Function and Form
Ashish Bhutiani did not plan for Function1 to become the enterprise software consulting company it is today when he founded the business in 2007.
Before he created Function1, Ashish was working as a consultant at BEA Systems. He noticed a large number of clients in need of add-on products for a software portal. “It made sense to build these products,” Ashish says. BEA Systems did not want to participate in the development of the products, so Ashish and his partner started Function1 to create the add-ons themselves.
“We didn’t think we were going to be a consulting company,” says Ashish. “We thought we were going to be selling add-ons to the product, but our clients still wanted us to do consulting and kept asking if we could do consulting work.”
As the business progressed, Function1’s revenue primarily derived from service. But the company continues to create custom software add-ons at a client’s request. Function1 aims to help clients utilize technology to bring their ideas to life, and specializes in Splunk, Drupal, Oracle WebCenter Sites, Data Security, and Project Management.
Function1 was developed to create add-ons to industry-leading software to meet specific needs of customers. To maximize technological pursuits, the company created smaller products that could be integrated with customers’ software and turn a customer’s vision into reality. When clients saw how helpful Ashish was in improving productivity and simplifying operations, they wanted him to provide consulting services.
Ashish is well known in this particular consulting industry. In his 15 plus years as a consultant, he has been specifically requested by clients and invited to present at conferences by various software companies. Such companies have also brought Ashish on site and into their engineering departments to solve problems.
At one point, Splunk was developing guidelines on how to develop apps that could integrate with their product. “They brought me into their development office for a couple of weeks,” says Ashish. “We talked it through, leading to a book that Splunk put out on how to build those apps.”
Complementing his own reputation in the industry, Ashish assigns a thought leader to each of Function1’s projects. “Their names are known within the community for having delivered interesting solutions,” Ashish says. Function1 consultants stay close with the community by responding to questions on message boards, remaining active on the company’s blog, and going to conferences.
As a veteran of the software consulting industry, Ashish is a keen problem-solver. When building Function1, he took a look at the problems in the industry and decided to make some changes centered on a vision of company success.
Ashish noted that people don’t stay in consulting jobs for too long. “I wanted to make Function1 a place where people want to stay and see a long-term career,” Ashish says.
Function1 altered consultant contracts so they are less hourly-based and more delivery-based. Employees can take an extra day off or get a bonus for having completed an assignment early. Since consulting often requires travel, an extra day off can be pivotal for employees due to their demanding schedules.
Ashish strongly values his employees and attributes much of the company’s success to its people. Since its start, Function1 has seen many changes in the products it consults on. “The people that we’ve brought on board have been flexible and quick to pick up new technologies, and people can switch from being portal to data to website consultants,” says Ashish. “We’ve managed change in technology very well.”
The company currently has 50 employees including consultants, operations staff, legal staff, and salespeople.
Some work perks are unlimited time off and annual company trips. Function1 also has an internal chat tool so employees can build relationships. They talk about sports, business travel, and other interests. “We make sure people are happy and stay connected,” Ashish says.
Success and Growth
With Function1’s focus on exceptionally niche products comes good and bad. On the positive side, there is less competition. On the other hand, it is hard to find employees who are familiar with certain software before they join the company. “We teach everybody who comes on board how to work with the software,” says Ashish.
Another positive is that Function1 has formed partnerships with those who sell the software. “Salespeople on Oracle, Splunk, and Drupal introduce us to a lot of clients,” Ashish says. The partnership works well for both parties. “It’s done well for the salespeople because their customers are happy. They’re leaving their customer in good hands for the implementation of the software.”
Function1’s existing customers remain happy as well. The company’s blog has played a large role in providing clients with helpful information.
“We’ve been growing from a revenue perspective by about 15 to 20 percent for the last couple of years and we’re expecting that to continue through at least the next two years as well,” says Ashish. Function1 plans to hire another five or six people next year which will lead to growth.
In addition, Function1 may begin to sell a product it created for internal use. The project management tool provides a billing system, allows consultants to generate reports for clients, and permits clients to log in, see how the project is doing and leave notes.
“It’s a tool for consulting organizations,” Ashish says. “We think this is something that potentially has a market outside of the company.”