By Gennifer Biggs, Business Solutions magazine.
I talk to many IT solutions providers that started out in the IT consulting business, but then discovered that deep pools of revenue lurked behind those in-depth assessments and recommendation reports. For International Computerware Inc. (ICI), just such a company, the trick became navigating the tricky waters between IT assessment and what IT environment a customer wants, needs, and can, in all honesty, achieve. Just as you might map out a treacherous course down challenging rapids in a river, ICI has developed a methodology that allows it to move nimbly from what a customer wants to reality in an efficient and profitable manner.
While the ICI consultative sales methodology was first established as a business practice in 2007, it was only after the process was honed over the next few years that the solutions provider trademarked the process in 2009, calling it nCubed. "The methodology, which is the consultative side of our approach, is called nCubed, which stands for now, next, and nirvana," explains Jamie Shepard, EVP of technology solutions at ICI. The first step of nCubed is asking "why" until you uncover the reality of a customer's infrastructure now and then continue to ask "why" in order to gather enough information about the business to make recommendations that match technology to business drivers in order to move the customer through next with the ultimate long-term goal of nirvana, or close to it. That methodology has become critical as many of the ICI customers — often enterprise and midmarket organizations — see and strive to achieve the efficiencies found with cloud computing.
To achieve that multipronged goal, ICI starts with a full IT environment assessment that typically takes about two months. "We have a 50-day process of interviews where we discuss what is being used now, from data management to security, remote access to business continuity, and back," says Shepard. For example, when ICI started working with a major healthcare provider in Massachusetts, it needed to uncover the state of the organization's IT network, which stretched among several facilities and included solutions for storage, archiving, virtualization, and security. The organization asked ICI to help with organizing and optimizing the many point solutions within its IT environment. While the organization's needs were multifaceted, after an nCubed assessment, ICI uncovered that the biggest need revolved around providing a faster, more secure way for doctors in radiology to access patient data on the fly. "In addition to assessing their infrastructure, we interviewed a lot of employees, because access and usage of that network depended heavily on the user," explains Shepard.