Expert Articles

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

The Automated Approach to Project Accounting

by Katherine Jones, Founder, Independent Consulting Services

You’ve successfully sold the project - now let’s look at how you can focus on the consulting that is your real value-add, rather than get wrapped around the axle with project accounting management.  Luckily, today’s automated project accounting solutions can make the process much easier - but what criteria should a consulting firm use to select project accounting tools?... 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

Maximizing Performance in Your Professional Service Organization

by Scott Fletcher, Vice President Enterprise Technical Services, Ultimate Software

Best practice is defined by the American Society of Quality (ASQ), the world’s leading authority on quality, as “A superior method or innovative practice that contributes to the improved performance of an organization, usually recognized as best by other peer organizations.” Technology companies face increased competition and challenges in the delivery of professional services... Read more

Strategies for Effective Partner Management

Many professional service organizations today depend on outside vendors and partners to carry out their service delivery activities. The decision to use partners to deliver services can be influenced by any number of factors including financial, resource, geographic or product related circumstances. In some instances, it may be more cost effective to go outside the organization to get a specific... Read more

Do You Suffer From Be-Backs?

by Stephen Satterwhite, President & CEO, Entelligence

What is a “Be-Back”? Some time ago, I was on a routine sales call with the PS director of a global product company.  Once we were finished with the opening chit-chat, I asked the customary-and-generally-accepted-ice-breaker question:  ‘So, what keeps you up at night?” And, without hesitation, he said:  “Be-Backs.” Then, I sat there quietly for... Read more

Software Products / Services... Can You Market and Sell One Without the Other?

by Debbie Stovall, Founder, SuccessRealities, LLC

Where is the focus in a software company?  Marketing and selling the product.  In a perfect world, revenue splits would be 80/20 product/service.  But you have to have a very mature/stable product - when was the last time you worked anywhere the product was mature AND stable?  If it is mature, then it is written in Assembler, and if it is stable, it is shrink-wrapped on the... Read more

Services Packaging: The Hidden (and Key!) Process for Wildly Successful Services Engineering

by Kathy Macchi, Managing Partner, Allegro Associates

Services engineering is a complex discipline, encompassing several distinct processes that often get intertwined in the minds of PS professionals. These processes include services development, services packaging, go-to-market (GTM), and portfolio management—activities that often span, and are led by, different disciplines (services marketing, services engineering, and/or services delivery)... Read more

Tips on Managing People

by PSVillage Admin, Site Administrator, PSVillage

This article was authored by David Maister. 1) The Right Way to Give a Critique The worst thing you can do if you want to get somebody to listen to you is to criticize him or her. As human beings, we hate being criticized. When attacked we attack back. And we attack even when we are in the wrong. Right or wrong has nothing to do with it. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking, “I know... Read more

Managing Program Managers on Project Margin

Project margin is a key metric to manage in a services business.  Nothing gets to the issue of services profitability as quickly as project margin.  Often, project margin is measured and analyzed at Director levels and above.  Typically project margin information is not drilled down to the project team and more rarely, project program managers are not empowered to run their... Read more

Turbo Charge Your Portfolio with Packaged Services - A Fundamental Building Block for Resource and Quality Management

by Randy Mysliviec, CEO, RTM Consulting

The Case for Packaged Services Create powerful differentiation for your company while making the job of resource management easier at the same time - sounds like something worth doing!  For years, manufacturers have known that designing a product with the intent to build it in volume, paves the way to fatter margins, improved quality, lower costs, and more predictable resourcing. ... Read more

The Client Satisfaction Formula

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

In my twenty-five years in professional services, I’ve seen plenty of troubled projects, dissatisfied clients, and burned out teams. And I’ve never seen a project where expectations got set perfectly during the sales process, and clients got exactly what they thought they would get. As a consulting manager, I tried for years to align expectations during the sales process. I wanted to... Read more

Managing My Integrity

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

I’ve been thinking about integrity. Especially about how I handle those times when I haven’t accomplish what I said I would. I think of these as integrity breakdowns. Right now I’m managing a project team, and we haven’t fulfilled several of our commitments. We’ve had a lot of slippage. I’ve been feeling anxious and frustrated because the slippage has... Read more

From Technology Advisor to Business Partner - The "Service as Software" Way

by Katherine Jones, Founder, Independent Consulting Services

Face it - we consultants really want to develop deep relationships with our clients - and keep them coming back for more of our services.  One key way to do that is to develop industry best practices - demonstrating real depth in the industry of our clients.  Thus, we can become trusted business advisors rather than solely technology advisors. But sometimes, we are limited because of... Read more

