Learn Business Processes Before The Pitch
Understanding how technology improves business processes helps VARs justify IT investments for their customers.
Improvements in IT almost always begin with an increase in management complexity. Hardware improvements typically lead the way with a faster or more powerful device. The greater the improvement, the greater the change and impact to the IT user. Radical increases in storage capacity create problems of scale. Improvements in bandwidth drive connectivity increases. So, Moore's law could also be labeled the "More Law" - more of anything means more management required!
Over time, each technology supplier improves the manageability of its products. For example, server consolidation and storage area networks (SANs) exist, at least partly, to solve problems of complexity and management.
Increasing Pressure To Justify IT Expenditures
The failure of many e-initiatives is but one factor causing a review of IT expenditures. No longer will a CIO simply add capacity or start an initiative without a good understanding of the expected return on the investment. A CIO or IT executive shouldn't put in a SAN (storage area network) just because their peer companies are.
A specialty vendor offers the typical software management solution. Some vendors have a very narrow focus, offering one brand of database or one operating system. Other specialists service one technology area, such as storage or networks. These technology-centric solutions typically operate in isolation. Rarely does the network management solution from one vendor interoperate with the storage management solution from another. The software solutions offered by hardware vendors are often the least compatible with other solutions. The reasons are a lack of skill and competition. Why would a storage management vendor be an expert on databases? Even the solutions from a vendor with very wide coverage often don't integrate with each other. These solutions often appear as if they came from different vendors.
Impact To VARs
A VAR is brought into a business because of its expertise in one or more technology areas. The VAR may be an expert in networking, storage, or application development. When competing for business, a VAR must present the best overall value proposition, whether it partners with other VARs or develops in-house solutions. The best value proposition is one that clearly links the improvements to the customer with the investment in the VAR's solution. Examples of weak value propositions include:
- "This network configuration is faster than your old one."
- "My solution uses state-of-the-art technology to solve your problem."
Better value propositions:
- "Consolidating servers makes more computing available to a larger number of users and reduces management costs."
- "This systems management console supports both your existing hardware and the new system so your staff only needs to learn one tool."
Be Business Process-Centric
A VAR striving to offer the best possible package of services and technology should frame its solutions in the context of its client's business. IT supports or enables business processes. Applications actually execute the business process. So, for the best possible effectiveness, a VAR should not be technology-centric, it should be business process-centric or application-centric. Its proposals or solutions should be framed in the context of the client's business. It should be able to answer questions like:
- "How will adding faster storage systems enable better retail inventory decisions?"
- "How will a new management console reduce operational staffing?"
- "How will the new system perform during the holiday season?"
To do this, a VAR must expand its view beyond the technology that consumes it every day. For example:
- It must look for technology partners who already have a vertical market or application focus. If a VAR's technology suppliers are business or application-centric, part of its job is already done.
- It must concentrate on attributes that always help a VAR - ease of installation, strong support structure, and joint marketing opportunities. VARs need solutions that don't conflict with the hardware or software that is already running in the client environment.
Technology can and does solve business problems. But the link between the two is often vague and poorly presented. By focusing on the client's business instead of technology, the VAR's proposals will be understood more easily and approved more quickly. Value to the client increases, and the VAR's heightened knowledge of business processes improves its ability to win additional business in the future.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at email@example.com.