We saw such a surge in special projects over the summer that we ran out of capacity. We have traditionally taken on special projects to even out the ebbs and flows of our support obligations. This system works very well as long as we can control the volume and urgency of the projects. Well the system almost broke this summer.
We ran into “The Perfect Storm” from an IT perspective. Several clients had major technical projects that we were responsible for. The results were some very long hours for our staff, some billing errors and some project delays. However, thanks to the extraordinary efforts from our staff and quite a bit of patience from our customers, we were able to get all the work done without sacrificing service responsiveness. Thanks and congratulations to everyone.
The silver lining to this Perfect Storm cloud is that we are starting, actually restarting, a consulting group at Quartet. I was originally hired to set up a consulting function at Quartet almost seven years ago! We learned a couple of important things then. The first was that we didn’t have to charge huge fees because we were focused on building retainer revenues. We were careful not to accept projects that didn’t lead to retainers. The second was that clients liked that retainer orientation. They got excellent value on the projects and they were assured we would do good work because we had to support the system after it was built.
Everyone came out a winner. Today, virtually all of our support programs start out with some sort of project. The projects ensure that we are “speaking the same language” as you and that any obvious technical flaws in your environment are corrected before we start our support. Compass Management Consulting calls this a fact-based approach and we have a white paper available from them on our web site called “Get it Right”. If you are considering outsourcing your IT, it is a good read.
A couple other things before I sign off. As threatened in my last letter, we all took (and passed) the ITIL Foundations course. ITIL is the dominant set of standardized IT service practices. We’ve incorporated many of these disciplines into our support systems and hope that you notice the difference. ITIL is not the sort of thing most of our customers know about (or care about) but we think it will pay off for all of us over time. Better reporting, reliability and service ubiquity. We call what we are doing “process sharing” and if you are interested in the background, we’d be pleased to send you a white paper we commissioned on the subject. It is called “The Complexity Trap”.
I’d also like to thank everyone who called us with ideas, encouragement, concerns and comments. We know it takes effort to do so and we appreciate it. Your feedback is invaluable. Thanks to your support, Quartet continues to grow and evolve. I hope we get a chance to meet this fall.