Doing Business with the Japanese

by Steve Mollen, Associate Partner, IBM

When my wife and I saw “Lost in Translation,” she liked the movie, but didn’t like seeing it with me.  Now that’s not usually the case, I might add.  It’s just that I seemed to find parts of it funny (and laughed out loud) when no one else did.  A little nudge from her elbow suggesting I was out of sync with the rest of the audience made me wonder if... Read more

What Does it Mean to be a Mentor/Coach?

by Debbie Stovall, Founder, SuccessRealities, LLC

As a veteran of the corporate climb I grew up, like most of you, on hard work and little advice.  Early in any career you survive on pure will or youthful ignorance to succeed.  But as you stockpile the good, bad and ugly encounters in your repertoire, you begin to use your experience to help navigate not just your career but the careers of others.  Mentoring and coaching is a... Read more

Fractions Are Your Friends - When It Comes to Resource Utilization, No Improvement Is Too Small

Q:  How do you eat an elephant?A:  One bite at a time.In a world of increasingly complex projects, constant competitive pressure, and diminishing margins, today’s Services leaders face unprecedented pressure to improve every facet of services delivery to drive profitability.  But with so many moving parts and limited bandwidth, the real question is “Which bite should I take first?”... Read more

Specialization or Commoditization - Meeting Business Agility Head On

According to CIO Magazine, “Companies worldwide are growth-oriented as never before. Their strategic priorities have shifted decisively over the past three years from controlling costs to pursuing new opportunities for revenue growth. To achieve such growth in the face of stiff global competition, business leaders also demand that their firms operate with much greater agility. They rely... Read more

Does India Still Make Sense As the Offshoring Destination?

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

Recently there was a story in the press about a Silicon Valley software company pulling the plug on its Indian operation. They decided to close their entire development operation and bring it back to the U.S. Some others have closed up shop quietly. Nowadays, I am being asked this question with some regularity—“Salaries are raising fast in India; does India still make sense as the... Read more

Making The Most of Your Time

by Rajesh Setty, CMO, iCharts, Inc.

You can’t manage time. You can only manage yourself. Successful people manage to get a lot more out of their time. Here are nine things that you can focus on next year to make the most out of your time. 1. Executing on your current projects flawlessly No excuses there. None of the other items in the list matter if you keep breaking promises and go south on your commitments. 2.... Read more

Services Marketing: How to Get What You Need from Your Marketing Organization

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

If I had a nickel for every time a professional services organization told me it needed marketing support but just wasn’t getting it, I could retire. Okay, perhaps not retire, but at least I could buy a round of macchiatos at Starbucks for everyone in the office. Everyone in services believes marketing is one of the key elements to growing the services business, but everyone defines... Read more

A Primer for Global Resource Management

by Randy Mysliviec, CEO, RTM Consulting

Introduction Growing competition fueled by globalization of the economy is putting unprecedented pressure on service providers to rapidly innovate in many aspects of service delivery.  Effectively and efficiently sourcing and managing resources globally is the new high water mark for the industry.  The inherent complexity of managing large and diverse populations of employees across... Read more

Five Steps to a Successful PSA Deployment

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

Now that you’ve decided to deploy Professional Services Automation (PSA) software, you can be sure that your service projects will run efficiently and be more cost effective, right? Yes, but only if you plan properly. While PSA software helps project-based organizations better manage and plan their service offerings, it still must be deployed properly to meet your organization’s... Read more

What Does it Mean to be Focused?

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

To achieve results, focus can be a good thing. But I know that sometimes I get so focused on results that I don’t notice what’s going on around me. I get such tunnel vision that people begin to show up as obstacles, not as sources of help. We all suffer sometimes from the tyranny of the to-do list. In our efforts to complete a task, we sometimes put the task before the people we... Read more

"I'd Work With That Person Anytime!" Why Your Clients Trust You (And Why They Don't)

by PSVillage PSVillage, Site administrator, PSVillage

A while back I was having lunch with a former client who had become a colleague and friend. We were discussing a project we had both been involved in when the conversation turned to one of the consultants who was working on the project and had been requested by my former client to be removed from the project. Turns out that the consultant’s expertise was needed elsewhere and was no longer... Read more

Resource Planning for the Small and Mid-Sized Service Organizations

by MOUNIR HILAL, Chief Customer Officer, Upland Software

If you’re like most SMB Professional Services Organizations (PSOs), you’ve probably got a good handle on things like utilization rates, average billing rate, profit per project, and revenue per resource. These metrics are widely used across all PSOs and are relatively easy to capture with any Professional Services software tool. The problem with only focusing on these metrics is that... Read more

