Thought Leadership

Evolving from a vendor to trusted advisor

Ajay Goel, Senior Vice President - Industry Business, Strategy, Operations, Cisco India & SAARC

Anyone who has conducted an IT vendor selection process knows that finding an IT vendor who is able and willing to supply the recommended hardware is the easy part. Beyond hardware supply is the tricky process that involves the coming together of distinct organizations, with possibly very different business approaches.

Growing and globally competitive businesses, which see the need to invest today in systems for tomorrow's success, are in more of a crunch. Not only do they need to invest heavily, but also have to expend serious man-hours looking for the most efficient, economical, and appropriate software or hardware.

However, we do see around us numerous IT success stories with a vendor or service provider underpinning. In most such successful cases, a vendor moves beyond the basic role of providing IT hardware or support and makes the effort to understand their customer's business, needs, and strategy. This enables the vendor to make recommendations and offer service solutions that go beyond the customer's current needs while taking into consideration the direction, scalability, response time, logistics, geography, and growth plan.

An IT vendor who works closely with the customer understands and addresses customer's pain points. The vendor is able to take a 'bird's-eye view' and locate and manage root causes. Such a vendor also values the criticality of a particular product or solution at a given time. This facilitates timely deployment, while ensuring uninterrupted running of mission critical systems and applications during the transition and upgrade.

An IT vendor, offering such a value-addition, is likely to have built capability and capacity to offer a deep service relationship to their clients across the board. It follows that only larger vendors are likely to have such bandwidth and resources as to offer such a value-addition drive. For the customer, it is a multiple bonanza to align with an IT vendor of this stature. They not only gain through the consultative approach of the vendor towards problem solving but also through access to global learning, comparable deployments for similar markets or similar global challenges, and overall better levels of experience in managing complex customer deployments.

Even so, these success stories of deployment by IT vendors are not a one way street. They are more comparable to marriages with multiple components to their smooth-functioning. These new rules of engagement could be clubbed under,

  1. Readiness of the Parties to Engage: Establishing a relationship between vendor and customer before both entities are ready for the relationship; or finding that one of the stakeholders is not fully convinced of the viability can lead to friction during the engagement. Thus both sides need to be conditioned beforehand for what is to come during the deployment.
  2. Open Communication Channels: Communication is must to ensure that apart from the daily interactions and consulting there is also the channel to address and iron-out issues at the earliest.
  3. Sharing Best Practices & Learning: The greatest advantage an IT vendor can bring to the table is the experience gained from a similar engagement or installation with another client. This kind of learning enables the customer to realize the potential of their IT systems as well as that of the new deployment.
  4. Openness to Do Things Differently: Perhaps, one of the most debilitating statements in the corporate world is, "that's how things are done here". To maximize gains from best practices, stakeholders need to approach innovation with an open mind.
  5. Training & Development: Change can be stressful within an organization and the onus is upon the vendor to ensure that the transition within the customers' business is smooth, factors in suitable training for users, and develops 'super users' who will be advocates of the deployment within the organization.
  6. Mission-Criticality & Context: It takes a mature vendor to understand the business context of the sale. This is essential to fully understand, which aspects of the business need to run uninterrupted even during a significant IT overhaul.
  7. Understanding & Agreement on Time-lines: This is one of the most neglected aspects of business relationships. Detailed discussion and break-down of workload, third-party supplier deliveries, and other factors enables an understanding of certain deadlines and then calls for a conscious effort from all concerned to meet it.

The new rules of engagement call for enlightened IT vendors who would don the role of consultant for their customers, and who are committed enough to their customers' business to advocate the most realistic and appropriate solution. This will be the IT vendor who truly succeeds in addressing the needs of their customers, and one who is poised to grow alongside each of their customers.

Ajay Goel

Ajay Goel
Senior Vice President - Industry Business, Strategy, Operations
Cisco India & SAARC

 

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