In 1990, IBM sold their typewriter division to Lexmark. The company that developed the Selectric in 1961, and dominated the space had exited completely. A new division was given focus, attention, and leadership. It was not possible to adapt the typewriter business to the word processor business, or the computer business. Those required a new vision, and a different approach. In a similar way, digital agencies who are still rooted in a single market or technology need to find a way to grow and adapt from the top down, rather than spread out and just throw their hat in the ring.
It's increasingly clear that prior predictions of an enterprise E-commerce market shift towards Software as a Service (and Cloud) offerings have been spot on. Though even with the benefit of fairly accurate foresight, it's been challenging for Global Commerce Service Providers (GCSPs) to adapt to the changing world.
Once a technology approach has reached peak and the demand is no longer driving growth, it is difficult for any established services organization to successfully shift and market to new solution areas. One reason has a lot to do with technical leadership.
A consulting firm typically begins with strong talent rooted in a particular solution, vendor, or market. That technical talent - in the case of successful organizations - builds out a larger team and infrastructure to accommodate growth. That means manager-level and above talent is grown from people hired for the original skills and expertise required. To shift this organization to effectively solution and sell in another software package, or solution type is tremendously challenging. It requires the technical leadership to be deferential to new technical leadership, or to learn and effectively adapt style and approach in order to lead the new area. The third option - and often the one that occurs by default - is to hire specialized consultants in the new service area, and manage/sell the services delivery in much the same way as what was done originally. The implicit assumption is that the differences are not so significant as to require a separate and targeted approach. This, as it turns out, is a giant mistake.
To be an effective global commerce service provider, the ability to hire, develop, differentiate, partner, understand, and craft an organization which can cater to multiple solution types and markets must come from the very top.
Organizations which have either understood this to be true, or found out through circumstance and luck, have been more effective at selling and delivering on-premise B2B solutions just as well as SaaS B2C solutions. The ability for decisions at the executive level to account for a larger, more diverse, and rapidly evolving solutions and vendor environment is the paramount asset a GCSP can bring to bear. In the cases of firms rooted too deeply in one particular vendor, platform, or service area - they may find this to be a limiting factor in expanding their reach.
Customers should identify and validate the roots of their partner's expertise, determine what means they use to develop expertise and talent in other areas, and how successful they have been at operating beyond their original genesis.
Firms that enter the market as true Global Commerce Service Providers with the purpose of helping customers navigate the existing vendor landscape, and delivering best-of-breed E-commerce solutions - who have technical leadership rooted in a broad understanding of how this space has evolved and continues to grow - they will be, and are, best positioned to provide services and guidance to discerning businesses.