Most of us in the laboratory informatics industry end up working on projects that aren’t close to home. I’m mainly talking about the area of services I work with, which are product selection, requirements gathering, and implementation services, such as configuration/customization. While I occasionally run into people who are getting local work, they’re the minority.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that some of the recruiters who call me as an individual to work on various projects and who are new to our industry are surprised to find that we don’t pick up and move to an area to work on that project and that we charge travel expenses.

Charging Travel Expenses (or Not)
Some companies say they don’t charge travel expenses for LIMS or ELN services. They claim they charge a single price for every customer. That’s because they’ve built the travel expenses into the fees. This means the local customer doesn’t get a break by finding someone who doesn’t need to travel and might as well take someone from just anywhere. But even those who wouldn’t have found a local person are still often paying more than they need to to cover all the travel risks that could potentially happen.

Bottom line: There’s not such thing as a one-price program where you’re not paying for travel. A one-price program just hides the travel. No services group is willing to swallow that cost. I’ve worked in the services industry for over 25 years, now, having worked for large and small groups both those that belonged to the software vendors and those that were independent of the software vendors, and I’m telling you this.

Answering Your FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)
Sometimes when I’m talking to customers or the more junior recruiters, they’ll mention one project or another they know of and they’ll be surprised I’m not on it. For example, there’s was a big one in Indiana while my office was in Cleveland, just a few hours drive from the Cleveland area. That customer probably payed to bring consultants from all over the country via LabWare’s partner company. There were a couple LabWare projects around the Cleveland area where I’m had had my office, but I’m pretty sure both those customers chose to directly use LabWare services over using someone local and over using someone experienced.

Or, for another example, now that my company has been in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area for a few years, I’ve had no local implementation customers around here, and there ARE SampleManager and LabWare customers around that need services but seem tied to other services vendors over using local resources.

Factors in This
Here are some factors that influence this:

  1. Customers do actually sometimes like the one-stop shopping feature they get by going through their software vendor. It’s not about getting good services, local services or saving any money. They can get a one-price estimate that they can get into the capital expenditures area of their budget. This comes from a totally different area of the budget than buying the consulting services separately and, sometimes, it’s harder to individually justify the consulting services. Additionally, if upper management saw the small fortune that it costs to implement what they think of as “boxed” software (and which we know isn’t), they’d have coronary-and-half over it.
  2. Customers are tied to their preferred vendor program. Some customers either have no way to get consulting services outside their preferred vendor program or they don’t know how to do it or they don’t have time to do it. Thus, they put it in their mind that if their preferred vendor program doesn’t find them the resources that they just won’t get the resources. This is sometimes the case. Some customers decide the rest of the team will work longer hours or they’ll try to hire someone, and even some of this doesn’t work-out.
  3. Customers prefer someone smart and expensive. People feel terribly insulted when I say this, but there’s a mindset about consultants that the person that costs more is smarter. Thus, if you take a junior person on a one-price system that includes the expensive travel over a local person who might be an expert but who is not charging the travel and, thus, might be cheaper, the junior person has a higher rate and, thus, is smarter. Thus, since software vendors have to charge the highest rates in our industry to cover software development costs, their people, even when junior, would appear to be the smartest. Many customers know about the factor and try to account for it but, seriously, it’s a hard mindset to fight. And, as one person told me, the local person is just so available over the person far away that they seem less exotic – less interesting – not as wanted.

Thus, I expect to be filling my future schedules with customers from all over the world, as usual. I’m just telling you that before you ask.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises