Mavenlink offers a consulting service, because services bring protection

Maybe coincidental, or maybe a response to an increasingly turbulent marketplace.

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This is interesting. Mavenlink is a project management and resource planning vendor that delivers a cloud-based tool for organizations looking to make their projects flow better. It, along with an ever-increasing number of companies, is pushing the "Go cloud, it gives you flexibility and agility and is much easier to get up and running with" mantra.

So to hear that the company is today rolling out its own consulting service to help organizations gain the very efficiencies its tool promises to deliver is something else. Could this be a recognition of the fact that using these cloud tools isn't actually that easy? Or is it a response to a more macro-level environmental change?

The company is today announcing the nattily monikered MavenOps, an "on-demand consulting service designed to help companies optimize and improve how they run their business." The company, not one to err toward modesty, believes that this product is set to reinvent the traditional SaaS model.

Mavenlink suggests that the majority of SaaS products involve steep upfront costs for a one-time implementation and no ongoing guidance after rollout. According to the company, this often leads to a gap in the customer success life cycle -- described by Gartner as the "trough of disillusionment" -- where customers are left to overcome barriers to optimization and adoption on their own.

Hmmm, I'm in two minds about this. SaaS was meant to reinvent the perpetual merry-go-round of consulting services that traditionally came alongside legacy software installations. The promise, ever since a fresh-faced Marc Benioff launched Salesforce with its "no software" logo, was that users would be able to self-deploy and self-manage software.

Now clearly that hasn't quite come to pass; Salesforce itself, after all, has a huge ecosystem of consulting partners that help customers roll out Salesforce's various products. But the fact is that initial deployments of SaaS products are actually pretty easy and generally don't (and shouldn't) require a legion of consulting personnel to implement. The idea that a SaaS vendor needs to set up a consulting arm itself to help with the alleged nightmare that is SaaS implementation is somewhat jarring.

Anyway, as to what it offers, MavenOps is an on-demand service model that extends beyond go-live and into critical periods that, according to the release, "define the ultimate value companies are able to get out of business software." In other words, MavenOps helps once the initial deployment is finished and the added-value stuff (that often seems elusive) needs to start flowing through.

Mavenlink has created this team from, at least in part, past Accenture consultants. The consultants provide guidance, coaching and education. The specific value points that MavenOps is pushing are the adoption of best practices in business processes and data analysis to promote financial success, the achievement of desired business outcomes through expert guidance and consultation, the uncovering and capturing of critical business insights, and the acceleration of user adoption and value of Mavenlink (as opposed to more general SaaS products).

"The truth is that thriving in today's business environment is harder than ever for a service provider, and there is a need for business transformation that goes well beyond what any piece of software can do," says Ray Grainger, Mavenlink co-founder and CEO. "The problems Mavenlink solves are incredibly complex. There really is no end in the relationship if we want to help our clients continue to perform and take their business challenges head on. We recognized this and developed a new approach to services that will help service providers thrive."


I'm not convinced. Not because I believe the hype that SaaS requires no professional services, but more because Mavenlink has a difficult job to do here. For one thing, it has to differentiate its own product from the on-premises offerings out there. The general way that SaaS vendors do that is by articulating the ease of use, reduced time to value, better economics and easier integration that SaaS products bring. But by introducing MavenOps, Mavenlink needs to start articulating the very opposite: that SaaS is hard and that consulting is needed to deliver value.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out, but I suspect Mavenlink's move has more to do with a difficult economic climate and pressure to deliver financial results than with any customer-facing factors. One to watch, but I'm not sure they're onto a winner here.

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