Partnering for Services
Amitabh Patney, VP Services, Cisco India and SAARC
As markets become more and more competitive, businesses across industry verticals seek solutions that make them more agile, efficient and profitable. Their customers meanwhile ask for holistic solutions that provide value for money, improve business and help derive maximum ROI from their investments.
While on one hand, a host of technology product/solutions are available that help improve business processes, inclusion of more applications and products also brings challenges. There are products that do not work, excessively complex, or difficult to install and adopt.
In order to overcome these challenges, there needs to be a better integration of end-user platforms and services so that customers get maximum benefit from their purchase. In such a scenario, the move away from point products to integrated solutions is a logical next step. The role of partners in enabling this transition is critical.
As the first point of contact with customers, partners understand customer requirements and can create the right solutions for them. They can also act as consultants and build the required service capabilities around various technologies and create new ways to meet customer needs and demands.
The Services opportunity
Services are one area of business that is multifaceted; it helps partners to enhance the value they offer to the end-customers and also generate better margins for themselves. Whether they cater to large global customers or local small businesses, partners can participate and benefit from the services opportunity at every level. The services initiative can pan out across segments and can be utilized by service providers, enterprise, or public sector in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities.
Partners can offer variety of services to their customers. They include:
Consulting services: involves educating customers about the advantage of using a particular technology; highlighting which technology solution would best suit the customers requirements and updating them about the trends in the industry. Consultative forecast and strategizing from partners enables businesses to undertake solution advancement and ensure smooth operations.
Partners can offer these services from the planning phase of the business and continue till the operations phase. Partners can also provide assistance to customers who want to scale up their business and to those businesses which need to adopt more advanced technologies and applications as they grow. By engaging a technical advisor customers can easily introduce new offerings and ensure business growth in new markets.
Technical services: Partners can offer services to help ensure that products and networks operate efficiently and the end customer benefits from the most up-to-date operating system/application software. These services are designed to meet customer business needs and assist in maintaining high-quality network performance while also controlling operational costs.
Technical services can be categorized as under:
- Integration services: Whereby partners go out and help customers actually set up their network thereby ensuring ease of implementation and operation. Providing secure data migration services during implementation of a new technology additionally helps customers to create necessary policies and SLAs to ensure security and smooth functioning of technology.
- Maintenance services: partners can offer a 24 hour access to technical assistance and support that help customers get real-time trouble shooting and advice on how to maintain the network. Maintaining of the network on an ongoing basis can be an added value to the services offering that partners provide.
In terms of tangible benefits Services provides a three prong benefit to partners:
Profitability: As is well known, margins on products sales continue to be razor thin unlike with Services, where there is an opportunity to realize more revenue.
Predictability: With point products, revenue is assured only when a sale is closed. Services on the other hand ensure a steady stream of revenue for partners. Unless there is a crisis, the relationship will continue to generate positive outcomes.
Customer loyalty/Stickiness: When it comes to making business decisions customers prefer partners who provide a value add to their business. Investing in customers success and providing personalized services significantly impacts customer loyalty.
What vendors must do
In order to nurture the relationship with their customers and become a thriving and successful consultant, partners are reliant on their vendors to provide them with a framework that simplifies their services offerings. Partners look for essential tools and resources to widen, sell and deliver services proficiently. Programs designed around services that offer avenues for growth and profitability are sought after.
Vendors must provide solutions and programs that help partners grow their professional service capabilities and accelerate the transition to architectures. Solutions that can proactively identify possible problem areas and help customers resolve them before they affect business continuity would be most beneficial.
Similarly support solutions that allow customer to have a consistent experience of the technology across geographies, can be delivered through partners. Inclusive programs that provide resellers new ways to engage with the customer while protecting their technology investments and capabilities are advantageous.
In summary therefore, services that combine intellectual capital, engineering expertise and service automation help partners profitably expand/build new professional practices, enter new technology markets faster and increase their operational efficiency many times over.