Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a doom-and-gloom article, let me promise you it isn’t. It’s a story about opportunity. True, where there’s opportunity, there’s often the other side of the coin where weakness and threats lie. My goal, and that of Business Solutions, is to keep readers like you on the opportunity side of business. I want you profitable and thriving in 2014 and into 2015.
Change Is In The Air
About a year ago at a conference meeting, industry leaders in retail evaluated the tablet POS threat and concluded that it would take three years for tablets and cloud POS to threaten the channel and the sale of traditional POS systems. You can argue to what degree tablets and cloud POS are a threat today, but it clearly hasn’t taken three years. It’s now, and this is just one example of how quickly technologies are evolving.
Technologies are converging faster and more than ever. This isn’t news; it’s been happening for a long time. Nearly every office machine and business tool is connected to the LAN or is accessible via the Internet. Software and related tools are either on the network or in the cloud. The lines are being blurred as to what’s doing what. Customers just care that their needs are met.
The truly successful solutions providers of 2014 and beyond will have a strong networking background. You have that? Great! You should also be dedicated to solving customer problems through whatever technology is necessary. Did I lose you on that one? If you’ve got a retail customer and they need VoIP, sell it to them! If you’ve got a healthcare customer and they need to process credit cards, get into payment processing! Sadly, most solutions providers still operate in a silo. That’s where they’ll die.
I don’t think you can survive in the future by being a VAR who sells bar coding solutions to hospitals. You need to be a healthcare-focused VAR who is capable of addressing all the IT needs of your healthcare customers, including bar code printers. Today, if you’re just the printer guy, you’re in trouble. It won’t take much for the networking/VoIP/managed services provider to add bar code printer expertise and steal that business.
The same can be said for every other vertical. No one is safe. I’m a broken record when it comes to the retail space. If you’re getting away with just selling POS systems, you won’t for long. Competition is everywhere. (And the general IT guys haven’t set their sights on retail yet, but they will.)
Again, this is an opportunity. If you’re currently a one-trick pony, consider how you can affect sales and customer retention by broadening your line card and upselling existing customers.
Prepare For Tomorrow
Remote monitoring and management. Mobile device management. Business continuity. Big Data. The cloud. All of these are, to varying degrees, buzzwords. That said, they aren’t fads that are going away. They are the future, and yet I know quite a few solutions providers who dismiss these words/technologies because they’re “not ready for today,” or “outside the scope of what we do,” or because they’re “just an overhyped concept today.”
These concepts/technologies are where today’s solutions providers should be focusing to be successful tomorrow. The need to be more efficient with fewer people isn’t going to go away. Proactive monitoring and maintenance aren’t going to become bad ideas. Managing mobile devices will only increase. The insight that can come from Big Data will always be welcome, and when the price drops, everyone will want it. The efficiency gains from the cloud cannot be denied.
These are all truths. So I ask, what are you doing to prepare your company to offer such solutions? If you know certain things are bound to happen or evolve to a certain point, why let fear or some other obstacle stand in the way of change?
Don’t allow 2014 to be the beginning of the end of your company. Rather, let it be the beginning of the end of having a close-minded company stuck in a clunky low- to no-profit business model. Let it be the end of closed-mindedness concerning the solutions you provide your customers.