Questions from San Diego

In my last post about the TSW conference (see post 1 and post 2), I tackle five questions, from prosaic to the strategic.

  • Why has support attrition doubled in the past 18 months? The panel’s interpretation was that support engineers feel that they are not adding value. I think the answer is simpler: the job market is hot and support engineers are acting on their desires to seek greener pastures. Be especially kind to your engineers.
  • Do we want support engineers to sell? The consensus was that support engineers are not good at selling and they don’t like it. Better to encourage them to collect leads (especially on services) that can be worked by someone else. One panelist quoted that his services-generated leads cost $7 while standards leads cost $75-150. What a deal!
  • What is the value of partners in an age of customer portal and usage-driven metrics? This seemed to be an existential question, with no clear answer and certainly no happy one. Imho, partners cannot survive in a dis-intermediated world if they are nothing more than sales conduits. But I can see the benefits of working with a partner with a strong implementation practice, or other value-add wrapper.
  • What is the place of educational services in a time of free adoption? This is a larger issue. I believe that there is an essential conflict between traditional, walled P&L functions and the idea that services and support need to converge to better serve customers. My take would be to conserve the idea of P&L (so we don’t have to fight quite so hard for funding) but de-emphasize individual P&L within support and services. This suggests a strong, unified support and services organization.
  • Do we trust services to own the largest piece of the company’s revenue? This was posed as a agony-creating dilemma, which puzzled me, as I clearly recall “owning” over half the company’s revenue when I managed my first support team — and no one seemed so concerned about it, least of all me. But it does confirm the current view that renewals are sales and need to be handled by sales professionals, which was not always the case in the old days.

What are your big questions? Add one in the comments.



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