Everyone’s got challenges deploying IT technology. On top of that, IT organizations often don’t have a good idea on where they want to go, and where they are today. Professional services organizations can come to the rescue with a slew of offerings to help them out. But they are challenged in marketing and describing what they are capable of doing.
I’m not trying to be harsh on the marketing groups, as I’ve worked in managing and marketing IT services in the past, and it’s quite difficult to describe services capabilities. But I wish they could do a better job so more customers can realize the benefits. If you can realize the value of new technology quickly (improve time-to-value), the cost of services can be recouped many times over. However, the marketing message often has been hard to absorb.
What are transformation services?
Let’s take a look at datasheets for transformation services which are services used to transform an IT organization to adopt a new technology or process. They all say something similar:
- Find out where you are
- Find out where you want to go
- Do some gap analysis
- Figure out how to make the transformation
To be fair, most services organizations have some similar services framework, so they are marketed in a similar way. Cisco has PPDIOO (Prepare, Plan, Design, Implement, Operate, and Optimize), VMware has strategize, assess, design, deploy, optimize, and other firms have something that smells the same.
It’s as though you took the same marketing template and did a search-and-replace to replace a placeholder keyword with SDN, SDDC, networking, cloud, mobility or some other key infrastructure technology. In practice it can be almost anything in IT such as ERP or big data. If you really want some grins, I bet that descriptions for human potential transformation workshops at some new-age retreats are written in the same way. (“where are you in your life? What are your goals? How can you reach your potential?”)
I admit that once you talk to the services staff, they are not "calling it in." They are experts with hard to attain certifications such as VCDX (VMware Certified Design Expert), CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert), etc. Once you engage the services consultants, they can examine your requirements and carry on a deep conversation to customize the services for you. That's why it's so difficult to explain what they do, since service engagements are tailored to each customer. But how does that get distilled into a datasheet?
It’s not easy to describe a complex services engagement in a pithy datasheet. When services organizations describe technical deployment services, it can get very specific about what they do, and it’s easy to figure out precisely what you’ll get and the value realized (i.e., I get software or hardware XYZ installed in 4 days). Higher-level services, such as transformation workshops or assessment services are hard to describe.
What I wish services marketing would do better is to:
- Describe clear connections between technology, people, and processes and how they will change
- Describe specifically how business goals and IT can be aligned
- Provide good descriptions in case studies
Some firms do that well, but many fall short. The new HP Workplace and Mobility Transformation Workshop does a good job since it provides good examples of specific questions that consultants ask. Cisco's description of Cloud Enablement Services for Enterprises is clear since it uses Cisco Domain Ten as a framework and the details are very specific about how they address cloud, virtualization, and applications.
On the other hand, the following description doesn’t help me a lot. I keep it anonymous and slightly modified to protect the accused:
Description of Transformation Workshop from Vendor X
- Uses a set of pre-workshop questions to assess your current and desired state
- Provides a gap analysis compared against your industry peers
- Includes a session to review benchmark results, validate their recommendations, gain consensus, and determine the next steps with your executives
- Documents findings and priorities in a report
Value of Services
Most IT end-user companies have tons of unrealized potential, and services can unleash them. If your company has little potential, then you really need some help, and services can get you on the launchpad (I hope you’re not one of those low potential companies, since everyone’s above average, right? :) )
Guidance for IT Practitioners
My guidance to IT practitioners is to:
- Read services datasheets to get an idea of the capabilities, but don’t assume they explain the whole story.
- Engage someone in the services team – it can be in a vendor, a partner (VAR), or a pure services organization. Start a conversation.
- Think carefully about how the ROI of the new technology can get a boost by leveraging a services engagement.
- Understand that transformation services are useful. You need to know the desired state. Without it, as the Cheshire Cat said, “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”