Professional Services

Day 1, Hour 1

You touched down in St. Louis around 12:45 a.m., having taken the last flight out of LAX Sunday afternoon so you could make your kid’s soccer game and spend as much time with your family as possible.

The deplaning passengers are rushing, sprinting almost, in the direction of “Ground Transportation” signs, so you follow the herd while you fumble with the Uber app in one hand while dragging your roller bag over the carpet with the other.

Yours was one of the last flights in, so it’s quiet in STL. The air is damp and cold. Storms. That explains the turbulence on final approach.

You’ve never been to St. Louis before. You aren’t sure where to go, but after a little awkward coordination your Uber showed up pretty quickly. Gratefully, it was only a twenty minute ride to the Marriott near your customer’s headquarters. Still, by the time you get checked in and in bed, it’s after 2:00 a.m.

As you settle in, you think about what time to set your iPhone’s alarm. “Let’s see,” you say, “if they want to start at 9:00 a.m, then I probably need to be out the door by 8:15, and, oh yeah, I need to grab some breakfast in the cafe downstairs, so, should probably get up no later than 6:30.” Then it dawns on you:

Holy crap, that’s only about four hours from now, and it’s going to be 4:30 a.m. California time when I get up!

As you lie there, staring at the ceiling, it doesn’t help you fall asleep when you start thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow morning. In just a few hours, you’re going to be meeting with a new customer who needs your help with your company’s products.

The issues could be easy, they could be hard, but no matter what, they are looking to you to be the expert on your company’s product. You’re in professional services, and this is what you do. It’s both tiring and exhilarating.

That first hour of the first day (I call it “D1H1”) is a critical moment where everything that happens in professional services comes together—all the training, enablement, engineering, and sales. But we don’t talk about professional services very often.

Since we rarely talk about it, I thought I’d write a short book introducing people to the industry, the job of a consultant, and how to succeed in that moment (as well as get some sleep the night before) and beyond.

It’s called Day 1, Hour 1: An Introduction to Professional Services in Software Companies. Some of the topics covered include:

  1. An introduction to professional services, the roles, and where projects (“engagements”) come from
  2. Then I explore how to get the hard, technical skills you need to be successful as well as some of the soft skills mindsets that will serve you well on the ground
  3. Then we explore some of the practicalities of how to navigate day 1, hour 1 as well as the hours that follow

I feel like it’s a complete overview, if a bit brief. But it could have some typos or things that don’t make sense.

Please give it a read for free, and let me know! Use coupon code michaels-blog through this link:

Would love to know what you think!

(Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels)


Peggy Noonan touches on consulting

If I could do it all over again, I’d be a writer. And I’d be like Peggy Noonan. Here she is on consulting:

There are reasons for traditions and arrangements. Sometimes they are good and sometimes not, but they are reasons, explanations grounded in some sort of experience. I had a conversation about this a few years ago with a young senior at Harvard who on graduation would go to work for a great consulting firm that studies the internal systems of business clients to see if they can be bettered. He asked if I had any advice, which I did not. Then I popped out, with an amount of feeling that surprised me because I didn’t know I had been thinking about it, that he should probably approach clients with the knowledge that systems and ways of operating almost always exist for a reason. Maybe the reason is antiquated or not applicable to current circumstances, but there are reasons for structures, and if you can tease them out they will help you better construct variations or new approaches. I can’t remember why but this opened up a nice conversation about how consultants walk into new jobs with a bias toward change—the recommendation of change proves their worth and justifies their fees—but one should be aware of that bias and replace it with a bias for improvement, which is different.

The rest of her post is fantastic (as usual), but the point is clear from the introduction’s implications.