive group of customers I call the PSO’s Best Customers.  In each company, these Best Customers are... Read more

Driving Growth and Profits through Professional Services Automation Software

by Joe Longo, PSA Principal, NetSuite

The effectiveness of a professional services organization (PSO), whether a professional services firm or an internal service organization, depends on its ability to fully leverage its collective skills and expertise to efficiently generate business and deliver work product of the highest quality.Irrespective of their specific mission, PSOs across a range of industries are governed by similar... Read more

Rethinking Your Strategic Assumptions

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

Last year my friend Mark led an effort to reinvent his professional services group. The exercise was a success, but the outcome may surprise you. I asked Mark to share this extraordinary experience, and this is his story. Our professional services organization was stuck. Our strategy no longer suited our goals, and we didn’t know which way to go. We were a small cog in a giant product... Read more

AFAB is a Four-Letter Word

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

AFAB (A-fab) noun:a sale of “anything for a buck” in order to generate revenue and keep billable employees busya business situation which can impede company growth, differentiation and/or profitsin more mature firms, a symptom of lack of focus on specific product or service offeringsHowever you define it, AFAB (anything for a buck) is a condition, which typically impacts a business at some point... Read more

10 Steps to Building a Mentoring Program for your Professional Services Team

There is no time where mentoring may be more important within Professional Services. As many firms have cut back on tangible expenses such a professional development and training, it takes little if anything from the budget to foster a strong mentoring program. A good mentoring program insists on the greatest investment being in one’s time, both on the part of the mentor and the mentee.... Read more