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At CA World 2017 in October, CTO Otto Berkes warned many businesses were prone to fall into the trap of going too far too fast with new IT products and services or going too slow. “They either take a leap of faith and tackle something that nobody even needs yet, or they build something for today that becomes almost immediately obsolete, or is simply an attempt to catch up to the competition,” he stated.
Berkes suggested companies should start with what they know and believe will happen, “and iterate quickly. Making this fundamental change is hard for everybody, but we can make it easier for ourselves”.
So how do organisations ensure their IT efforts are not too fast or too slow but just right? In other words, how do they achieve Goldilocks IT? And what role can channel partners play in helping customers to manage the future development and implementation of IT products and services? How can they help their customers make it easier for themselves?
One way is “to focus on the rate of improvement versus speed”, argues Todd Palmer, vice president of worldwide channels at Cohesity. He believes many IT organisations fall into the trap of small incremental modifications delivering “marginally better results, rather than focusing on big substantive improvements. If you find that the majority of your IT budget is taken up with maintaining or tweaking existing systems, then you’re probably already falling behind the technology curve”.
Ivanti vice president, Kevin J Smith, says the dangers of going too fast or too slow “are very real” in today’s IT world. Successful IT organisations need “to find the right balance. Moving fast can be incredibly risky, but moving too slowly can perhaps be worse as falling behind key trends can put the business in serious danger”.
In any case, the speed of progress should vary from system to system. “IT should always kick off transformation with a few core, mission critical systems and determine a tempo for evolution that is able to both enhance and protect the business,” he argues. The pace should be based around assumptions and technology strategies that IT “is already confident with”.
Scott Brothers, group enterprise vice president for corporate development at ONVUTech, acknowledges that “tech for tech’s sake is sometimes how manufacturers plan the product roadmap and cram in new features”. But if companies “spend time in the customer’s world”, they begin to appreciate “how nothing is solved purely by technology, but instead by people, processes and technology – in harmony”.
But what role do channel partners play in this process? According to Palmer, it’s by helping large companies see beyond functional silos, such as database, storage, compute, networking and applications, which narrow the view of many in those organisations when it comes to the environment and its interdependencies.
Channel partners work across many solution areas and employ experts in a wide variety of products, so “they are in the unique position to take a holistic view of the environment and act as an independent third party, providing guidance to the customer on key IT decisions when needed”. System integrators can replicate a customer’s environment in their labs, run performance tests before the customer buys or deploys, implement the solution and manage and support the environment on behalf of the customer.
Smith at Ivanti believes partners can “play a vital role in helping customers manage the future evolution of IT products and services” with a deep industry-specific understanding and expertise that enhances their customers’ understanding and resources in key areas.
Many channel partners will have a history of working with leading organisations in a specific market and an understanding of technologies, systems and best practices that “work in terms of implementing IT solutions for today and for the future. They can guide the way forward for the customer, help maximise the return of any investments and reduce the risk of wasting precious resources on implementing a flawed solution”.
In other words, as Brothers puts it, they should act as “a crucial supporter of the customers’ needs. Whether it is in the education sector helping a primary school deliver better education, or in a retail store ensuring stock is properly accounted for, there’s always a people problem to understand before any solution can be properly matched to the situation”.
But he stresses only partners that “immerse themselves in the industry can be that vital link between manufacturers and market sectors. And only then do both parties progress to the same goal at the same pace: With the customer ready for the solution, and the channel providing it”.
A point that Smith takes up as well. Customers will have an understanding of their own business and strategy, but they “can’t be expected to have the deep domain expertise that a specialised channel partner will have. They need to work together to craft a strong, thought out plan for the future of their IT products and services”.
He says the right channel partner “helps massively in several ways”. It can accelerate the development of the right plan for IT products and services and the validation of any ongoing IT projects that are going well. “Often, IT has some of it right and just needs another set of skilled eyes to review what is currently being done, and to test existing practices and tools against what the partner knows works,” he explains. At the same time, the partner can help review and develop short and long term plans.
Smith argues that the benefits associated from partnering with channel professionals “don’t end once the project is complete. In some cases, organisations can bring their partners back for a “friendly audit” to provide some quick feedback on what is going well and where adjustments may be needed”.
But Palmer urges organisations to limit the number of partners they work with “and share as much information as possible with the ones they choose. A doctor’s ability to cure a patient’s ailment increases exponentially the more he or she knows about the symptoms, social environment and behaviours - the same holds true for system integrators”.
The amount of information a customer shares about its business requirements, infrastructure, and future projects, has a “direct correlation on the quality of the guidance and support” the partner is able to provide. And in demonstrating that getting IT just right doesn’t have to be a fairytale.