Better than my customer

June 30, 2009 Wojtek Gurgul

I remember very well, when in times when the company I worked for was paying fortune for 128 kbp digital link to its hub in the city in the other country. That was over 10 years ago. At that time (although that was a big company) each country IT Manager had almost unlimited power. There were very few standards as forcing them over long distances was virtually impossible. The world has changed. Today large and small corporations have their own standards and save millions by using them. At that time it was new to me that as Country IT Manager I could not decide what PCs will we buy. I could choose one of 2 models. And it wasn’t really my choice – that was user’s manager telling how much was he/she willing to pay.

The next shock for me as a young IT manager was the fact that I was told, that we should outsource desktop support. Well – the first thought was: “So what a hell my team is going to do?”. We were spending most of our time helping the end-users with very basic things. I had an old American as a boss at that time and I do remember his words very well: “Supporting the end-users is not our core-business. We need to focus on what we do well, and the others do what we can be average at most.” It did happen, and my team actually got more work which was far more challenging than helping the users with Outlook configuration. But that came later – after we and the users were ready to make a change.

That is why we put a lot of effort at PGS to be better than the teams at our clients. It’s always obvious that it’s well appreciated, but if we are not better than what’s the point using us? Price? Price does not matter. Cost does though! And the cost will only go lower if the quality gets higher.

The truth is that not many customers understand that. When I get requests via e-mail with no questions about processes, skill sets, references but only asking about our rates I feel like I was selling sugar. Software development is far more complicated and I hate when people treat it as commodity. In 90+% of what we do it is not commodity. It’s experience, creativity, skills, infrastructure, communication. It is strange how often people, who want to buy this type of service, know very little about what they are about to buy. At the same time it’s a great satisfaction for us when our Scrum masters teach the customers how to use scrum, and make it a tool for success for both parties. And the biggest reward is when the customers come back with new projects and ideas. It’s the time when you know that you deserve your wage. But first – it’s hard work to prove that you are adding value, not selling sugar. And also – it requires time and money to make sure that over time the knowledge and skill set does not deteriorate but gets better and richer.