Nate Ulery discusses West Monroe's Performance Services with IT Best of Breed

Like many managed services firms, West Monroe Partners struggled with the big challenges facing the IT industry: recruitment and retention, skills shortages and adapting to changing customer demands.

But the Chicago-based firm tried something it says improved its overall end user experience and strengthened its sales team.

West Monroe's founders, who started the firm about a dozen years ago after leaving Arthur Andersen as it floundered during the Enron debacle, decided that if the firm was going to provide IT services to others, it should also provide those services to itself.

Consider it thinking inside the box. Nate Ulery, West Monroe senior director, says the strategy has worked for West Monroe, and it can work for other services firms.

For a time, West Monroe staff was expected to work on client accounts, and do internal support almost as a side job. "That was not a sustainable model," Ulery said.

So the firm made a change. Now, "we make it clear to members of our team that (West Monroe) is a client. We have clear expectations that you can't shortchange just because it's internal."

The arrangement helps employees feel like they're contributing to the team, and because they have such intimate knowledge of the services they provide, the entire West Monroe workforce has become essentially "500 salespeople," Ulery said.

The benefits of this arrangement reach beyond the bottom line, too. Being its own IT provider allows West Monroe "to test new services and capabilities before taking them to market," Ulery said. In the last year, the firm has launched app management and client relationship management services.

West Monroe does a lot of work around mergers and acquisitions. For example, a company that's being acquired by a private equity firm may be split off from a larger parent company with none of its previous IT infrastructure intact.

West Monroe, which has about 550 employees and does about $100 million in annual revenue, is often hired by PE firms to do IT for the companies they acquire.

Ulery is confident that many service providers could find success with the West Monroe model. "We test (services) as a 'friendly client," Ulery said. "If you're an MSP, there's definitely something to be said for eating your own dog food."

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