Making the Move to High Value Consulting

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1 A Service Performance Insight White Paper Service Compass: Charting the Course to Professional Service Excellence Transitioning from Staff Augmentation to Professional Services 2013 Service Performance Insight 6260 Winter Hazel Drive Liberty Township, OH USA

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction... 1 Market Challenges... 1 Which business model is right for your firm?... 2 The Four Services Strategies... 3 Business Model Comparison... 5 Choosing the Right Business Model... 6 Future State Changes Course... 7 The Challenge... 7 Solution Considerations... 8 The PSA Solution Clarizen... 9 PSA Improves Performance Conclusions About Service Performance Insight FIGURES Figure 1: Changing Industry Dynamics Intensify PS Pressure... 2 Figure 2: Four Types of Service Providers... 3 Figure 3: The Four Services Strategies... 4 Figure 4: Pick your space and own it!... 5 Figure 5: Future State Timeline... 7 Figure 6: Clarizen Connecting Islands of Activities... 8 Figure 7: Clarizen and Salesforce.com: KPI's and Dashboards... 9 TABLES Table 1: Business Model Comparison... 6 Table 2: Business Model Metric Comparison... 6 Table 3: PSA Offers Significant Organizational Benefits... 10

3 INTRODUCTION Both the stakes and the ante to play in the hyper-competitive professional service market have been raised. To succeed, PS executives must constantly evaluate their strategy, business model and systems to ensure they are the best-positioned, best-known and most admired firm in their market space. As the professional services (PS) market moves into another growth phase, organizations of all sizes are reevaluating their business models. Many venerable firms have found that the unique skills and expertise which brought growth and prosperity early in the 21 st century became commoditized during the recession. Once great Professional Service firms have found themselves stumbling into staff augmentation as their largest clients exert price pressure through vendor service agreements. Regardless of how talented the members of the professional services firm are, without the right strategy and the appropriate business model, the pace of market change can deliver a deadly blow. New low-cost global offshore service providers have disrupted the status quo, undermining bill rates and differentiation through labor arbitrage. So what does it take to survive and thrive in 2013? In this whitepaper Service Performance Insight (SPI Research) addresses market forces and strategic alternatives to help professional service firms determine the best strategy and business model going forward. SPI analyzes key metrics for three business models: 1) staff augmentation, 2) IT consulting and 3) management consulting, to reveal the impact of strategic decisions. This white paper uses the results of the SPI Research 2013 Professional Services Maturity Benchmark, based on data from 234 organizations representing over 50,000 consultants, to highlight both the opportunities and challenges facing PS executives. Future State, with a 30 year history, found both its profit margins and value compromised by vendor service agreements. SPI Research charts Future State s journey from staff augmentation to repositioning as a high value consultancy. Future State implemented Clarizen, a SaaS-based Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool, to help it insure a successful transformation. MARKET CHALLENGES The service landscape is fluid, and despite two years of significant growth and profitability in the PS market, challenges grow: Global competition low cost offshore and near-shore providers generate price pressure and act as a catalyst for commoditizing services and bill rates; Clients increasing procurement sophistication desire to move more risk to service providers through fixed price and value-priced service level agreements. Vendor service agreements govern staff augmentation forcing rate Service Performance Insight Page 1

4 commoditization. Heightened regulatory and revenue recognition policies require greater service provider transparency; and, A rapidly changing technology environment new mobile, social and cloud paradigms create increased project complexity at the same time project teams and project durations are compressed due to budget pressures, powerful new technologies and agile software development techniques. Figure 1: Changing Industry Dynamics Intensify PS Pressure Source: Service Performance Insight, March 2013 WHICH BUSINESS MODEL IS RIGHT FOR YOUR FIRM? There are four basic strategies for service providers based on their value to their clients and the uniqueness of the services they provide (Figure 2). Price and value increase based on importance to the client and uniqueness of the service and skills required to deliver it: 1. Vendors lead with speed and cost advantages with limited differentiation in the services they offer. Vendors may be geographically, horizontally, technology or skills focused. 2. Specialists focus on a unique market niche or specialize by technology of industry vertical. They bring unique knowledge and skills but may be very small boutiques. They may be characterized as an inch wide and a mile deep based on their depth of domain knowledge and experience. Examples of specialists include firms focused on specific verticals such as retail price optimization or technologies such as business intelligence or energy trading. Service Performance Insight Page 2

