I just got a notice from LinkedIn that approximately one-sixth of my contacts had changed jobs in the last year. Thus, this past year, transferring knowledge to keep continuity would have been a major issue. Consider this – even though some of these people made internal moves, depending on their new position, it still doesn’t mean they’re available to transfer their knowledge.
As I speak to potential customers, one question that occasionally comes up is how a small business like mine will provide continuity to a customer. For example, what if I were to go out of business or to get busy, what would happen if a customer needed to bring me back to do some more work with them, is what they are often specifically asking about.
When one considers that even employees can move on and that the knowledge built in a project or area can be lost as employees shift to other parts of the company or leave the company combined with the fact that consultants might be coming-and-going, the issue of continuity is worth considering before a project or a software system is abandoned due to a lack of knowledge about it.
Answers to Those Concerns
First of all, internal or not, every person needs a backup. Even if the person just takes a long sick leave, that knowledge is gone with them, even if just temporarily. There’s an old saying about this that “having just one person is like having no-one.”
Ironically, larger services groups sometimes make the argument that by using them, you will always have access to another person if the one that you have leaves for another job. However, it is not that you want someone else – you want continuity. These are two different things. The best situation is when you can find someone who is most likely to be available to you, then you are less likely to have a continuity problem.
Looking at the smallest companies in our industry, such as mine, you see that many of us have been doing business for quite some number of years – longer than consultants necessarily stay available for your projects, sometimes even longer than employees stay with your projects, depending on the situation. These smaller companies are usually quite concerned about addressing this continuity issue. (As an aside, here, at meetings I attend with other small companies such as mine, the issue of how to make sure we provide this continuity and provide excellent service is an issue that many of these companies take seriously and are always looking to address in the best way possible in order to give their customers excellent service.)
Thus, those who have worked with the smaller companies like mine know that if they really need that resource, that that smaller company is often eager to work with that ongoing customer to provide that single resource yet again, in order to keep the customer happy, and in order to keep that continuity.
Only speaking for myself, but I’ve run into plenty of other small companies in the services business with the same attitude but – if I have a loyal customer and if they need more work, even when I’m busy, if they give me some advance notice, I will work to do what I can to accommodate them. This is opposed to some of my previous jobs working for consulting companies who book whomever is available for whatever is available, regardless who worked with the customer, previously. Actually, companies can make more money if each person they send out has to take the extra time to learn the project from scratch or to learn about the specific software installation. So, it’s often a difference in philosophy over giving the best and most continuous service to loyal, current customers, or to doing whatever must be done to bring in new customers at the expense of the current ones.
In the End
I’m not claiming every small business out there is professional and worth dealing with but then, the same is true of the larger ones, as well. I’m just pointing-out that for the sake of continuity, the smaller ones can actually work out better for customers. For those customers out there who wonder why some of the other customers go out of their way to get around their preferred vendor systems to use the smaller companies, this is just one of many examples. Think of it this way: it’s a huge hassle to go outside the preferred vendor system. No-one would do it if it weren’t worth that effort.