Society and technology are evolving faster than our ability to adapt. That point was strongly emphasized by Bob Humphreys in his presentation that helped kick off the recent CompTIA IT Services and Support Community meeting in Woodbridge, Ontario, just north of Toronto. The leader of Demand Programs and Digital Strategy for IBM Canada underscored how technology has become the most important external force that impacts today’s businesses.
Back in the day, most businesses used IT for process improvement and automation. The focus is quickly shifting to a system of engagement that maximizes value creation at every point. The marketing department is a perfect example of that transition. With the advent of social media and other external communications solutions such as websites, mobile applications and Skype, some systems the IT team used to control have become the responsibility of front office personnel. Since marketing is timely and must adapt quickly to competitive and social cues, the people closest to those trends are being given more procurement opportunities.
Similar transitions are taking place throughout many organizations, from the accounting and engineering teams to the CEO’s office. While the IT departments retain their ownership of the networks and the overall infrastructure, many continue to lose the power — and budgets — for approving individual line applications. Cloud and mobility solutions are fueling some of that transition, making it easier and faster for each group to outsource and implement the tools needed to meet its objectives.
As procurement responsibilities broaden throughout many organizations, solution providers with the skills to develop broad and deep relationships will be more likely to succeed. Firms with more limited business development capabilities will either have to step up their new talent recruitment efforts or implement advanced sales training programs to remain competitive. They have to understand these shifts in customer buying behaviors and build plans that address the opportunities that come along. When your team recognizes the individual needs of each decision maker, as well as their desires and goals, it’s easier to design the right solutions and close more deals.
Opportunities and Trends
The growth in mobility and cloud services emphasizes the shift to multiple decision makers. In today’s business environment, almost every employee utilizes a smart phone, apps or some web-based solution to complete their assigned tasks. In his presentation, Tim Herbert, CompTIA’s vice president of Research and Market Intelligence, pointed out that “80 percent of businesses are already employing the cloud to some capacity, from email and data storage to other applications.” He also pointed out that the value of IT in the business community is escalating quickly. Ecommerce, innovation and automation are trending up, and security remains a top priority with most companies.
For the Canadian market, NSA surveillance program concerns provide an opportunity for native grown and hosted cloud service providers and vendors. Rather than contracting with a U.S. company that falls under that agency’s scrutiny, some organizations are looking for less controversial alternatives closer to home. As online presence and industry compliance requirements continue to grow, solution providers can expect hosting and related consultation opportunities to increase.
Along with the proliferation of mobility and cloud offerings, employees are not only consuming more of those services, but are increasingly being given a say in what systems their companies use. Through meetings, surveys and other communications, more organizations are seeking the advice and feedback of workers on current and prospective technology changes. Some businesses even solicit employee suggestions on the products and services they would like to see implemented.
To gain a better understanding and have a greater influence on those new decision makers, solution providers should increase their level of engagement with both customers and prospects. For example, do you know the role each employee plays in the procurement process or how satisfied they are with the services and support your provide? Today’s solution providers have to expand their vision, ensuring that each end-user client gets the best results from their solutions and enjoys the experience.
A solid technology infrastructure is still important to your clients, but small business applications — such as expenses, VoIP and accounting solutions — must be tailored to meet fit most everyone’s needs. Many businesses still don’t understand the concept of managed services or proactive security measures, or their value to their organization. That serves as an opportunity to educate more decision makers and differentiate your IT services business from those focused more on features than benefits.
It also emphasizes the importance of broadly measuring client satisfaction. At the ITSS meeting, Jean Mork Bredeson, president of SERVICE 800, stressed the value of a high net promoter score (NPS) to a solution provider’s business. The customer satisfaction index, if managed properly, can help identify the changes that influence client success and those that negatively affect their opinions. Effective use of the NPS will strengthen B2B relationships and improve the long-term options for both parties.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of the great discussions from the latest Canadian ITSS Community meeting. If you’d like to learn more about the U.S. or Canada groups, as well as their live events and virtual activities, check out the group page or contact Jim Hamilton at [email protected].
Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at [email protected].