Paul C. Williams

Interfacing Technology & Business
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Of whales and sardines: sales in professional services

Spend long enough in a professional services project environment, and you'll notice a tendency over time to chase "whales".  Large projects with expansive scope that look great because of their big price tag. These projects also tend to be very complex, with many moving parts. Whale projects require a higher staffing level, so more management oversight. The customers are more demanding and have more quality issues.

I'd like to take a moment to contrast that to a sardine project.  Sardines by contrast are simple creatures. They have similar needs to one another, and are often found in groups.  Professional services organizations often start out with sardines, but are tempted to move toward whale projects as cost structures start to balloon before efficiency measures and economies of scale kick in.

While a whale might provide meat for a village and any one sardine isn't very interesting or filling, but if one is efficient enough at pulling a volume of sardines at a time, it might just be as valuable as that whale you spend so much effort hunting, trapping, catching and butchering.

Image credit: Karen Kasmauski & Getty Images/Science Faction

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