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From Practice To Product

IT consultants who want to leave a lasting legacy should consider launching their own development products. But as David Sims learned, the risks can be as great as the rewards.

By Leslie Jaye Goff
October 30, 2000 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - David Sims had been an independent consultant for about two and a half years when he decided to take a huge step to reshape his practice. His goal wasn't to generate higher revenue streams; rather, he was motivated by the desire to create something lasting.
Sims, president of Sims Computing Inc. in Billings, Mont., created a Java software component. Flux, an automatic job scheduler for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), debuted Sept. 5. "If you're doing solo consulting in Java, you'll always have a paycheck," Sims says. "But I wanted to do something new and challenging and see if I could grow from just a one-man consulting business to something more."
Sims could have followed a traditional model of hiring other Java consultants and becoming a larger shop. But he was much more intrigued by the idea of making an imprint with his core competency: programming. Rather than continue to write programs for his clients, he wanted to create software according to his own unfettered vision.
"It was just something I'd always wanted to do. Consulting and working on other companies' projects is fine. But there's something special about having [a product] of your own," Sims says. "You have more control; it's the opportunity to build something that's uniquely your own and build it your own way."
A New Focus
Creating and launching a product brings with it a whole new set of realities, however. Flux has inherently changed the direction of Sims' consulting practice, added an array of new administrative issues and made significant financial demands.
Consulting is taking a backseat to refining, updating and selling Flux. Sims is already at work on Version 2, and he's no longer soliciting long-term consulting contracts. Instead, he's offering short-term training and mentoring services in enterprisewide J2EE application development.
Moreover, Sims is taking a backseat to Flux. Before, he focused on promoting himself and his skills. Now, he concentrates on promoting Flux. He relaunched his Web site (www.simscomputing.com) with no reference to his resume or to himself personally. It's all about the product, its capabilities and licensing fees.
"I think a lot more now in terms of the things a vendor has to be aware of," Sims explains. "In consulting, you try to build up your individual name. Now, I'm trying to build the product's name."
Marketing Overhead
Building the product's name is a job unto itself, requiring both additional work and expense. Sims hired Camille Griep, a sales and marketing director with experience in the San Francisco Bay area. Griep had recently returned to her hometown of Billings from Silicon Valley.
While



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