Twenty years ago on January 18th, 1996, Technology Services Group (TSG) was incorporated. This post will share some of my thoughts on 20 years, with some shout-outs to notable alumni that helped make TSG to what it has become today.
1996-2001 – Tech Start-up and the Internet
Often recruits or clients will ask, “What made you want to start a company?” The simple truth is, after 9 years at Andersen Consulting, my son Nick was born, and I wanted to step away from the constant grind and travel that was a part of Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) to be a better dad and husband. A friend had recommended me to a small, local consulting firm with 50 consultants. For six months I worked as the Vice President in charge of Operations with the job of moving a mostly body shop contracting firm to project based consulting firm. After six months and working on the low-end of the consulting spectrum, I came to realize that my ability to change the body shop, and my relationship with the owner, was coming to an end. To be honest, I saw my firing looming on the horizon and started looking for what’s next. I had an offer from Deloitte to go back into “big time” consulting but was looking for something else consistent with a more local and less travel opportunity.
First Shout-Out goes to my good friend Tom (sorry – no company names or last names on the post) who was currently working at a major life sciences company. Over lunch, Tom, a former colleague at Andersen, upon hearing of my current work issues, proposed coming to work for him as a contractor to evaluate NovaSoft versus Documentum. I had looked over Documentum while still at Andersen leading the image processing practice. With a car and laptop borrowed from my dad, I took Tom’s offer and TSG began.
After the evaluation was complete and Documentum chosen (the absolute right choice in the long run as Novasoft disappeared shortly thereafter), I was engaged by Tom to continue work to implement Documentum. Our first challenge was rebuilding the CR Smartform Visual Basic application (CR stood for Change Request – a critical component of a controlled documentation system). Tom asked me if “I knew anyone at Andersen.” Many of the concepts with that first application, as well as some early web work, are core principles behind our form and workflow tool – ActiveWizard.
Next Shout-Out goes to Ellen and Tony who came in as employee numbers 1 and 2 to build the CR Smartform, as well as a POC around Documentum with a HTML web browser approach. Both Ellen and Tony were critical for TSG to go from “Dave the contractor” to “TSG the company.” Ellen continues to be the driving force for TSG in everything from life sciences to recruiting and HR and will be celebrating her 20th anniversary in May this year. Tony has moved on (but still in the Documentum community) but continues to be a valued TSG alumni.
In working at the life sciences company, we got to know the local Chicago Documentum reps who helped us establish ourselves as Documentum partners. Shout-Outs to Judy, Craig and Brian, who recognized what these three ex-Andersen folks could do and introduced us to many new Documentum customers and potential customers. Major thanks and Shout-out to one of those customers, Peggy, that was working at US Robotics (we can name them as they aren’t around anymore) and pushed us with “can I hire you – how many people can you bring?” I have always said while Tom helped TSG begin, Peggy turned us into a true consulting firm. Solution included SOP management – part of our continued work with our compliance solution. Shout-outs to Melissa, John and Tom who came on board with the US Robotics.
(Melissa and Ellen at Cubs Hooky Day)
Later hires included Sean and a very young Ray to start a FileNet ECM practice that really just was one banking client. Ray continues to be a critical component of TSG as lead of the Alfresco practice and will celebrate his 18 year anniversary this spring.
First year ended with 7 people, mostly Andersen alumni who were looking for something different.
(1996 Christmas Party – Clockwise from left Tom, Melissa, John (and date), Jason, Tony, Melissa, Ellen with Kevin and Lori)
Other highlights of our first five years included:
- Presenting at the first Documentum user event, Momentum, in Miami. I presented on how to combine Documentum with a web browser. (I have still have the slides).
- A Norm MacDonald look-alike from Documentum approached us about working for TSG. Jon has been with us for 18 years of politically incorrect quotes and humor and a huge part of the success at TSG.
- Our first college hire, Andrew, and first interns including Sarah. This was the beginning of our commitment to “hire from college and train” and has been incredibly successful. One very successful college hire, George, established our Java practice and, after 15 years, is now the visionary and product manager for HPI, ActiveWizard and other TSG software products. Other fabulous college hires and shout-outs include Ed, Taylor, Tim, Trish, Faye, FJ, Kelly, Marcus, Brian, Chris, Katie, Erin, and Ryan to name a few that established many of the cultural fun components of TSG that continue to this day.
- More great Andersen alumni and shout-outs to Peter, Scott, Stu, Elizabeth, Renee, Chris, Anne and Elliot come to mind.
- We tried cloud when it was called Application Service Provider (ASP) with connectsite.com powered by Documentum. A couple of clients but it was very much before its time. Shout-outs to Colin, Marcus, Mari, Kelly and Patty who came on board as we were planning connectsite and continued growth and put in place the recruiting, financial and other disciplines that we continue to use today.