First and Foremost

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

I suspect everyone in business believes in setting priorities. And yet we often overlook our most important responsibility. I'm pretty good at setting priorities, if I say so myself. I’ve mastered a host of techniques for figuring out what results are most important, which tasks are most urgent. So I usually know what I ought to be working on. Unfortunately, I don’t like being told... Read more

Have a Nice Day

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

How do you feel towards your work at this moment? I’ve known a lot of people who drag themselves to work each day because they have to, not because they want to. They just keep on keeping on, because they don’t know what else to do. If you sometimes feel that way about your work, here’s a story that may remind you how to do the most important thing in life. --- I walked... Read more

I Don't Know What Will Happen Next

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

I’m in an airplane at 36,000 feet, all my senses on high alert. I’m acutely aware I don’t know what will happen next. How do you react at times like these? Some people get scared. Adrenaline floods their systems. Their hearts pound. They breath faster. Others have a totally different experience. They get excited. And their adrenaline flows, their hearts speed up, their... Read more

The World at Your Service

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

  The other day, driving out of New York City, I got caught in rush-hour traffic. As I merged my car into the stalled traffic at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, I felt a familiar surge of irritation. Irritation with the other drivers just for being there, and with myself for picking such a bad time to head home. But as I sat in the noise and heat and fumes of the tunnel, I had an “... Read more

Client Acquisition: Beyond Hunting and Gathering

by Katherine Jones, Founder, Independent Consulting Services

Industry experts have defined business processes and procedures that consistently differentiate successful service companies from the competitive pack.  These critical areas include the overall management of the business itself (internal to the company) and three that are external, customer facing processes: client acquisition, project management, and client re-engagement.  Here we will... Read more

Clearing the Clogs in Your Emotional Plumbing

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

   I build my business by building relationships. Periodically I go through my address book and take stock of each relationship. I pay special attention to what I appreciate about each person. I call this “taking an appreciation inventory.” An appreciation inventory helps me look at each relationship in my work and in my life not in terms of what it can give me, but as a... Read more

Building Relationships That Make a Difference

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

A year ago I started my own consulting business. Finally! One of my first tasks was to make a list of all the people in my life who might want to hear about my new venture. The first fifty names came easily. Then I found myself struggling to come up with the next fifty. I realized I’d lost touch with most of the people I’d ever worked with. Even the people I cared for most. Even the... Read more

Awesome Service Recovery: The Quickest Route to Client Loyalty

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

One of the most powerful loyalty drivers available to professional services organizations comes from a situation most of us dread--screw ups--the implementation that never worked or the problem fix that never stuck. The things that result in a hassle for you and a headache for your client are marvelous opportunities to turn chicken feathers into chicken soup. Yet, even professional services... Read more

Creating an Appreciation Epidemic

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

  In my last column I introduced you to The Appreciation Project. Its purpose is to increase the amount of appreciation in the world. Just for the fun of it. I described an experiment I used to observe how being appreciated affected me. I was so delighted by the results that I set out to share the experience with others. How would it be for a group of people if the amount of... Read more

A Small Start to Something Big

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

  This spring I declared into existence The Appreciation Project. Its purpose is to increase the total quantity of appreciation in the world. Just for the fun of it.  I’d like to tell you how the project got started. It grew from a simple observation – that appreciation doesn’t exist until you express it. Merely to feel appreciative doesn’t add to the world... Read more

Beyond Project Management - Getting to the Guts of PSA

by Katherine Jones, Founder, Independent Consulting Services

We all know the drill - sell the gig, work with the client on delivery of project pieces, noted by milestones, and bill along the way - always trying to keep track of the time you allotted, the total cost of resources on the project, and the landmarks reached that determine when the client can be billed.. But project-driven companies - large or small - often get tangled in the knickers of the... Read more

Be Wary of the Changing Expectations of Technical Experts

by Jim Alexander, Founder, Alexander Consulting

For organizations offering complex services and solutions, no one has more impact on getting and keeping customers than the technical expert. (1) One senior services executive talked about it in terms of competitive advantage: “Our lifeblood depends on the technical capabilities of our top personnel to differentiate our company from others in the industry. They understand our customers... Read more

Creating Powerful Conversations

by Stuart Scott, President, Guinnen MacRath LLC

You're a consultant. You sell your experience. Your vision. Your ability to get clients to places they've never been before. But what do you actually do? You create powerful conversations. Whatever your specialty, there's only one way to sell your ideas and your vision - through conversation. Sales conversations break new ground and generate new possibilities. Negotiation conversations produce... Read more