Our industry’s magazines do post some number of articles about software products, even though customers of the software might not think there are enough of these articles and, actually, many of the articles aren’t worth reading. However, I don’t think I’ve seen any articles in the big magazines (or even the smaller journals) about the services vendors in our industry.
Where Are They?
Consider this: the services performed on these software products tend to represent the greatest percentage of cost for many laboratory informatics software implementations and the place where most of the overrun and failure takes place. That being said, and the fact that the services topics are the most important topics for articles (e.g., how to do a product selection, how to manage a project), doesn’t it seem odd that no-one has tried to profile any of the services vendors? Shouldn’t customers care significantly about the services they’re getting that will more likely be the thing that kills their project than the software will be?
My own company has been profiled in one or two local journals. It makes sense that local papers or periodicals want to cover local businesses. But one might think that our industry’s bigger magazines would want to cover the bigger services vendors just as they cover the bigger software vendors. I don’t think I’ve seen any such articles, though.
Even when articles cover software products, where a software vendor also has a services group, articles seldom cover that part of the software vendor’s offerings to discuss what services need to be and can be delivered along with the software product.
On the Other Hand
On the other hand, talking about what the services vendors provide is a shorter list than what we need to cover when we discuss the software functionality. These articles could be short in that most services vendors provide things like project management, workflow analysis, validation, or other such services. For most of us, there’s a list on our web-site.
One could argue that discussing whether a services vendor’s services are good could be the challenge and could be what fills the article. I’d disagree – when articles are written about the software products, the articles aren’t necessarily focusing on how good the software is, but more toward the features provided and the markets served by it. I’d argue that we’d never write an article about the quality of a services vendor, either.
Don’t Look at Me
But don’t look at me to write these types of articles. As a services vendor, I want you to buy my services. Obviously, I’m not going to write about competing services vendors to promote them. I’m just pointing-out the gap.
3 Thoughts to “Laboratory Informatics Software Without Services”
Well, I think your last paragraph about sums it up as to why services are neglected in the publications: “But don’t look at me to write these types of articles. As a services vendor, I want you to buy my services. Obviously, I’m not going to write about competing services vendors to promote them. I’m just pointing-out the gap.”
Basically, I have found that service providers do little to no marketing. They hang out a shingle, say I am here, post a profile/resume and that’s it. They have nothing ocmpetitive to offer and they spend nothing on ads in the magazines (which I think is a good thing). So why would a magazine promote something so boring and unprofitable?
There is a bigger issue though… Consulting is not a solution. A finished, live software system is a solution.
What customers want is a finished, functional and live system. They really do not want services. Services are nothing more than a necessary evil in order to bring a functional system live. The customer bought a software system to do a job. The fact that it takes a single hour of services to be operational with the system is a negative feature. What they want is a turnkey solution that can be installed and running instantly. So selling services based upon a process that is full of man-hours is simply something to be done away with. Now I know this is not reality but given time and product R&D and specification standards, this will be the industry trend.
Speaking as a LIMS vendor myself, that is my goal. I have every intention of making my software better and better so that the implementation times are cut down and down until there is little to no need for LIMS implementation services.
John, while I think you have some good points, I’ve got my own opinions to add (of course).
For one, with regard my comment that I wasn’t going to write about my competitors to promote them, that’s just common sense. Even the articles about software vendors aren’t written by other software vendors. People don’t want to write about their competition – they write to promote what they’re doing. If they DID write about each other, we’d have to be extremely skeptical about whatever they said and their motives for doing it. I don’t think anyone would expect or want me to write those types of articles about the other services vendors. I’m not saying that you’re suggesting that I or anyone else would or should write such an article, just clarifying this for anyone reading all of this.
Regarding your comment that services vendors sometimes hang out a shingle and do nothing else, this is true of many small businesses, not just those of services vendors. It’s largely true that people start a business and think business will flock to them. As for advertising, though, if you join any of these groups for business networking (of which I’ve been a member of quite a number, over the years), the consensus is that small businesses should not pay for advertising. It’s too expensive for the return. Even the big vendors tell me that they just advertise and buy booths to show that they can afford it, not necessarily because they get business out of it. So, it’s not a bad thing that companies like mine don’t buy advertising – that’s also more a common sense issue, but that most of us don’t really have the common sense to NOT try to advertise – it’s more that we get lots of good advice of that sort from other small businesses we network with. Until a company reaches a certain size, it just doesn’t have the overhead to support that and stay in business. Once again, I’m agreeing with you, but giving these details so that readers will understand why they don’t usually see any but the largest companies paying for magazine ads.
As for customers wanting a finished system, I totally agree with you on that, as well. Related to that, you go on to say that, as a LIMS vendor, it’s your goal to continue to improve your software to cut-down implementation times. That’s commendable. Every software vendor should do that. However, even some software vendors are seeing their services as a way to make money and not necessarily trying to hold those ends of the costs down. No-one providing services should stretch-out what they do. That’s unethical. But until customers put their foot down on this practice and track the services provided more closely, the practice will continue. Consultants should add value to the project. That, or when the vendor either doesn’t have enough people or their people aren’t at a sufficient level to properly implement, that’s another place where consultants continue to play an important role in projects.
I could not agree more about advertising. I think it is worthless personally and so my company does not advertise. I do not call my logo on LIMSfinder an advertisement (besides I don’t pay for it). The best marketing any company or individual can do is be an engaged member of the community. You must right articles and share information. I think we both do that quite well. Helping the community is the best marketing you could ask for.
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