2001: The Year of the "Real" New Millennium

(Originally published in the November 2000 issue of AFSMI's The Professional Journal.)

By William K. Pollock

Whether you believe that 2000 was the start of the new millennium, or 2001 is the "real" beginning of the next one thousand years, one thing holds true - the post-Year 2K services industry has finally shaken off the "dust" of the twentieth century and is now poised to experience the most pronounced and profound changes in its history. These changes will come quickly and will ultimately be pervasive, although they are also likely to impact different segments of the industry in different ways. However, three themes will run as single threads throughout all of these changes, and within each services segment - they are professional services; e-service; and globalization.

Today, the term "professional services" may mean many things to many people; but it usually connotes "value-added" or enhanced services and support that assist the enterprise in managing its day-to-day and longer-range business. However, what we commonly refer to as "professional services" today may merely be part of the "basic" services that are routinely offered by services providers to their customers in the future. Less than 20 years ago, services such as software support, help desks/telephone hotlines, and systems integration were clearly acknowledged as "value-added" or premium services. Today, most customers view these services as integral components of their general outsourcing contracts. Twenty years from now, it is highly likely that what we refer to as "professional services" today will become part of the same "total customer support" contracts. This year, we will see increased movement in this area among the leading services providers.

E-service is not new. The earliest versions of e-service originally appeared a decade ago in the form of Internet FAQ and other Web-based information pages. However, e-service is evolving so rapidly that it won't be long before such expressions as "on-site", "call-backs" and "busy signals" will drop out of the services vocabulary faster than you can say "Web-enabled", "real time" and "e-fixed". Does anybody remember the expression "call avoidance"? That was last a major services industry concern a millennium ago, but has since been lost in the "Jurassic Park" footsteps of e-service.

When you think about it, the world was originally designed with "globalization" in mind. However, it has taken more than 2,000 years for the services industry to finally reach a point where it can leverage its technology, processes and resources to embrace it in a more practical manner. Twenty years ago, it was difficult enough to support a remote facility located 100 miles or more from a major city, or assist an enterprise in integrating its systems comprised of "foreign" brands. In fact, the word "foreign" has pretty much since been replaced by "global". Today, there is no longer a stigma attached to having multivendor units comprising a system and, tomorrow, there will be little to stop even a small or medium-sized services organization from going "global" with respect to its services portfolio or customer base.

In last year's AFSMI Industry Outlook, I referred to the year 2000 as "the year of professional services." However, the year 2001 will be "the year of e-global professional services." Better get on the bandwagon now, since all of your competitors are already there. Oh, and by the way, for all you millennium purists, the "real" new millennium technically begins at midnight, January 1, 2001!

William K. Pollock is president of Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based services consulting firm specializing in strategic business planning, services marketing, CRM consulting, market/survey research, and customer satisfaction measurement and tracking programs. Bill may be reached at 610-399-9717 or via e-mail at wkp@s4growth.com.

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