More and more frequently, I hear people say to me, “I wish I could find SampleManager people.” I work with Thermo Fisher’s SampleManager LIMS / LES and would appreciate a new customer but these rumblings never turn into a new customer for me. So, “What’s going on?,” you might wonder?
First of all, there are a lot of people who are direct employees of companies and working on the SampleManager product. They aren’t necessarily going anywhere. However, when other customers look for resources, these employees of other implementations definitely aren’t available to them. So, these people do exist, but they aren’t part of the pool of consulting resources.
Consultants Doing Other Things
As for consultants, quite a huge drove of consultants who used to do SampleManager work are now working with the LabWare LIMS / ELN. If you wondered where most of the consultants went, I would guess that the majority who left SampleManager consulting took this direction.
Customers Aren’t Looking for Resources
When I look at the available projects, most of the SampleManager projects seem to have selected larger services vendors as their consulting firms. Once a firm has done that, they seldom decide to switch to a small company like mine. Usually, they get locked into a preferred vendor situation and don’t even have the ability to switch based on how their preferred vendor system is set up.
The big services firms sometimes want to hire more people to do these projects and can’t find them because the resource pool is smaller. When they instead go to subcontract, these projects often have fairly poor rates because, and as I’ve written about many times, the more levels down a subcontract goes, the less experienced the resource (as a reminder, if you’re paying $200/hour for a consultant, it doesn’t mean you will get a particularly high level of consultant).
So, while customers would like more resources, they aren’t actually looking for resources. What they’re doing is asking their preferred vendor to “staff up” the project. This isn’t quite the same thing. That’s important to keep in-mind the next time you hear a customer sounding frustrated that they can’t find more people to work on their products.
My main point is this: as small businesses, we often look at the simplest supply and demand curve. If we hear that people want or need something, we think we can make a business off providing it. That’s an oversimplification. As with anything else, it’s more complicated than that.
The other point I want to make is that, as products mature and their services are taken over by the larger vendors that have an interest in the particular product (here, SampleManager), it pushes out some of the other services vendors that might have worked with the product to the point where, as companies need more services, there are fewer and fewer people to provide them as those people that would have been working with them move on to other things.
This is Good News For Some
Similar to the issue with tools such as Cobol, this is good news for the people who end up with the bulk of these services. As the market tightens, it is bad news to those companies that get pushed-out of the space and to the customers who will have to wait for the resources that remain in the consulting pool, but those companies that garner the market will end up providing services for products that, even if they are eventually retired, will need service for years to come.
To those companies such as mine who can no longer find customers in this space, it is a good time to remind yourself that that’s why we (should) all diversify our services and be able to work in other areas. But for the larger services vendors that service these markets and their customers, they will eventually need to train more people to keep-up with what could turn into a relatively small demand for services but a steady stream of it.