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From consulting service to software product

By Francis Moran

My colleague Danny last week highlighted the worthy achievement of Scotland’s Graham Technology in winning Best Product at Call Centre Expo for its customer interaction platform ciboodle. The award capped a year of focused marketing since ciboodle was first launched.

But the achievement was much more than a year in the making. Like many software product companies, Graham Technology had its genesis in consulting; in its case, first with big systems integration projects starting more than 20 years ago, and then with the development of business process-based contact centre solutions. But at some point, Graham Technology had to begin a conscious process of evolution from consultancy to software product company. When we first started talking with the company, it was still fully conscious that “we can do anything for anyone,” but it was committed to this new path that would see it eschew one-off bespoke application development in favour of seizing a specific market opportunity and seeking to be a global leader in its chosen space.

It’s an evolution we have seen many companies wrestle with, and at which some of them balk. It can’t be easy, after all, to leave the comfort of an assured revenue stream where your big computer brains are fully engaged on new and exciting client challenges every day. As a guy who’s been a consultant for his entire PR career, I completely understand the lure of this challenging dynamic.

But it’s a tough model to scale, and that’s why so many software consulting companies, recognising that they may have something that looks like a product, decide to go for it. Sort of.

Unlike Graham Technology and other software companies whose new products we have successfully launched into global markets, too many only sort of go for it. And I think it has to be one or the other. It’s not that a consulting company constitutes an inherently inferior business model; it’s just that I think you have to decide which you’re going to be — service, or product.

Bottom line: Graham Technology unreservedly made the leap, and is reaping the rewards for having done so.

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