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Focusing on The ‘Middle’

By Richard Millson October 27,2010




It goes without saying that our industry is currently undergoing massive change in terms of the products we sell (or used to sell) and the wide array of players and channels now involved in the creation and delivery of those products. Given that this is our new reality, I think it is both prudent and fair to ask if we should be organizing our companies the same way we did 10, five, or even two years ago? I would respectfully suggest that the clear answer is no.


Richard Millson (richard.millson@millson.net) owns Millson Technologies, in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Emphasizing Project Execution
In the broadest terms, ESCs have historically run their companies as contracting companies, with the majority of available resources focused on sales and installation. While sales are the driving force behind most businesses, I would argue that in our industry, impeccable project execution is just as important as sales, if not more so.

A company can excel at generating big sales numbers, but unless each and every one of those sales is followed up with flawless execution, it is likely that, eventually, both the sales and reputation of the company will suffer. If, however, we execute each project flawlessly, sales will become far easier to generate and close.

That is why I recommend that ESCs consider re-engineering their company structure with a strong emphasis on project execution rather than sales. In general, the overall focus needs to move toward the “middle” part of the project process (design, engineering, documentation, project management) as opposed to the “beginning” and “end” parts (sales and installation respectively). Looked at in terms of the standard project process, this means that a typical ESC would create or strengthen departments such as system design, engineering, quality assurance, documentation, project management, materials management, etc.

 

Many smaller ESCs with only a few employees may not yet have these responsibilities separated into departments within their firms, while others might have one person responsible for two or more of the roles. Unfortunately, with the complexity of the systems we provide today, the ever-escalating expectations of our clients, and the increasing quality of pre-packaged technology solutions like the iPad, it is no longer enough to simply sell and install things. To remain relevant, ESCs need to deliver larger integrated systems that perform flawlessly every time.


The ESC’s focus needs to move toward the “middle” part of the project process (design, engineering, documentation, project management) as opposed to the “beginning” and “end” parts (sales and installation respectively). 
Standardized, Repeatable Engineering is a Must

To deliver predictable results every time, it is imperative that ESCs create a business structure focused on standardized and repeatable engineering, documentation, materials management, and project management. This is all the work between sales and installation that has not traditionally received the same attention/manpower/resources as those “beginning” and “end” parts of the project process, where a disproportionate amount of money has traditionally been set aside for the wages and bonuses of sales people and technicians.

Adding Value Where Others Cannot
What I am advocating may seem less onerous if viewed not so much as a restructuring of the entire ESC project process, but more as a redistribution of the focus on the specific elements within it. Regardless of the words used to describe it, it’s clear that the only way ESCs are going to establish and maintain credibility with clients is to add real value that others cannot, and that means we need to deliver flawless systems that always work.

This type of organizational model will enables sales people to earn business based on the firm’s stellar reputation, and technicians will find it much easier to achieve and repeat the kinds of results our clients expect and deserve.