5 Figure 2: Four Types of Service Providers Source: Alexander Consulting, Total solution providers are differentiated from vendors by their reach and scale. They command higher rates than smaller vendors and are a good choice for large enterprise clients with complex issues that require large, global, multi-disciplinary knowledge and expertise. 4. Game changers are typically highly specialized firms who focus on transformative strategies to enable their clients to gain a competitive advantage. These highly specialized firms possess unique knowledge and skills. They differentiate by only hiring the best and brightest. These firms typically excel in thought leadership and possess unique intellectual property. They command the highest bill rates and produce the highest profit but their ability to scale is limited. THE FOUR SERVICES STRATEGIES To be competitive, it is important for service providers to understand where they currently play and the skills and competencies they need to develop to be the dominant player in their category. Each type of service provider has its own unique strategy for growth, client satisfaction and profit (Figure 3): 1. Vendors are often characterized as lean and mean. They must have strong selling competencies and be frugal, cost conscious and efficient. Since their average margins are the lowest of the categories they must focus intently on resource management, high billable utilization and being able to quickly ramp new consultants or subcontractors. Many vendors are staffing firms or outsourcers with high turnover; they specialize in placing Service Performance Insight Page 3

6 bodies quickly to fulfill client needs. They require technology and efficiency to support their high-volume transactional business style. They concentrate on speed and making it easy for clients to buy. They lead with price advantages. Figure 3: The Four Services Strategies Source: Alexander Consulting, Total solution providers differentiate themselves by their breadth and depth. Clients believe they will help minimize risk and can handle big, global problems. They must have strong, mature business processes in all disciplines to capture business, build client relationships and deliver large, global complex projects. Clients are looking for one throat to choke and onestop shopping, client relationship management is key. 3. Specialists are typically boutique firms that specialize by industry or business process. Their challenge is to become known for their depth of knowledge and experience within the markets they serve. They typically have a highly specialized hiring profile so attracting and retaining staff is critical. They must constantly stay ahead of the curve by establishing their unique knowledge through tools, methods and intellectual property. Clients are looking for unique insights and highly specialized knowledge & experience. Price is not an issue. 4. Game changers work in the stratosphere of mission-critical, high risk problems. They typically sell at the CXO or board level. They deliver unique insights as a catalyst for client change. Their brand, integrity and reputation are based on hiring the best and the brightest and delivering transformational client results. They may partner with their clients and publish Service Performance Insight Page 4

7 extensively. Talent management, marketing and branding are critical success factors. Success comes from building a differentiated position within the target market. The task is to fully optimize the firm to dominate the space in which it plays (Figure 4). For example, vendors win through cost and efficiency advantages. They require integrated business applications to support their transaction-oriented business style. Speed, low cost and efficiency are key. Figure 4: Pick your space and own it! Source: Service Performance Insight, March 2013 On the other hand, high value consultancies win based on developing unique skills and competency. They seek to be thought leaders within a narrow niche. They lead with specialized, high touch, high value solutions. Danger comes when service providers unknowingly straddle different business models. For example, having a high cost structure is a going out of business strategy for vendors while having a transactional, product-oriented selling style wreaks havoc in the specialist business model. BUSINESS MODEL COMPARISON Staff augmentation firms typically operate under a Vendor Service agreement with predefined roles, skills and rates. They deliver services or talent in response to a work or job order which specifies the location, timing and duration of the assignment (Table 1). Typically, the nucleus of staff augmentation is a two desk model where a sales person is paired with a recruiter; or a three-desk model which includes a candidate sourcer. This model is built around quickly finding jobs and filling them. The client is responsible for the project and governs the methods, tools and resources used to accomplish the task. Service Performance Insight Page 5

8 Table 1: Business Model Comparison Business Model Staff Augmentation High Value Consulting Contract Model Vendor Service Agreement Master Service Agreement Work Description Work or Job Order Statement of Work Pricing Sales Model Project Responsibility Delivery Model Cost Plus Telesales - Two desk Sales + recruiting Deliver required skills for committed time Primarily on-site client s methods and tools Time and Materials, Fixed Price, Deliverables Dedicated sales or senior partner-led Responsible for business outcomes Virtual project teams strong methodology and IP Source: Service Performance Insight, March 2013 The high value consulting model is quite different the primary contract vehicle is a Master Service Agreement which outlines terms and conditions in combination with a statement of work which outlines the requirements and deliverables. Consulting is most often priced either time and materials or fixed price. SPI s research shows slightly more than 50% of contracts are time and materials based. Solution selling is performed by senior partners or dedicated solution sales specialists. The service provider is responsible for managing the project to ensure business outcomes are achieved. CHOOSING THE RIGHT BUSINESS MODEL To better understand and explore which business model a firm should choose SPI Research has provided comparative metrics for the three types of business models (Table 2). Table 2: Business Model Metric Comparison Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Staff Augment. IT Consulting Mgmt. Consulting No. of firms Annual growth 13.7% 12.8% 9.2% % of employees billable or chargeable 77.1% 75.6% 75.0% Recommend company to friends/family Employee annual attrition 9.2% 7.2% 6.6% Billable Utilization 77.9% 69.2% 70.8% Annual revenue per billable consultant (k) $180 $206 $203 Annual revenue per employee (k) $154 $167 $169 Service Performance Insight Page 6

