Highlights of TSW San Diego 2019

7 minute read

Upland Admin

The Technology Services World (TSW) Conference and Expo in San Diego packed all the great presentations, conversations and networking we have come to expect over the past years. Bringing together the best and brightest in technology services, we found some great takeaways, and highlights from our 3 days in San Diego, that we wanted to share.

What Prompts Change?

Opening Keynote | “All Aboard the Offer Train” by Thomas Lah, Executive Director, TSIA

In his opening keynote, Thomas Lah shared how companies operating in the Technology-as-a-Service (XaaS) world have faced a seismic shift in the past few years, that is forcing them to rethink how they run their business. On one side, there has been a shift in power from the technology, to the customer. At the same time, cost of sale is increasing, and margins are decreasing.

These 2 influences are creating a crisis moment for XaaS companies, forcing them to rethink their operational model. Organizations must become outcome centric, by first looking at their customers’ requirements, and then identifying how a given implementation will deliver value to their customer. Technology in and of itself will not drive adoption, retention and expansion. Instead, the customer experience model is the critical path for customer success.

When CPQ Isn’t Enough

As Services Organizations investigate how to lower the cost of sale, and become more efficient in their sales process, they often look to CPQ Systems to help produce Statements of Work (SOW). However, while CPQ have their place, they are not well adapted to the needs of Services Organizations. John Ragsdale, Distinguished VP Technology Research, says that even the leading CPQ system does not come close. It lacks resource and project related information, which are the essence of any services proposal. Proposal automation needs to take these factors into account, in order to be useful for a Services Organization.

The Case for Knowledge

Internal collaboration and knowledge sharing are far from new ideas, but as more projects are delivered at a distance, and more companies adopt a remote working model, companies need to take a stronger hand in investing in strategies and processes to enable their project teams.

It’s no longer possible for a team member to walk over to a colleague’s desk and get answers to their questions. They need a way to find and consume relevant information from different locations, in different time zones, and related to different project types. But, it is not enough to store content in SharePoint or other filing system and have the employee hunt for it. McKinsey reports that employees spend upwards of 18% of their time searching for information – that is 1.5 hours PER DAY. Any Professional Services leader would agree that time spent looking for information, is less productive to project outcomes compared to time could be spent solving problems or responding to a customer.

Employees need a self-service model where they can find and consume relevant information when they need it. Knowledge Management offers a means to share past project experiences and ideas, and collaborate on a common framework. It brings teams closer together, upgrades project quality and improves customer outcomes.

Panel | “Women in Support Services”

Faced with a series of questions such as “What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced as a woman”, “What would you tell your younger self”, and “How do you achieve work-life balance” the panel was an inspiring conversation between three powerful women leaders sharing their thoughts and experiences on what it means to be a woman in technology support.

They reflected on the abundance of male role models in business, and the fact that this can cause us to overlook women in front of us, simply because they have a different approach, but who are equally or sometimes more capable than their counterparts. They shared personal stories on job offers that they felt were beyond their capacity yet turned into very affirming career choices. They also exposed a more vulnerable side, discussing the mortification they felt early in their career, when being told they were “too emotional”.

Yet now, as leaders, they embrace emotion, as a human element that they are proud to bring to their work environments.

“Lift and Speed: Next Gen “Adaptive Agile” Implementation Framework for Supply Chain Solutions”

By Nari Dharmarajan, Sr. Director Professional Services PMO, JDA

For a software company like Upland PSA customer JDA, in an era of digitization, customers want quicker time to value and more nimble implementation. If you’re a SaaS start-up, you probably lean towards an Agile project delivery model. But if you’re an organization that delivers large-scale projects, built around packaged software deployment, with significant solution complexity, Waterfall is the more common delivery method. Yet, given the benefits to Agile, can we find a blended approach that incorporates principles of Agile into a Waterfall method.

“Adaptive Agile” as they call it at JDA, is a hybrid model that allows delivery teams to develop, design, and prepare in classic Waterfall method, but then introduce sprints, during which the delivery team can build, test, fail and learn, which are the principle tenets of the Agile model. Every sprint results in a customer demo, so there is ongoing UAT (user acceptance testing) and accelerated validation that the project is leading to a positive customer outcome.

A Better Handshake Between Sales and Service

Keynote Panel | “The Critical Links of LAER” with Bob Di Muccio, Martin Dove, Steve Frost, Thomas Lah and Phil Nanus

As anyone in Sales will tell you, winning customers is hard. And this is ever more apparent in today’s landscape: The sales conversation is increasingly complex, involving upwards of 8 to 10, to 15 buyers all involved in the purchase decision. Multiple layers of conversation are taking place, decisions are taking longer, and the conversations are as much focused on features and functions as they are on business outcomes. Also, customers are investing more thoughtfully, committing to smaller initial deals, forcing the vendor to demonstrate credibility before the customer is willing to invest in a longer-term relationship.

These factors are causing a re-balancing of the Services model, throughout the customer journey.

Starting at the Sales process, the TSIA team sees some companies invest as little as 2-4% of their Professional Services team time into pre-sales activities, and on the other end of the spectrum, some invest as much as 18%. While there is no set percentage that will determine success, it’s important to recognize the role they play and set aside a pre-sales budget. Look at your financial targets, charter, desired customer outcomes and more, to find out what works for your organization.

The key idea being that it is important to get the team involved in the process, in a collaborative model. It will increase customer confidence and have a positive impact on the customer experience.

Organizations also need to create a handshake process that transfers knowledge and information about the customer, that transitions from Sales to Services, and to Customer Success. Tribal knowledge is just not effective. It causes a break in the customer journey, such that each transition point can feel like Day 1, where they are forced to repeat their history and desired outcome at every step. Project and customer information shared at the beginning of the journey must be captured, shared and augmented throughout the engagement. By doing so, the customer gains confidence that the organization is attentive to their requirements and are alongside them at every step.


It was a great show, we are definitely looking forward to the fall event in Las Vegas, ready to share our own stories. If you’re not a member of TSIA and would like to learn more, and possibly attend the fall event, you can learn more about them on their website.

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