When Customers Are Frustrated By Wireless
To alleviate customers' frustrations with complex, enterprise-wide wireless projects, Datavision-Prologix turned to a consultant-based business model.
It's Christmas morning and a father is cursing under his breath. No, he's not some kind of modern-day grinch; he's just trying to assemble a toy for his child. As he struggles to understand the toy's instructions, he starts to second-guess his decision not to pay the extra $15 it would have cost to have the toy assembled by someone at the store.
Similarly, many end users choose to install wireless local area networks (WLANs) on their own rather than consult an integrator for help. Enticed by the seemingly simplistic nature of wireless hardware (i.e. access points), these companies often realize too late the complexities involved with this technology. They find their WLAN projects stifled by issues such as bandwidth, range, security, session droppings, and network coverage inconsistencies. Companies with these types of predicaments are exactly the kinds of customers wireless integrator Datavision-Prologix, Inc. (Warminster, PA) is targeting.
The Ideal WLAN Prospects
Datavision-Prologix has 3,000 customers, many of which fit the aforementioned profile. Like the frustrated father who learned his lesson after taking hours to assemble his child's toy, a company that has successfully installed a WLAN often seeks Datavision-Prologix' help when planning future WLAN initiatives. Instead of achieving plug and play with this technology, these types of companies experienced plug and pain - and they don't want to relive that frustration. "We've identified our best prospect as a company that is not a first-time wireless user," explained Paul Speese, CEO of Datavision-Prologix. "That's because first-time users have unrealistic expectations. They think a WLAN is a plug and play type of technology."
Speese stated that these customers come in all shapes and sizes and are usually trying to expand a WLAN throughout an enterprise. They recognize their engineering and IT staffs were stretched with the first WLAN implementation, and thus, want to outsource the next phase. "These clients know that installing a wireless network is more than just positioning a bunch of access points. Instead, the real trick is getting data from an RF [radio frequency] device to the host system and back again." With customers more frequently requesting this type of enterprise-wide integration knowledge, Speese decided it was time for a change at his company.
The Move To A Wireless Consultant Model
In September 2001, Datavision-Prologix added its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). With the creation of this group, the company began scaling back its focus on hardware and shifted toward a consulting and professional services model. "We added ATG because our technical specialists were being pulled out of their day-to-day duties to attend to long-term, enterprise issues our customers were asking about," Speese said. "This made it difficult to effectively handle the daily needs of a project. So, we realized we needed to develop a separate enterprise-wide project management group."
Acting somewhat like a project manager, ATG offers services such as wireless assessments, security/access control analysis and design, and mobile and wireless computing planning. Datavision-Prologix also provides traditional infrastructure installation and device integration services. However, ATG analyzes the impact a wireless project will have on a customer's entire enterprise rather than just a specific area being served by a WLAN.
ATG is composed of 20 people, some of whom were already technical specialists for Datavision-Prologix and some of whom were hired new. On average, three ATG staff members are assigned to a project. Thus far, Datavision-Prologix has 10 clients that have used this group's services. The most use has come from customers in the pharmaceutical, education, and transportation/logistics markets. Speese said there is an extra fee for ATG to be involved with a project. In fact, he expects this group to account for a 30% increase in sales revenue this year.
Offer Products Requiring Value-Add Services
In addition to moving toward a consultant-based business model, Speese wants to continue to identify products requiring a lot of value-added services like the ones offered by ATG. One such product is SAPConsole (see sidebar on this page). "My goal is for us to continue to develop a competency in repeatable software solutions [as they've done with their SAP partner] that extend the wireless capabilities of a software system like SAP," he explained. "Having this type of specialized expertise may be the difference between solving a customer's problem in a day or solving it in two months."
Wireless network integration may be a small piece of any supply chain initiative, but it's a piece that will stall an enterprise if not completed correctly. Companies today know this premise to be true because they've felt the pain of failed or slow wireless installations. Consequently, they now want more than just a wireless solution provider - they want a wireless enterprise prognosticator. In other words, they want someone who can stop them from cursing five years from now when they want to expand an existing WLAN.