9 Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Staff Augment. IT Consulting Mgmt. Consulting EBITDA 12.2% 16.9% 15.6% Integrated PSA 66.7% 44.9% 41.7% FUTURE STATE CHANGES COURSE Source: Service Performance Insight, March 2013 Future State is a 30-year old professional services firm transitioning from staff augmentation to high value consulting. Originally founded as Techprose, the firm grew slowly but steadily from a group of independent consultants to a thriving niche market staffing company with a focus on documentation and training. Figure 5: Future State Timeline Source: Service Performance Insight, March 2013 With the advent of Y2K and the dot.com boom, the staffing industry exploded. At the same time, larger staffing providers and vendor service agreements starting undermining rates and margins leading up to the recession when the bottom fell out of the market. THE CHALLENGE Based on intensifying rate pressure and competition from larger staffing firms, Future State shifted its corporate strategy to provide more strategic consulting services in addition to staff augmentation. Future State decided to make the move to higher value consulting services and formed the practices division in But Future State needed tools to support its growth plans. It was winning projects but missing profit and net income targets. The organization was running at top speed but things were falling through the cracks; project success and client satisfaction were achieved by team heroics, not sustainable processes. There was no way Future State could continue to successfully scale with its current business application infrastructure. To become a more mature professional services organization, FutureState had to: Service Performance Insight Page 7

10 put tools and processes in place to manage a portfolio of projects; increase visibility into real-time activity and into inflight performance at the project and portfolio levels; increase repeatability and consistency across projects; and, increase control over project gross margins. SOLUTION CONSIDERATIONS Future State used a number of home-grown systems to run its PS business. Unfortunately, they were out-of-date, inefficient, and offered no integration into any of the financial management solutions used, making critical information visible only at the department level. Future State implemented SalesForce.com for client relationship management (CRM) in May 2011, so it was critical for the Professional Service Automation (PSA) solution to easily integrate with it. The PSA solution needed to provide more than task management, with a global view of projects from any angle. Management needed visibility into the whole picture at both the project and portfolio level. Future State implemented Clarizen PSA in January of 2012 and has been using Service Performance Insight s Professional Services Maturity Benchmark to help make the transition from a traditional staffing company to a professional services organization with a broader service offering, giving it the ability to scale and grow through better visibility into projects and a more repeatable structure that is still flexible enough to tailor projects to meet ever-changing client needs (Figure 6). Figure 6: Clarizen Connecting Islands of Activities Source: Clarizen, March 2013 Service Performance Insight Page 8

11 Clarizen has helped Future State increase visibility and performance by: providing real-time access to better project financial data; roll-up data based on project, division, industry and customer; helping reduce risk and project budget overages; and, providing a forward view into performance, rather than the rearview mirror approach provided by prior financial systems. THE PSA SOLUTION CLARIZEN Founded in 2005, Clarizen has gained market exposure by delivering PSA solutions that help make employees and companies work better, smarter and faster. Clarizen users can efficiently manage and complete the highest-value tasks on time and on budget, with direct visibility into the work being accomplished. Clarizen was built to easily integrate with other professional services solutions such as Salesforce.com (CRM) and Intacct (ERP), providing greater visibility across PSOs (Figure 7). Figure 7: Clarizen and Salesforce.com: KPI's and Dashboards Source: Clarizen, March 2013 Clarizen offers a robust, cloud-based PSA solution with functionality such as resource management, time and expense capture, project management, collaboration and other capabilities. PSOs like Future State use Clarizen to: provide faster and more accurate time reporting data; handle multiple pay rates; view all projects as a portfolio; and, analyze project financial data. Service Performance Insight Page 9

