Geo Week News

March 24, 2011

The rise of the service providers

Having covered a couple of technology-driven markets, one thing I’ve noticed is how the role of the service provider, the technology integrator, rises and falls in importance. Generally, when you’re talking brand-new technology, the service provider starts out as simply the delivery mechanism. They’re beholden to the manufacturers who have developed this brand-new technology, and they’re basically mimicking the sales-speak that’s being handed down to them. 

Then, as the technology matures, and the service provider – who’s closest to the end user – becomes more knowledgable and has more contacts in the industry, their role changes. Suddenly, they become more of an integrator, picking and choosing the best pieces in the technology pipeline and leveraging that knowledge to gain favor with the end user and gain price advantages and technology innovation from the manufacturer. 

Finally, the technology commodifies, the end user gains much of the knowledge to do it themselves, and the service provider sometimes morphs back into a simple reseller, with much less value add and much more focus on volume sales to make up for the lack of margin they can command. 

So, where are we in 3D imaging?

Judging by my conversations this week at SPAR, I think the service providers are just about coming into their own. At the moment, they hold a lot of cards. The manufacturers have been making big strides to bring prices down and deliver more options. The end users are intrigued but not armed with a ton of experience and knowledge. And now the service providers are looking to integrate a variety of technologies and show their value to the end user. But they still need some help. At times, the manufacturers are still asking them to resell technology that’s not 100 percent vetted, or is in early versions.

I’d say the sweet spot might still be a year or two away, but there are certainly service providers that are doing a good job of leveraging their positions as experts. 

As an example, see this video wherein I get a little insight from Brad Adams and Eric Andelin at Woolpert (who came to the company after their Dallas office of Bohannan Huston was acquired). 

Okay, yes, I say “you know” a lot. I’m not sure why. Also, it may be that someone uses the word “irregardless,” which of course isn’t a word. It wasn’t my best interview performance. Perhaps I was getting a little tired at lunch time and needed some calories. But Brad and Eric do a pretty great job of outlying where they see their civil transportation business going and what they need from manufacturers to make themselves more attractive to end users and more successful. 

How does this stack up with how you see the market developing?


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