IBM recently announced a new line of “standardized” service offerings. ComputerWorld has an article today expressing some concerns from customers, who wonder whether they will continue receive the same level of service from IBM as in the past.
From the article:
But [Christopher Smith, IT director for the Bath Central School District in Bath, N.Y.] questioned whether the school district — which has spent $1.5 million over the past three years on a converged voice and data network, with IBM as its systems integrator — would still get enough hands-on guidance from the IBM workers who know his specific needs.
“The beauty of working with IBM Global Services has been having the same main contact person the entire time,” he said. “I hope that wouldn’t change with the new system.”
IBM didn’t release pricing information on the two networking services. But Bob Djurdjevic, an analyst at Annex Research in Scottsdale, Ariz., predicted that overall costs will be reduced for customers and that projects will be completed more quickly.
“Rather than reinvent the wheel, you can put together the basics,” Djurdjevic said. He added, though, that the new approach will impose a large cultural change on IBM’s IT services workers and sales force.
Wu Zhou, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said that IBM’s service product strategy appears to be the first on the market, although she added that “the idea is bubbling up in the industry.”
As I have written before, if you are a consulting company (or services group within a software vendor), now is the time to get with this program. Many (if not most) consulting engagements are based around a core set of activities which are similar across clients. Inefficient (i.e.: totally open-ended) consulting arrangements can be overly expensive for the customer, and productized services present an antidote to that problem. Simple English translation: if you are a services vendor, do this now or your competitors will beat you to it!
If you decide to productize services into discrete standard offerings, consider these three important issues:
1. How will you define the productized service offerings?
2. How do you get your internal staff on board with it?
3. How do you avoid alienating customers who demand open-ended (and expensive) engagements with no restrictions?