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A strange thing happened as I was going into my final preparations for this year’s State of Professional Services webinar: a global pandemic.

This reminded me, among many other things, of two awesome history quotes:

“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” General Dwight D. Eisenhower

What’s good for the master planners of, respectively, German war thinking prior to World War I and of the Normandy invasion in 1944, also turned out to be good for the planners of the TSIA State of Professional Services 2020 webinar. 

Days prior to the webinar, we decided to pivot and use the opportunity to leverage our community to collect real time information on the impacts of Covid-19, specifically for the professional services industry. We are taking advantage of every tool and learning from every community we have at our disposal to crowd-source information on how our members are responding to this crisis and adapting.

Truly, our battle plan for the year, like that of every business and every person on the planet, didn’t survive first contact with this new enemy. But, because of the capabilities we’ve built over the years, we are able to adapt and produce actionable insights. And THAT – in a nutshell – is also what we’re seeing at this point across the technology professional services community. In some very unexpected ways, this is the most encouraging and heartening thing I’ve seen in my career. Let me explain.

In addition to presenting (a somewhat modified version of) the planned State of Professional Services content (the white paper version of which, you can also download), we specifically ran three polling questions to a record number of participants who attended the live webinar. 

We also encouraged participants to share their comments, observations and best practices. They submitted a record number of comments and questions, resulting in probably the best indication available anywhere right now on early indications of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on PS.

Polling question #1: As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, is your company renegotiating SOWs or other PS Contracts?

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Early indications are that, for the most part, SOWs are not changing at the moment, but that the situation is highly fluid. With changes under consideration, the script could flip on this from mostly status quo to mostly changed and this could happen in a hurry.

Based on participant comments, customers and suppliers alike are displaying a lot of flexibility and grace at this point in the crisis. There’s less legal negotiation and more “human to human” interaction aimed at helping all parties get what they need and stay in business.

That said, comments indicate that you should already be using Force Majeure clauses in your SOWs. Comments also indicate that delivery type (onsite, remote) should be left generic in agreements to the extent possible, allowing the supplier maximum flexibility to deliver as required by the circumstances.

Polling question #2: In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is your company continuing to deploy PS consultants on site?

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Only 5% of the webinar attendees are continuing to deploy consultants onsite without restrictions. The rest are either ending all onsite deployment (60%) or are only doing so under specific restrictions or under given circumstances (35%).

Polling question #3: Our ability to deliver PS remotely or virtually is...

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We were overwhelmed with thoughtful comments and questions on these interrelated poll questions. The first observation, both from the comments and the survey responses, is that the PS industry, by and large, has already overwhelmingly transitioned to remote delivery across large parts of the market.

Encouraging too is the fact, according to comments received, that customers who used to insist on onsite delivery are now expressing openness to remote delivery. Openness to remote delivery and ability to deliver remotely will ultimately be self-reinforcing principles, particularly as openness to remote delivery becomes more of a preference for remote delivery, with its advantages in efficiency, lower cost, and others.

These tendencies are certainly not without exception. Not all customers are ready for marked increases in virtual or remote delivery, so movement there will have to be a process, as suggested above.

According to the comments, companies with substantial public sector (particularly Department of Defense) businesses are struggling to find solutions since the work required in that segment is cloud-resistant and mostly onsite.

In the coming days and weeks, TSIA will be further analyzing the responses we’re receiving to quick polls and other real time data collection efforts we are engaging in. And, we’ll also just be listening.

Based on what we know so far, we’d offer the following insights:

  1. If you haven’t started an initiative to investigate the best ways to deliver more of your professional services virtually, you need to start that now … yesterday. There’s no time to waste. This is partly about virtual technology, but it’s more fundamentally about how you build, sell, AND deliver your professional services. Virtual needs to be not just an acceptable alternative to being onsite, it needs to be thought of as the way PS is going to happen for the most part and for the foreseeable future. 
  2. If you’re already heavily invested in the virtualization of professional services and feel like it’s a core competency or even a differentiator for you, step on the sales and marketing gas pedal. Getting the message out to your prospects and customers that you are ahead of the power curve will enhance your positioning and, frankly, make them feel better and more secure in an uncertain time.
  3. Take a deep breath and grant some grace to your employers, employees and customers. Putting it mildly, everyone is having to make massive adjustments both at work and at home. Though we’re surrounded by upheaval, change and uncertainty, we’re also being given a uniquely shared and unprecedented experience that ought to be a huge generator of humanity, good will, and sense of a common mission to keep everyone safe, healthy, and in business.

Based on what I’m hearing from TSIA members and webinar participants, this is exactly what’s happening. Millions of us who are not accustomed to working remotely are now doing so … in kitchens, bedrooms, basements. Grace is being given all over the world for everything from disorderly “offices” with dogs and kids peeking in, to project start dates having to be delayed temporarily as vendor and customer work together trying to help each other achieve their business goals while surviving a pandemic.

Even if the plan is out the window at the first sign of disruption, the benefits of planning will never go away, and we just might come out on the other end of this a better world AND a better industry.

TSIA is Here for You

We understand that our member companies, the technology industry, and the world at large have been impacted by COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to get through these challenging times. TSIA is committed to providing visibility as quickly as possible into the changing industry trends and practices that come as a result of COVID-19. Visit our Rapid Research Response Initiative resource page for more information.

If you have any questions related to how COVID-19 is impacting your organization, we’re here to help.

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Bo Di Muccio

About Author Bo Di Muccio

Bo Di Muccio, Ph.D., distinguished vice president of Professional Services research and vice president of TSIA advisory delivery. He is also the chairperson of the TSIA Professional Services Advisory Board. Using his nearly 15 years of experience in technology industry research, analysis, and consulting, Di Muccio develops and delivers research and advisory programs that help some of the world’s leading technology companies build and optimize their professional services business.

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