3 key questions to ask before starting a services organization

At some point, most start-up software and hardware vendors contemplate building out a professional services offering to accelerate adoption, aid deployment, and/or become an additional revenue stream.  While the reasons for considering building out a services organization may differ, one point holds true; Selling and delivering services has  implications that may cause considerable unintended consequences without a strong mission. Here are 3 critical questions that should be answered before heading down the services path!

1. Enablement or revenue focused?

This may seem like a simple question  to answer (Yes, your CFO always says revenue focused) but it’s amazing how quickly mission creep can occur in either instance.  If your mission is to stay focused on products and adoption of them, then defining this early helps keep resources deployed with total customer and product success in mind.  You’ll have less focus on building out resource scale and more on product consumption collateral and outcome.  Contrarily, if your goal is to build out services as you would another product or solution offering and generate maximum revenues, it helps to build your organization accordingly (I’ll discuss this in more detail in another post).  Aligning resources to produce collateral that allows less experienced resources to deliver becomes a big part of the mission.  Again, a great place to incorporate this detail is in the mission statement so that there is no confusion.

2. Product specific or product agnostic?

Before standing up a services organization, it’s important to consider “What will I be when I grow up” questions.  Are you building your services organization to act as an enablement arm to your product deployments and adoption?  Are you considering this as a way to help rid the world of the dreaded “shelfware”?  Great, then it’s time to make sure your services portfolio and IP development is focused on this.  Does your product(s) have many complex relationships with other vendor products and ecosystem that require services that are agnostic to the marketplace?  While this is a broader approach, it’s still key to have a strong roadmap to show customers your plans to develop services around the top vendors in the market.  Since it’s difficult to develop all of the offerings necessary to be viewed as agnostic at the onset, it’s critical to have the services roadmap.   Neither approach is a wrong answer, but determining this helps crystallize the mission statement and rules of engagement with not only your organization and your ecosystem vendors, but that of your partner networks as well.

3. Internal team or affiliate network?

Will you build your own bench of resources and own the risks involved or will you rely on partners and affiliates to perform services on your behalf?  While this may change over time, it’s helpful for financial considerations as well as partner messaging early on.  If your plan is to grow organically and internally, that may reduce actual expansion and growth, but provide a more specifically skilled team tailored to product and approach.  If you plan to use a partner network, it also helps determine details like sub-contracting rate cards, training plans,  bi-lateral services agreements, and a myriad of other partner specific collateral that you’ll need.  You’ll also have to consider how you maintain quality as your partner network scales rapidly.

While there are many more questions to consider while beginning the journey towards a professional services organization, these are a couple of the key decisions that helps create a solid mission statement that keeps you on target. Your finance team, sales team and internal technical resources will be happier when the goals are clear.  Partners and the ecosystem will remain loyal when your mission is clear.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved.  Good Luck!

Have questions about your services organization?  Reach me on Twitter @BriVirtual

About the Author

Brian Gagnon has over 20 years of consulting experience in the field as well as building, leading, and operating technology-based professional services organizations.  He spends his time working with technology start-ups as a technology evangelist, business leader, and services champion.  When he’s not talking tech with businesses or on the ski slopes, he’s most likely traveling, enjoying the outdoors or exploring on his motorcycle

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