Ever wonder what happened to those people that stuck to their horses (quite literally) in the early 1890’s and refused to admit that the automobile was replacing their horse & cart construction biz?
I am getting LOTS of emails from businesses from around the world who are looking for Hyper-V consulting. I’m not really in that business so I cannot help – I work in the “channel” now, working with those companies that do the actual implementation work.
This surge in interest and emails to me had me thinking overnight … there must be a real shortage of quality in Hyper-V/System Center expertise around the world. The demand is out there, boosted by certain announcements last week, and it seems like some folks want to stick to making carriages while their customers are looking for some V6 goodness. The customer wants what they want, so they’ll go looking for it, and the local carpenter goes without work.
One of the things that many of these consulting companies miss out on is the potential of a Hyper-V sale. They make the mistake of comparing it to a VMware sale. If you sell VMware virtualisation, you go in, install it, do some P2V, leave and maybe come back in 2-3 years to get a license renewal. If you sell Hyper-V + System Center Management Suite (often the most economic way to buy/sell SysCtr) then the customer has rights to all of System Center across all of their VMs. You might implement VMM, DPM and some of OpsMgr initially. But after that, you can easily go back to the customer to talk about future possibilities, and find yourself involved in every IT project that happens in that site, even if it is outside of your core skills, e.g. you implemented backup/monitoring and they hire someone else to do CRM and needs … backup/monitoring! Or you install ConfigMgr for the servers, and now can expand it to the desktops, then add on Forefront Endpoint Protection services, and then find yourself doing moer and more higher value security work for that client.
If you are a consulting practice, what do you make your best margin on?
- Hardware? You’re lucky to make between 9-13% in this competitive environment.
- Software? Hah! If you sell 4 VMware hosts at $40K you might make $4000 in margin? Maybe VMware will throw you a bone in a finders fee? And then that’s the end of your consulting for that virtualisation-only deal with the customer. You’ve also blown that customer’s budget for the year. Whoops!
- Services? Ah here we go! This is where you are making between $1,000 and $1,800 (if not more) per day from the customer for each person-day on their site – with very large margins. Take that $40K of VMware sales, and call it around $26K in System Center sales (I’ve already shown in the last few days that Hyper-V is free). After the virtualisation project, you’ve left the customer with $14K more in their budget (versus the VMware job). And you’ve left them with licensing for System Center. What do sales people like? They love having reasons to talk to their customer – and now they do because the customer has licensing and budget to deal with technology and business issues and you can target that $14K with services.
If you find yourself being that carpenter, and what to be the money making Hyper-V/System consulting practice then here’s a few ideas:
- No business has ever made a cent without investment. Despite what you may think, you cannot become an expert in virtualisation and systems management overnight based on some experience with 1980’s email technology. Your staff have to be given the time and the budget to learn. You cannot get anywhere without this real business investment.
- Anyone fighting the business plan needs to be dealt with. It’s fine to speak about a strategy out of one side of your mouth, it’s another to actually do what’s required.
- Sales & marketing staff must be trained. They are not too busy. Are you more concerned about selling horse carts in the next few weeks or having a sustainable business over the next 5+ years?
- You cannot expect all consultants to become all things to all people. Divide them up and train each person on 1 or two things. For example, person A might learn Hyper-V and DPM. Person B might learn DPM and VMM. Person C might learn VMM and OpsMgr. Person D might learn OpsMgr and Hyper-V. You’ve spread the skills, allowing everyone time to learn, and given coverage to products in case someone is unavailable. Let them develop those skills on courses, in labs, and in certifications.
- You will need to hire in skills. Someone has to have an overall view of the technologies.
- Start the path of obtaining virtualisation and systems management competencies through the Microsoft Partner Network. This requires effort from consultants and Sales. You will not get a competency overnight – you do need past experience with customer satisfaction surveys.
- Sales and marketing need to promote the service. The work is out there, but sales do not normally come knocking on your door. Here’s where you need to stretch. You may have a core market that you’ve sold to up to now, but the fact that they’ve been happy buying ancient crap from you up to now should tell you something. Find a new customer base. That requires some of that investment and buy-in from the relevant sales/marketing staff.
- You may have to start small to prove yourself and develop a reputation. You may have to challenge old decision making rules. You may need to reach out to new strategic business partners to add expertise that is outside of your core business.
My inbox proves the work is out there. The ability to penetrate a customer site with virtualisation, and then expand into systems management and security beyond virtualisation seems like an obvious benefit of doing Hyper-V based services. By selling Hyper-V/System Center versus the alternative, you also are changing how the customer spends their budget with you: instead of selling lots of low margin software, you are selling less low margin software and more high value services. Finally: you’ll also have a business.