12 PSA IMPROVES PERFORMANCE After 15 years of Service Performance Insight research on PSO performance, the metrics surrounding PSA speak for themselves. The 2013 Professional Service Maturity benchmark provides an example of how PSOs have improved performance in all areas when PSA has been deployed. PSA provides the necessary visibility to efficiently run projects with fewer overhead resources, resulting in better resource management and profit. Table 3 shows a few of the most important metrics and how adopting a PSA can affect them. While increased billable utilization tends to be a primary measurement, there are many others positively impacted by these applications. PSOs can manage the business with less administrative overhead and deliver more projects on time, driving better financial performance. Organizations that use PSA have superior revenue per consultant and per employee, and demonstrate significantly higher profits. Table 3: PSA Offers Significant Organizational Benefits Key Performance Indicator (KPI) PSA Used No PSA Used Advantage Employee billable utilization 73.2% 67.6% 8% % of Employees billable or chargeable 75.4% 74.1% 2% Project margin 36.5% 34.6% 5% Annual revenue per billable consultant (k) $214 $188 14% Annual revenue per employee (k) $174 $153 14% EBITDA per employee (k) $82.6 $ % Source: Service Performance Insight, March 2013 The net result of implementing PSA is it helps PSOs better understand performance what they do well, and what they do not. A critical component of change is to understand its impact on the organization. What change is possible given the people, processes and financial infrastructure of the organization? PSA helps align the organization around its people (skills, costs), processes (existing and new) and capital (cost versus revenue) to better understand the highest impact improvement areas to start the transformation. PSA can help an organization align new processes around the staff required to fulfill them. The skills required have specific costs associated with each individual, so cost of service can be determined. This detailed knowledge helps the organization build pricing, resource, capacity and revenue models. A detailed analysis of this information can help the PSO determine risk, as well as form a fact-based foundation for decision-making. Service Performance Insight Page 10

13 CONCLUSIONS The transformation from staff augmentation to management consulting is not an easy one. The skill sets required to succeed in these business models are very different, as are the sales and delivery models. When firms look to make this move, there are many aspects they must consider. However, the move can be a lucrative one, bringing higher levels of profitability and sustaining competitive differentiation. Future State has been successful in its transformation from a staff augmentation firm to one offering higher level consulting services. The shift has been guided by a solid understanding of client needs as well as an emphasis on structured business processes. Actionable and accurate information has been a catalyst for exposing strengths and weaknesses. Future State s implementation of Clarizen gave them the information to to better manage projects, clients and costs. Integrated resource management has helped them improve utilization levels, and Clarizen s integration with Salesforce.com has improved visibility and hand-offs from sales to service delivery. Clarizen has increased its market visibility by giving project driven organizations the tools necessary to more efficiently and effectively manage project or services driven work. Part of their strength is their ability to seamlessly integrate with leading client relationship management and financial management tools, providing executives with the organizational visibility necessary to make effective decisions for their organization. Service Performance Insight Page 11

14 About Service Performance Insight R. David Hofferberth, PE, Service Performance Insight founder, managing director and licensed professional engineer has served as an industry analyst, market consultant and product director. He is focused on the services economy, especially productivity and technologies that help organizations perform at their highest capacity. Dave s background includes application and analytical tool development to support business decision-making processes. He has more than 30 years of domestic and international experience with firms including the Aberdeen Group and Oracle. Contact Hofferberth at or Jeanne Urich, Service Performance Insight managing director, is a management consultant specializing in improvement and transformation for project- and service-oriented organizations. She has been a corporate officer and leader of the worldwide service organizations of Vignette, Blue Martini and Clarify, responsible for leading the growth of their professional services, education, account management and alliances organizations. Jeanne is a world-renowned thought-leader, speaker and author on all aspects of Professional Services. Contact Urich at or Carey Bettencourt, Service Performance Insight managing director, is a management consultant who specializes in improvement and transformation for project-driven professional services organizations. She is an experienced change management leader, expert in helping clients develop high-performing teams that deliver increased utilization, profit and customer satisfaction. Carey has more than 20 years of domestic and international experience in leadership roles with software firms including Oracle, ChannelPoint and J.D. Edwards. Contact Bettencourt at or Service Performance Insight (SPI Research) is a global research, consulting and training organization dedicated to helping professional service organizations (PSOs) make quantum improvements in productivity and profit. In 2007, SPI developed the PS Maturity Model as a strategic planning and management framework. It is now the industry-leading performance improvement tool used by over 6,000 service and project-oriented organizations to chart their course to service excellence. SPI provides a unique depth of operating experience combined with unsurpassed analytic capability. We not only diagnose areas for improvement but also provide the business value of change. We then work collaboratively with our clients to create new management processes to transform and ignite performance. Visit for more information on Service Performance Insight, LLC Service Performance Insight Page 12

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