Flexibility vs. Standardization

In preparation for Technology Services Europe, I schedule time with all the industry veterans that will be presenting at this event. The goal of these pre-conference sessions is to discuss key themes that are emerging in the conference presentation, review the expectations of the audience, and set the key points the presenter would like to make. Last week I had the opportunity to sync up with Martin Zitz, Director EMEA Delivery & Operations for EMC Global Services. Martin will be presenting on the challenge of balancing flexibility and standardization in services delivery when serving a market as heterogeneous as Europe. His presentation gets to the heart of the issues that surround European based professional services organizations. Specifically, what tactics can PS organizations employ to successfully scale their operations in the diverse European marketplace?

In his upcoming presentation, Martin defines a heterogeneous market as one that exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Different levels of market maturity
  • Service Demand pattern
  • Different pricing levels
  • Variance in local skills available
  • Partner models will differ
    Key verticals vary
  • Different market demographics (eg size of companies, geographically concentrated or dispersed, …)
  • People/human aspect (eg attitude towards risk-sharing)

The problem with a heterogeneous market is simple: one size does not fit all. Because these above attributes can vary from country to country, one standard model for delivering professional services is not practical. However, to drive consistency and profitability, there is a constant desire within PS organizations to drive some level of standardization. Especially within embedded PS organizations that are tasked to support product portfolios with consistent services capabilities—regardless of where the customer is based. In his presentation, Martin will cover the tactics that have served EMC well in balancing flexibility vs. standardization in delivering services throughout Europe.

As I discussed the topic with Martin, I was reminded me of similar efforts I have seen by other companies to address this challenge. Martin will be covering multiple tactics in his presentation, but I think there are two tactics that serve companies extremely well when devising PS strategies per country:

GEO Maturity Models

First of all, TPSA has recommended that an effective tactic for driving consistent delivery of PS offerings is to institute a GEO Maturity Model. This is the concept of defining key categories to assess how mature the PS business is within a country and assigning the appropriate PS organizational structure. The key maturity parameters to consider align nicely with Martin’s attributes of a heterogeneous market:

  • Types of offerings the marketplace requires and the local PS organization will support
  • Services pricing models supported by local marketplace
  • PS skills and positions that are funded in the local office
  • Local partner capabilities available

Based on the maturity rating of a local PS organization, the appropriate structure, financial model, and success metrics can be applied. Global organizations usually define three to five levels of GEO Maturity Models that can be applied to their field offices.

Services Lead Strategy Setting

The second tactic that works well when setting local PS strategy is to take a “services led” strategy approach. This concept was defined in Mastering Professional Services:

In a services led strategy, a management team starts by asking the fundamental question: “What services do we need to be successful?” This means the management team has started the dialogue on the services pillar. The strategy variables the team wants to lock down first are the ones in the services pillar. What markets are we targeting? What services do those markets need? How we will make sure these strategic offerings reach these strategic customers?

This services-led approach works well when defining what PS approach will work best for a specific geography. The services needs of the local marketplace will drive the structure, skills, partner strategy, and financial expectations of the local PS business. A graphical version of the variables set first in this approach is shown in the figure below.

Services-Led Strategy Setting

Services-Led Strategy Setting

In some ways, these discussions of flexibility vs. standardization are age old in the world of professional services. Yet, with the globalization of delivery resources and the adoption of new technologies that modify services delivery models, the conversation is by no means stagnant. I look forward to hearing Martin’s report the field. This is not an area where global PS organizations can afford to become complacent.


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