This week I received an interesting inquiry from a member:
“What do product companies call their project based services, “professional services” or “consulting services?”
The perception of the senior management team at this company was that more companies in the technology industry were using the term “consulting services.” Also, the feeling was “consulting services” connoted higher value higher value to the customer. Well, this may not have been the most strategic member inquiry I have ever received, but the question did peak my interest. After all, I wrote a book titled “Building Professional Services.” So, I did a little research.
The Services Spectrum
First of all, let’s put taxonomy on the table. Over the years, I have found technology companies use terms like “professional services” and “managed services” in very different ways. To help normalize that conversation, TSIA published a document that defined the services spectrum that exists in the industry:
So the above chart defines everything from support services to outsourcing services. In the TSIA taxonomy, professional services is defined as “paid for what you do.” Consulting is simply another name for that type of service offering. So, from the TSIA perspective, the term “consulting services” and “professional services” can be used interchangeably.
But, what term are companies ACTUALLY using? Professional services or consulting services? To answer this question, I turned to the companies in the TSIA Service 50 and surveyed how they refer to their project based services. Drum roll please. As shown in the image below, over 60% of the companies in The Service 50 use the term “consulting services” instead of “professional services.” Of course, not all companies do. Cisco, Siemens, and Symantec are all companies that use the term professional services.
Once again, not my most strategic missive, but an interesting observation. Are “professional services” now considered low brow? Are “consulting services” the preferred name for project based services offered by technology companies? You tell me.