Ok, I get it. I was a bit easy on professional services as a whole in my last piece. Many of you who have worked in or around the industry for a while would likely tell me that I was giving way too much credit and that I completely ignored some of the horror stories. Well, that’s why we’re here right now – to shed some of the negative light on the topic in the interest of fair and equal reporting.
Professional services firms and contractors are not always worth their weight in gold. To briefly review some of the cons:
- They can be hopelessly tied to “scope” which makes it tough to make them think outside the box or be agile when course/direction/plans change
- They have an extremely wide talent range (especially the larger “big four” firms – quality control is just extremely difficult when it’s all a numbers/margin game and you’re trying to employ/deploy several hundred thousand people)
- They are very costly, with many typical bill rates falling in the $150/hr range for general/basic services (which, annualized at a roughly 2000 hour working year, is a whopping $300k!)
- They typically like to push “cookie cutter” templates as a solution to any defined business problem out of ease of create/adaptation (which, most of the time, take more rework to retrofit to your needs than you would have invested simply starting from scratch)
- They can be generally arrogant since they are (allegedly) in a position of “knowledge” or “subject matter expertise” (in other words, they think they’re smarter than you because you’d be hopelessly lost without them and are generally ignorant on whatever topic you’ve retained them for)
- They can (and do usually) fabricate false qualifications in order to “win the work” and may often times “oversell” or “underdeliver” based on a misunderstanding in the work that is to be completed from the buyer’s, seller’s, and deliverer’s standpoint (never a good thing when those three opinions are not closely aligned!)
Some people love them, some hate them. Either way – we all need them to get by from time to time. So here’s to making the best of it! Perhaps I will soon divulge some more information on “how to optimize” the work/results you get from your professional services providers. Especially, you know, since I’ve now been on both sides of the desk and I might be in a decent position to weigh in on that? Hmmm…
Til Next Time,
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of professional services, contractors, and staff augmentation. I think there are definite benefits as well as drawbacks to relying on this type of labor in your organization. I’ll start off today by analyzing some of the pros. I do promise to come back in a few days though and review “the case against” as well though.
Professional services firms and workers are largely very capable, talented, and respectful individuals who serve a great purpose in their part of the organization (or at least in the area of the business that has retained/hired them to perform a particular function).
In short, here is a list of pro’s I have for professional services:
- They can be specialized in very specific areas to add value to very detailed functions immediately (e.g. a specific technology, industry, location, function)
- They are flexible and can often show up on a moment’s notice (sometimes even same-day)
- They can and will travel in case you need them deployed to a different location (or locations) that is not their “home base”
- They do not bear many of the costs an internal employee would bear (e.g. health care, retirement contribution matches, training)
- They can be negotiated to relatively affordable rates, especially when you can have different firms/groups bidding on the same work
- They have contracts that are generally tied to specific time frames so you are not stuck employing them indefinitely even if their function or role is no longer needed
- They are completely expendable and can often be terminated on extremely short notice (in the event there has been something happen that requires this)
It’s not always a match made in heaven though. Again, stay tuned for my “case against” professional services in the near future.
Til Next Time,
Wednesday’s article on vacation made me really start to consider vacation a bit more… Figured I should craft something on how to maximize vacation since I clearly overanalyze vacation to wit’s end.
Some people are the type that like to take extravagant vacations and totally disconnect themselves from reality. No work email, no phones, no connectivity, no distractions. I really respect those people. I’m certainly not one of them though.
The way I see it, I would much rather stay somewhat connected and take more frequent expeditions that are shorter in nature and cheaper (so I can afford more of them). As long as I can stay relatively up to date on work email and other areas that could get behind, I’m typically able to reconnect and pick back up where I left off without missing a beat (aside from the couple days I was “gone”).
Said another way – if I were to tell you that in any given year, you get 25 days of vacation, how would you most like to spend them? Many people I know are of the opinion that you should take off longer periods of time (say, 3 weeks at Christmas, a week in the summer, and another week perhaps over spring break, especially if you have kids). Some people, though, see 25 days off as the ability to take every other Friday off. And there’s something to be said for that. Every other week is a 4 day week in that scenario. True – you don’t get to take off much time around the holidays – but you can surely isolate ways to prepare for that and still enjoy the family time (and, let’s be honest, some of us only need a few days with our family at a time before it starts to stress us out more than work itself).
