By Al Limaye, LSInextgen
Businesses today are under greater pressure and scrutiny than ever before. With increased restrictions on storing, accessing and protecting customer data, there are very serious repercussions for those that fail to do it correctly. Of course, IT security isn’t a core competency for many businesses. They need help. And that’s just one place where solutions providers can play an important role.
As I’ve written previously in this space, client transformation and innovation expectations are driving the urgent need for IT service providers to sharpen their focus and hone their offerings and value-adds.
It’s incumbent upon solutions providers to possess the knowledge, practical expertise, and skills necessary to address their customers’ concerns. That means investing in education and enablement to address concerns and answer any questions. It doesn’t mean VARs have to become experts overnight, but at the very least, they need to know how to leverage the appropriate resources to do so.
Cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain — they’re all examples of technologies customers are clamoring for and that IT service providers may have to work at to develop the requisite experience and knowledge. At LSInextgen, we’ve identified five steps that help us onboard the new technologies and services that customers demand. Here’s a look at each step and what we’ve learned along the way.
- Study The Market
When it comes to transforming your own business, you first need to identify what’s going on in the market as well as where the big opportunities lie and niche gaps exist, warranting specialized capabilities. Years ago, we recognized that enterprises of all sizes could benefit from Big Data and analytics, but they lacked the in-house experts in Hadoop and SAS. So, we became those experts. It’s also wise to identify growing industries — markets that are ripe for innovation and opportunity. For example, we have offerings in three verticals (agriculture, travel and sports), where we developed unique solutions based on our skillsets, and we’re now expanding our focus to defense security.
- Analyze Your Own Strengths And Shortcomings
After studying the market, solutions providers need to know where, and how, they can take advantage of the opportunities they’ve identified. That means knowing what you’re good at — and what you’re not good at. There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than counting on an IT services provider to solve a business problem only to find out that the partner they chose can’t do what they need. My experience tells me this is an area where many solutions providers struggle, but where others can shine. Knowing your strengths, and where you need to improve, goes a long way in formulating the right business plan — and leading customers into long-term relationships.
- Put The Pieces Together
A solutions provider’s biggest advantage is its ability to take disparate pieces of technology, aggregate them, and solve a business need. For example, we didn’t start out as defense security experts. Our company didn’t have that specific expertise. But we have a strong working knowledge of a business data platform, in this case SAP HANA, and knew that we could deliver data-driven insights and predict real-time outcomes from a wide swath of applications. That insight into your own skill can help you more quickly establish a presence in your targeted market or solution category. In our case, we were able to assess overall opportunities, work with our vendor partners, and develop the unique and innovative solutions that helped us to stand out in the market — from defense security to predictive analytics for the agriculture industry to helping sports fans connect around the world.
- Implement — And Learn
Once you’ve figured out what to do, where to do it, and how to do it, it’s time to actually do it. But your work doesn’t stop there. Even after a highly successful implementation, we always debrief to explore what we could have done better. How can we tweak our solution to target another customer or a new audience? It’s imperative to listen to customers, of course, yet easy to overlook what they actually mean if you’re not actively absorbing and following up to confirm full understanding. We embrace a collaborative approach that aims at the core of what the customer wants to achieve. We’re looking to support their most ambitious aspirations in a way that concurrently — and effectively — addresses their business problems now and sets them up for future growth. Ask questions. Answer questions. This integrated approach helps both us and our clients continue to transform at an accelerated pace.
- Go To Market — As A Leader
Once you’ve established a solution that’s ready for market, it’s time to let the world know what you can do. Be proud of what you have accomplished — and what you can accomplish. We worked hard to prove to customers that our solutions solve real-world business problems. Our efforts paid off when we received the SAP North America Partner Excellence Award for SAP Platform Solutions. Now, as we continue to move forward into new areas of innovation, I’m reminded of a 1962 quote President John F. Kennedy spoke when describing the race to land an astronaut on the moon. He said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
It’s important to remember that being a successful solutions provider isn’t an achievement — it’s a journey. The world keeps moving, and we need to continue to innovate to not only keep pace, but to stay ahead.
We choose to make the investments and necessary efforts to transform our customers’ business not because they are easy, but because they are hard. That is a challenge we are willing to accept.
About the Author
Al Limaye is president of LSInextgen (formerly known as Logistic Solutions, Inc.), an established IT solutions and services provider committed to providing innovative, business-aligned solutions. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.