How I'd run a DevOps Consultancy

A few months ago, I was approached by a firm asking to become a consultant. I starting thinking about how I would run the whole practice. I decided to share this with the world.


I’d want the major business pillars to be well integrated. The practice/product is integrated with marketing, which is integrated with sales, and hiring. Every business unit works together, and outputs feed as inputs to each other. I think this holistic approach would mean a smaller, more agile business able to respond to market trends quickly and disrupt from the inside. This plan would take commitment and patience to execute, but would be humming solidly after year two.

Here’s how I think each pillar would perform and integrate:

Marketing

Marketing is the first pillar because, before anyone will buy what you’re selling, you need their attention. You’re selling your product to your clients, but you’re also selling the company to potential employees. A rock-solid marketing strategy can also integrate into the product offering, acting as client marketing dollars.

Integrations

Development/Execution

The execution of the marketing strategy revolves around solid storytelling. A small team of 4-5 could do it well, but they all need to be extremely talented. I’d set up some local meetups around modern marketing strategies and recruit from the talent pool there. I’d keep the meetups going as a source of content.

DevOps Consulting

The consulting product is geared at accelerating existing business practices or bringing in new products or processes. The practice would be focused on re-usable patterns and scalable implementations. The engagements may be to build out deployment infrastructure for specific apps, but their other apps should be considered as to not exclude obvious wins. Each engagement should be seeking long-term viability of the client’s business, including training them on DevOps or even moving our trained and knowledgeable employees into the client’s company. I know a lot of engineers (myself included) are wary of projects built by consultants or contractors, due to a perception of low quality. Moving your engineers into the client company would show that they’re committed to building a product or implementing patterns that last.

Integrations

Development / Execution

While building solutions for clients, there should always be an eye for building patterns or products that could be scaled to multiple clients.

Recruiting / HR

The recruiting part of the strategy ensures that we have a solid pipeline of talent available to us. It enables the employee placement strategy of our consulting product, as well as reduces our costs when needing to scale up the labor side of the business. Developing training is crucial for us to onboard new engineers and also feeds our product of training clients on DevOps tools and practices. The other aspect of this is having open conversations with employees. DevOps is a really hot sector and seems to only grow in demand. Engineers who can learn quickly can dramatically increase their market value in 2 - 3 years. This strategy is designed around an expectation that engineers will leave the company. A smaller product under the company’s umbrella could be recruiting/staffing. Where we have engineers go through our pipeline but don’t have a place for them, we could try to place them in client companies.

Integrations

Sales

I left sales for last because it’s easily my weakest skill. I think a solid marketing execution would naturally feed the lead funnel. Additionally, client services businesses are tough to run for a long time, as the sales cycle needs to complete as quickly as possible. I’d see if there are any of the Agile/DevOps concepts to apply to our sales process. There’s a lot of power in iteration, so it would be essential to always be willing to try new approaches.

Future Options

After a few years of operation, this machine would be a valuable asset itself. It could easily shift towards startup incubation or flipping acquisitions. Any business or product run through this machine would see a dramatic and rapid increase in value, both through the marketing and DevOps implementations. Maybe I’ll cover these in depth in a future post.


That was a long one, but hopefully I was able to clearly convey the plan. If you have questions or want to talk about this further, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always available for interesting conversations.