It’s all an exercise in marginal utility. The person that takes one small trip every month will inevitably have slightly less enjoyment, but they won’t have to wait as long between trips. The person that has a blowout every 6 to 12 months is sure to have more “fun”, but how quickly does that wear off before you’re anxiously counting down until the next one?
Maybe I’m a simple man, but sign me up for the more frequent, less grandiose vacations so that I have a good cadence of always having something nice to look forward to in the not-so-distant future?
What about you?
Til Next Time,
I came across a great article today on the topic of making sure you use your vacation. I’ve been a horrible offender of lost vacation in the past. It’s something I really try to work on. I always worry that my time away from the office will put me at an inherent disadvantage when I return though (i.e. if I’m gone for a certain time and nobody really misses me – doesn’t that render me totally replaceable?). All worrying aside, the article is a good read and I wanted to pass along for you to consider!
Perhaps the most hilarious/my favorite line from the author: “If you’re lucky they will fire you and you can sue them.”
Til Next Time,
TechCruch published an article today informing the world of SPG’s intent to deploy robot butlers to selected hotels as a trial. Being a big fan of SPG and of butler services, I was naturally intrigued. I think the idea of using butlers to perform overly manual tasks (i.e. bring me a toothbrush from the inventory closet when I call down to the front desk to let them know I forgot mine) is a great idea and has a ton of splash factor for a forward-thinking brand.
The article itself has been met with substantive backlash though over social media. Apparently some people are of the opinion that this is just the first step on some long road to robots ruling the world. I find that concept asinine and would challenge those opponents to take SPG for their word that this isn’t a “cost cutting” measure – but rather a way to add a high tech component to an otherwise boring task and also free up their human capital to provide more focus on a differentiated customer experience.
What are your thoughts? Any issues with a “BOT-LR” (get it?) bringing you a toiletry you forgot?
Til Next Time,
I love sweets. Don’t get me wrong. But the frequency with which they are planted into workplace break rooms is alarming. If you’re working on a team of 10-15 people, I think it’s safe to assume that once a month – someone will have some birthday celebration element (cookies, cakes, candy) and you’ll be morally obligated (read: peer pressured) into having one. And that’s fine. But the problem is that your business partners have teams with birthdays too. And their “overflow” sweets will undoubtedly find themselves in a break room near you. By the time this transitive property propagates out a few more iterations – you’re basically tempted with sweets at least two days a week, 52 weeks a year (even more around the holidays; yikes).
So what am I saying? Not to stop the celebrations. Can we just be a bit more mindful of healthy options or try to better consolidate the madness of what/when things are brought in (7 layer chocolate cakes may not be the best idea for 10 AM meeting)?
Til Next Time,
I’m sure I’ve posted many times about the power of recognition, but I saw a slice of an info graphic the other day on Linked In that made me compelled to reinforce the message here.
I recently started an initiative where I am recognizing coworkers of mine (typically via email but sometimes over the phone, face to face, and through other outlets) for positive praise they receive from customers or coworkers. I have never felt so proud of my team and it is amazing to get optimistic, positive feedback in return from everyone involved. It really does make a difference to recognize people for their accomplishments.
A lot of times, due to the operational nature of most businesses, too much time and energy is focused on “what’s broken” or “what we need to do to be more efficient/better/faster/leaner”. Where are the props for the jobs well done? I really think it’s time that we as a culture did a better job of rewarding success rather than focusing on failures (and how to “fix” them).
Til Next Time,
Last week, Oracle announced its plans to buy TOA Technologies, solidifying their capabilities and technology in the (mobile) workforce management space. Having spent a large part of my career dabbling in both technologies (traditional Oracle stack products as well as some of the TOA solutions), I am excited to see what this acquisition means for both companies.
The realist in me understands that through acquisition, TOA will likely still have many key players of their management team involved and invested in the solution and the future prosperity of the brand/software – but that a bit of the custom/personal feel to a solution like TOA’s ETAdirect will definitely be lost in the corporate madness that can exist at an empire as large as Oracle.
Time shall tell though. In the mean time, I wish nothing but the best for both brands!
Til Next Time,