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With professional services being a central part of a successful customer journey to outcomes, it’s important to discuss some legitimate questions about how to define professional services. Especially as services convergence and the blurring of previously clear lines continue apace. So… what is professional services?
In the broadest terms possible, professional services isn’t a hard concept. It’s just “specialized services requiring expert knowledge in a given field,” which applies to all kinds of professional services: legal, engineering, and accounting. Obviously we need concepts for professional services that are rather more specific to our technology industry, for starters.
One thing needs to be said at the outset. If technologies were simple and easy to adopt and use by customers, and if full business value more or less automatically happened based on that use and adoption, there wouldn’t be much of a need for any of the services that have been built over the decades, including professional services. This isn’t the case, yet, so many customers require professional services in order to be successful in enjoying the benefits of these solutions.
The technology sector illustrates the importance of the Professional Services team. Software and technology can be highly sophisticated, requiring expertise to understand the full capabilities of the product. The in-house Professional Services team can deliver the expertise to help customers take full advantage of their purchase.
The Professional Services team will consult with a customer that has just purchased new technology. The first step for the Professional Services team is often to adjust the technology to suit the customer and the customer’s business goals. This fine-tuning requires the expert knowledge and experience of professional services.
Next, the Professional Services team will play a key role in onboarding the customer, making sure the customer is using the purchased product correctly. The Professional Services team is helping the customer to adopt the product and integrate it throughout the customer’s business.
This adoption is especially vital for a subscription-based business. If the customer fully adopts the technology, then the technology becomes an important tool for the business. If the customer values the tool, they will continue to renew their subscription and may even expand their subscription.
In addition, most professional services operations are organized around a defined charter, strategy, and business plan. They will also adhere to a set of financial targets that are governed and monitored by a detailed profit and loss framework.
While not every technology company that TSIA has worked with has evidenced all of these organizational practices, the majority certainly have; to the point where these capabilities have become clear majority practices.
In other words, professional services organizations can look and function differently from company to company. This variability highlights the versatility of professional services.
There has been some debate about whether or not companies need a sales team dedicated specifically to professional services. After all, companies that sell products will already have a sales team on staff. Can’t the product sales team just sell services as well?
Yes and no. It is not unusual for the product sales team to own the professional services sales function at technology companies, but there are reasons to believe that such an arrangement is not optimal.
The needs and interests of the professional services organization are not adequately served by a sales team that is largely focused on selling something other than professional services. In many cases, product sales may lack the knowledge, training, or motivation to sell professional services correctly.
If the sales motions are not performed correctly, professional services sales will suffer. The correct services must be positioned to customers with the correct message to help customers understand the value of the services.
TSIA recommends a dedicated sales team for professional services. A dedicated team will be more knowledgeable about how the services support customers and will be more motivated to offer services as an expanded sale.
If you would like to learn more about how professional services is changing and how TSIA can support your professional services journey, contact TSIA today.
June 29, 2021
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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The Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) is dedicated to helping technology and services organizations large and small grow and advance in the technology industry. Find out how you can achieve success, too. Call us at 800-876-6511 or we can call you.