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Services-Products-The-two-sides-of-a-hyphen
Peter Vas
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Have you ever heard of a flying ladder? This refers to a ladder of employment discovered in the West which flew East, creating a wave of employment opportunities.

When it landed in the East, especially in India, it was called it the ladder of service. Recently, people looked at the same ladder from the other side and exulted, then named it the product ladder. From there evolves the story of service and product companies—a ladder with two sides.

When opportunities increased with the two sides of a ladder, so did the volition and confusion. If I were to explain what it requires to swirl, switch or even choose between those two ladders then all my talks lead to one word: skill. If you have the right set of skills then you can switch or choose. All one must do is sell their competency in the areas they excel at and whatever they think is relevant to that respective field or ladder. Before you switch, learn that one ladder differs from the other. Let’s take the oldest of the ladders: the service ladder, a highly regarded and most widespread in the country. Services project crews are different for every project—each one starts their work from basic building blocks and spends most of their time working on what somebody else has created.

In a product company the crew remains the same for all the products developed, be it new or old, and each one contributes to the already existing basic building blocks. As you learn the basic differences, make sure your next switch is something exclusive for you and don’t falter. Say, for example, one chooses to work in a product company.

Then they would obviously enjoy the advantages of sustained operation, skill utilization and value chain movement. They tend to think that work content is of higher echelon and they are working with good content, this in turn brings in confidence and a kind of challenging spirit. But if worked for a services industry before, there could automatically be a feeling that product companies do less time-bound and smaller projects. However, I would say, working in a product company would introduce identity confirmation, and in a services firm, an identity crisis.

Identity is a self-driven concept. Things appear good or bad on the basis of each one’s identity relation. In a service industry, a single customer defines the project roadmap and an employee may not like to work in an environment governed by the whims of this big customer. Although it could happen even in product companies, usually the goals in a product company are well defined by product managers.

Product companies must have their priorities chalked out, product managers go through prioritization, requirements freeze and offers better work environment for engineers. One de-motivating factor for challenging engineers is extending timelines within the service industry, which indicate more billable hours translating to more revenues. But in a product company, extended time lines are not good for business. Your customers are waiting for you to get the products out and you have to get it in time. So, the customer is king.

All said, one thing that bothers both the industries is employee retention. But for a product company retention of experienced hands is crucial to business as that’s what fuels the next generation of building blocks. That hand knows the inner workings of the old generation of building blocks and there is a premium attached to that knowledge. Senior executives in a services company bags a premium on how well they execute even the most minor detail. Timing, communication and successfully leading teams is of higher demand here.
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