- One of the biggest changes Patty made in running the office was to bring in our office manager, Denise. Up until that time, payroll and other accounting had been a home office function that didn’t always result in the happiest home, particularly with three kids under 5 running around. Denise allowed my wife Melissa to “retire” and has been the stabilizing force of TSG ever since. Denise continues to keep the office running smoothly and will be celebrating her 15 year anniversary this year.
2002-2006 – nine-eleven, some great people and Documentum gets greedy
Like the rest of the economy at the time, TSG was thinking “nothing but up” in early 2001. Even after 9-11-2001, we had an outstanding October, November and December. As companies significantly reduced budgeting in 2002, we noticed an extreme drop-off in January.
Coupled with the downturn, Documentum brought in new management from Oracle that led to a different relationship with partners. The collaborative approach from the first five years faded to a more aggressive Oracle sales approach that resulted in substantial channel conflict and for both software sales and consulting. TSG chose to step away from the Documentum sales reps (and reselling) and going alone to our clients while still remaining a Documentum partner.
In addition to the Documentum partnership turn, 2002 was the roughest year for TSG as employees had to endure layoffs, salary cuts as well as significant turnover. I will always be indebted to the people that stuck with us through thick and thin. Big shout-outs to our college hires, specifically Gretchen and Bethany who will always be a special part of TSG.
Bethany and Gretchen
Also, as things turned around in 2003 and 2004, in 2005, TSG had a big injection of talent (and fun) from a former Documentum partner. Shoutouts to Brad (who just celebrated his 10 year anniversary with TSG) as well as Todd, Ian, Naveen and Kjersten. Many of TSG’s products and infrastructure components, including OpenMigrate, still have Todd’s fingerprints (and sense of humor) all over them. The same can be said for Ian’s contributions to our interface components.
Big shout-outs to clients including Bill and Scott “Jaws.” Bill is the driving force in our Nuclear practice, and Jaws was a big contributor to our compliance solution as well as the beginning of our cached approach for consumers. Also worth a shout-out Tim (a client from back in 1996) and Jerry who came from two different divisions to define the vision for our compliance solution.
One last big shout-out from this period to other college hires who were crucial to TSG including Tony (just celebrated his 10 year anniversary and is the recruiting/infrastructure/OpenMigrate Czar), Shana, Nickie and Sweta. We started 2006 with 10 year anniversary party with several exceptional alumni returning.
2006 to today – Alfresco and Open Source
Compared to the first 10 years, the last 10 years have been, with some exceptions, a “no drama” period for TSG. Some of the highlights:
- Alfresco Partnership – Shout out to Mike Carey as well as John Newton who pushed us for “this Open Source thing is a good business model.” Alfresco and Open Source continue to drive TSG forward with our solutions and products.
- Open Source/Visible Source – After struggling with the normal difficulties of the software sales model from Documentum or our own products, we choose to move all of our products to Open Source and have now moved to Visible Source for clients. The community of our clients continue to enhance our products and solutions without the relationship hassles of a normal software sales relationship.
- DePauw and Bradley – We moved from our large school only focus in our recruiting to include DePauw and Bradley. We continue to be impressed with our hires from both the big schools and smaller schools that get our work-life balance business model. Shoutouts to Dan, Don, Mike and others that have made it such a success.
- 2008 – No Layoffs – Could have been some drama but, after learning our lesson in 2002, we survived and thrived through the worst economic downtown in our lifetime without any layoffs. Thanks to everyone that took a couple of unpaid days off when needed to avoid the cultural impact of layoffs.
- 2010 – Documentum Partner no more – Probably the biggest drama was the “Dear TSG” fax (yes – it was a fax) we got in 2010 ending our partnership with Documentum. While the fax included some weird reasons for the partnership ending, later an inside source told us it was due to our Open Source software and specifically one client that picked us over an expensive solution from Documentum. In hindsight, it could not have worked out better for TSG as our clients rallied to continue to support us, and our posts here could take on the difficult Documentum topics that we had avoided in the past. We are doing more Documentum work every year and have benefited from not having to put up with the overhead (and censorship) of the Documentum partnership.
- 2010 – Deluxe Office – We moved into our new office space in downtown Chicago. Easy access to everything in Chicago and a view that is one of the most iconic in the city. With some heating issues aside, the office has been a showpiece and huge part of the culture of TSG.
Summary – 2016 and Beyond
I am sure I have forgotten at least of couple of shout-outs along the way. TSG continues to be the sum of its parts and people from our 20 year history. A heart-felt thank you to everyone that has been involved as an employee, client, partner or advisor throughout that time period. Alumni please add any of your thoughts, shout-outs or favorite memories (ex: Sumo Wrestling, TSG Triplets, Chase Corporate Challenge, George and Ray tubing, Ski Trips…).