Use What You SellBy John Moore | Posted 2005-06-20 Email Print
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Opinion: This seemingly obvious piece of advice isn't always easy to execute, but it can yield marketing and business process advantages.About 10 years or so ago, IBM executives started repeating the phrase, "Use what you sell."
The idea, of course, was to project the notion that IBM wasn't just foisting its technology on other businessesBig Blue was an active user too. Some industry wags came up with a more vivid (and less appetizing) metaphor to drive home the same idea: Eat your own dog food.
The use-what-you-sell credo also applies to information technology services. Take business process outsourcing. Vendors stand ready to absorb customers' administrative processes, but are they willing to part with their own?
The accounts-payable offload let the company cut in half what was once a $3 million expense.
Now, Edwards said, the company is looking at opportunities to outsource other parts of its finance and accounting organization.
"I'm all for it," he said. "It is something we are looking at continuously."
Using what you sell is commendable and fair-minded. It also provides a marketing boost: ACS can tell customers that it not only pursues outsourcing, but has generated savings from the practice.
In some instances, failure to tap one's own resources can lead to trouble. BearingPoint relied on subcontractors to implement a new financial system. Problems with the system surfaced last November when the integrator disclosed an accounting error.
BearingPoint's new management, however, hasn't hesitated to look inside for help. To set the project right, Rod McGeary, the company's chairman, said, he hand-picked the same high-level consultant that "I would have put into a client that had the same issue." McGeary discussed the internal project earlier this year during a management briefing.
The individual McGeary put on the financial systems task is a managing director, a title other integration houses refer to as partner. The move makes a lot of sense. After all, BearingPoint specializes in implementing enterprise resource-planning software.
So why don't IT services firms employ internal resources in the first place? The answer boils down to billable hours. CEOs generally want their managing directors and partners drumming up business and supporting key accounts. Overseeing the latest internal software project typically doesn't make the to-do list.
Maybe it should. I once interviewed an integrator's chief technology officer, who developed a rotation program. Field consultants would do periodic tours in the company's central research and development shop. The tech staff benefited from the consultants' client experiences, while the consultants got a hands-on grounding in corporate programs and objectives.
A program of this nature takes a fair amount of organizational self-discipline to make happen. An IT services firm would also have to have sufficient numbers of personnel to even think about having a go. And even then, not every company would want to endure periodic employee dislocation and the potential loss of billings.
But for companies with the means and flexibility, there are marketing points to score and internal processes to improve.
A little home cooking, now and then, can't hurt.