Use Cost Savings To Support Client Relationship
A VAR secures its status as a trusted advisor after replacing a nonprofitâ€™s outdated technology as part of a $96,000 sale.
When help from above wasn't enough to resolve the IT issues at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the nonprofit turned to Success Computer Consulting, a local VAR that focuses on solutions for SMBs. "We connected with the archdiocese through a referral from another customer, and after a thorough assessment of its entire network, we won the job," explains Brent Morris, director of sales, Success Computer Consulting. Although the initial project was to provide support for the archdiocese, Morris explains that the archdiocese knew it needed more help than that. "The way the relationship started, they needed service for their network; they were overburdened," says Morris. "We immediately realized that a lot of the work we were completing for them was only necessary because their equipment was outdated." While that news came as no surprise to the customer, Morris says the archdiocese needed guidance for the pending equipment refresh. "When we start with a client, we do a two-prong assessment, and that is what we did for the archdiocese. We look at the technical landscape, and we also assess the client's business side, going through about 2 hours of intake questions with the leaders and executives of the organization. Then, we match up their business expectations with technology expectations and try to sync those up before we move forward."
Replace Outdated Equipment To Lessen Demands On IT Staff
Morris says the archdiocese was struggling with outdated equipment — PCs and 30 small servers ranging from four to six years old — that took an excessive amount of IT support. "Our finding was that they were spending time on IT instead of focusing on things that would make their organization better." Because the archdiocese didn't have the budget to completely exchange all its old equipment for new, Success Computer Consulting recommended a phased replacement plan with a certain number of desktop PCs and laptops swapped out each quarter. "We advised them about the value of the Lenovo ThinkCentre A57 desktops and ThinkPad T61 notebooks. We recommended laptops for the field personnel in parishes [about 30% of the staff] and desktops for internal staff."
The key to winning this installation, says Morris, was the faith Success Computer Consulting has in Lenovo's quality. "The second piece was the Lenovo ThinkVantage technology, specifically its one-button recovery option," explains Morris. "Before, if a user had a corrupt system, he lost a day or two of work because he had to go back to IT support, find recovery CDs, and reinstall those programs. With one-button recovery, the user presses the blue button, and that resets the computer to factory defaults or the custom settings established by the user when the equipment was installed."
Morris says that for many small organizations, the real value of durability, one-touch recovery, and strong vendor support comes in terms of savings within IT departments. Success Computer Consulting understands that particular end result since it fills the role of 'IT department' for about 65% of its customers. "When the manufacturer supports us, we know we can call for support, get a live voice, and their only goal is to solve my problem quickly. So, we know when we recommend these products, we eliminate those times where you can't reach a vendor for support, and that time element really can bog down small business IT staffs." Morris says that while he's never seen it in writing, his experience with Lenovo is that if the company receives a product for repair, it returns it the next day with repairs completed.
Once Success Computer Consulting made its equipment recommendations, Morris says the archdiocese did question whether it was paying more for the Lenovo brand, a common objection. "There is a belief that Lenovo and ThinkPads come at a premium price, but we show customers that we are typically within 5% of the competition, and that resolves those questions. We just have to provide information to overcome the perception."
Consider Time, Budget Constraints Of Clients
Once the archdiocese approved the proposal, which cost about $96,000, a 12-month phased replacement plan kicked off. Success Computer Consulting also installed six new IBM BladeCenter HS21 XM servers using virtualization technology to fulfill the storage needs formerly provided by 30 servers. Once the installation was complete, the archdiocese started to see both cost and time savings. "Their support costs and the time their staff spends on support have gone down about 30%, which obviously can be accounted for through new equipment alone, but we expect the drop in support time will continue to be a low cost for them four or five years into this because of the reliability we've seen from Lenovo and IBM products," explains Morris. He adds that the typical payback for an installation of this size is about three years. In the meantime, the next step is twofold. "Because they are a nonprofit that was using older technology, getting them standardized on updated technology was a big deal, and the next challenge is updating them to the Vista OS," says Morris. The new hardware came with Microsoft Vista, but Success Computer Consulting exercised the downgrade rights to XP Pro. "We didn't implement Vista right off because the archdiocese did have some legacy applications to deal with, and they needed the hardware installation on a tighter timeline than what we could meet if we thoroughly evaluated those legacy apps to determine their compatibility with Vista," says Morris. "Long term, once we've done that, then we will also work to establish a refresh cycle so they do not fall so far behind with their technology. In our experience, swapping out 100-plus PCs in one fell swoop doesn't work for us or them. We want to get them set for future phased refreshes."