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Service companies offerings
On data processing-related matters one has to buy adequate results, not
work, software or hardware.
Customers need solutions
Please read this old Apple ad from the early '80s:
(macmothership.com publishes many Apple
The mention If you're looking for a personal computer which solves
problems instead of creating them is very close to a good'ole idea of
mine: an adequate tool is a friend, not a foe. As
wrote St Jérôme (comment. in Ecclesiastem): pereant qui ante nos nostra
a pox on those who have declared our bright
ideas before us).
This ad conveys a message: the computer is a tool but the customer
searches a solution, not a tool or a service.
Solution means here
a fix to a problem or an enhancement at
the functional (not technical) level, guaranteed by a single
Important matters are important. Do your homework!
Letting an employee design, elaborate, deploy then maintain all solutions
leads to suboptimal results because no one can master all fields (Web,
office automation, specific (vertical) software development..). Dedicating
a bunch of employees to a given family of solutions seems only sound in a
big corporation or if those solutions are of paramount because some part of
the business depends on it. Better cope yourself with any critical process.
Therefore all corporations have to buy adequate solutions, at the very
least for non-critical processes. Let's devise an adequate approach.
The all too common 'hit and run' seller strategy
Right now a vendor sells a:
- thingie, then often runs away
- service, then often gets paid as long as he stays, therefore, in order
to stay around and keep invoicing, he tries hard to find "problems" and
The market needs efficient (therefore coherent) behaviors
There was a classic way (was it in China?) to sell some 'medical service
plan': the physician is paid as long as the customer stays healthy, copes
with a limited amount of patients and has to observe some latency before
replacing a dead one. This is adequate because it does not distort the
behaviors: the customers knows what he buys ("a better health condition!")
and the seller always fights to provide it, by solving problems and
enhancing the global condition, because he has nothing to gain from not
dedicating himself to delivering the most useful results.
This approach implies a common (shared) definition of 'good health',
which is useful because in such a deal everyone needs to understand the
context, the constraints and the objectives. This very definition leads to
a protocol able to show, at any moment, if the 'solution' works as
required. The protocol, which is in fact a delivery-test (reception-test),
is derived from the definition and established before the deal. It
expresses the customer needs, with as few technical mumbo-jumbo as
possible, by specifying and testing the resources needed along with the
inputs and outputs.
The IT world may benefit from this approach. It somewhat started when
I don't want to become my supplier's hostage began
to use open source software.
Therefore a solution-approach may be the most adequate in the IT world,
for all concerned. It implies:
- the 'solution' is defined, a set of tests is devised, then at any
time and for all parties
if the tests run OK, then the solution
- there is a neutral (non intrusive) and fast way to test at no cost the
solution, which provides concise results (this part works, this other one
does not) accepted by all parties. All parties can use those tests at
will. Moreover provisions are made in order to quickly extend such a
- all parties thrive in order to maintain the solution up and
- the customer periodically pays, as long as the solution works. After a
malfunction, the service company pays penalties proportional to its
relative importance (each test is associated to a penalty) and
duration. Note: all tests will probably be implemented in 'defensive' mode,
meaning that they will first check all needed resources. This is in line
with the efficient 'test-driven' development.
- the customer is not a hostage
- he can abandon a service company, therefore:
- for each need there are many competing solutions
- all customers demands interoperability, especially open standards
- from time to time the tests are redefined, letting any party adapt or
break the deal
Transition towards this market state
If big customers demand this 'solution' approach, the first service company
to comply will apparently reduce its benefit because it will not be able,
as usual, to transmute its customers into hostages and to create problems
in order to make them pay. This service company will instead keep them, not
against their will but simply because the service/cost ratio will be judged
adequate (with respect to market indicators). Then new customers may be
attracted. The service company will probably have to fight against some
traps (probably massive disinformation) set by its competitors using the
classic model. But I bet this will prove to be an efficient strategy.
"All in all, wealth consists more in use than in possession; for the
actualization of the potentialities of such things and their use is
wealth" -- Aristotle’s On Rhetoric"
Thanks to WJ & Michel Volle