Becoming the 'Trusted Advisor'
Harpreet Bhatia, VP Services Sales, Cisco India and SAARC
Continuous technology advancements, constant innovations, increased customer expectations and newer levels of competition are repainting the competitive landscape that companies operate in. This is forcing business leaders to rethink solution pathways that will help capture new market opportunities.
Overwhelmingly, the challenges are not about technology per se; there are a plethora of technology choices available. The main challenge is how to apply technology to maximize business benefits. Businesses need to identify problems and apply the right technologies to serve customers, while at the same time becoming more productive and cost efficient. However, without the right resources and expertise, simply implementing the latest and greatest technology is a risky and costly proposition.
The basic requirement to enable a business gain optimum benefits from technology is a robust suite of 'services' that help various business units to be connected on a single network platform. Such services must transparently integrate several solutions together and enable their delivery to customers. Along with the right technology and architecture, these services must enable businesses to reduce costs, improve operational efficiencies, increase customer stickiness and expand their capabilities.
This means a combination of a good architecture, relevant applications and efficient services is required to provide a dynamic business environment that facilitates productivity at all levels. What this also means is that channel organizations (partners in this case) have an opportunity to take their engagement with customers to a higher level - that of an advisor who will help businesses navigate the technology landscape, rethink newer ways to solve business problems and capture new market opportunities.
The network platform is essential to the delivery of a number of applications and services, creating a rich opportunity for partners to evolve their business model and monetize the opportunity. Services can become the key differentiator and profitability engine for partners and help them grow their professional capabilities.
Many organizations lack resources to maintain important information about their networks, support decentralized IT resources or operate in multiple remote locations, where network changes occur but are not tracked. They may have security concerns, want to add advanced technologies, or seek to improve the performance of their networks. These customers can benefit from network & security assessments and network optimization services delivered by their trusted advisor - a partner.
Being on the ground so to speak, partners have the advantage of opportunity to gain an intimate knowledge of the issues that end customers face and provide counsel on services that can address their business challenges. A network assessment analysis for example can show customers which areas of their networks need replacement or are at end-of-sale in their lifecycle-be it platforms, components, or software. Network assessments also allow partners to set themselves apart from competition because they act as trusted advisors who can recommend more efficient solutions with confidence and speak with more authority about advanced technologies that could extend and enhance each customer's unique network deployment.
For the partners, making small investments in an advisory leads to significant increase in value services and opens pathways for adoption of advanced technology architectures. Moving to an advisory capacity will help ensure a steady stream of revenue for partners and significantly impact their ability to retain customers in the long term.
By acting as advisors, partners help customers align their technology deployment with business objectives, applications, and processes because they offer the right strategy, architecture and planning at the 'prepare and plan' phases.
As customers seek improved services, the ability to bundle services with products is a vital source of growth. Employing digital strategies (example: collaborative technologies) helps reduce cost and ultimately transform service-related business processes to revenue generators and explore new market opportunities.
Expectations from vendors
Given the above, partners are looking for vendors that can help minimize the risk and cost of moving towards new technologies and innovative business models. By giving access to resources and intellectual property that help add significant value to customers while maintaining profitability, vendors can enable partners differentiate themselves in the market.
Services that help accelerate a partner's profitability and growth by packaging, automating, and scaling intellectual capital is most useful. Such services provide the partners with greater visibility and actionable insight into a customer's network environment.
A combination of value-based rewards and access to new services will help partners continue to meet customer requirements, distinguish themselves from the competition and maintain the profit levels required to support continued growth.