The Road to $1 Billion Savings

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print


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Enterprise Information Management developed a system that automated the Army's annual personnel fitness and evaluation reports, saving a $1 billion annually. They started with a consultative engagement that began with business objectives and processes, not technology. Here's how they did it.

Consultative and business alignment selling is a growing practice among solution providers who are looking for new methods of demonstrating and delivering value to their customers. Hardware sales and margins have been declining for years, and took a nosedive in the recession. On-premises software sales and margins are increasingly under pressure, especially in the cloud computing era. And even prepackaged suites and infrastructure strategies are criticized as being means for pushing point products on end users.

Consultative business-technology sales start with the business problem and objectives. EIM and other solution providers who align solutions to business needs delve deeply into the root cause of the business challenges or problems, analyze current and proposed processes, and develop systems—procedural as well as technological—to meet those objectives.

"We were all about deploying technology in silos and making them more efficient and effective. Now, it’s about making those silos smarter," says Joann Duquid, vice president of Economic Stimulus and Industry Marketing at IBM.

This is the approach taken by Business Technology Partners, a Manhattan-based solution provider that evolved from supporting Wall Street financing and trading firms to become a specialist in designing and implementing IT systems for the hospitality, legal and health care industries. In one of its current projects, BTP is working alongside building contractors and structural engineers along with business and IT managers to create a holistic IT system for the new Trump SOHO, a 46-story luxury hotel and condominium high-rise in the heart of Manhattan.

When the Trump SOHO opens in the fall, all of its data and voice systems for guests, residents and management will run over the same Cisco-based network. Facilities operations—heating and cooling, electrical systems and physical security systems—will run over the same lines as the in-room entertainment systems. And while the building and hotel staff will run the day-to-day infrastructure, BTP will provide the remote monitoring and maintenance of the servers and network infrastructure through a managed service.

"In all such projects, we’re seeing an appetite to enhance the experience and reduce staffing requirements, and thus create efficiencies," says BTP President Joshua Aaron.

Achieving such levels of integration requires tremendous effort by BTP in understanding Trump’s hotel operations and business objectives, designing systems around those objectives, and then coordinating with contractors and engineers. In the case of the Trump SOHO, BTP worked with building project managers from the day the foundation went into the ground. Now that much of the superstructure of the building is complete, BTP will begin the work of installing the local data center and running cables.

Of course, BTP had the advantage of working from a clean slate on the Trump SOHO. In other hotel renovations and IT infrastructure upgrades, it had to work around the legacy physical constraints. In enterprise settings, legacy obstacles often include longstanding workflow and processes. EIM accounts for that in its initial consulting engagements and plans technology deployments in a manner that won’t disrupt corporate culture.

In the Army personnel review deployment, EIM designed an automated, paperless system built on IBM Websphere software. For the first time, fitness and performance reports would be completed entirely online, saving millions of dollars in postal costs alone. But the EIM couldn’t flip the switch to a fully automated system overnight. Over a three-year period, EIM gradually built out the system, periodically adding capabilities to acclimate users to the paperless process.

The advice EIM’s Garst gives: Do not disrupt the accepted way of doing things by rushing deployments and ensure that value—often in the form of cost savings—is recognized immediately.

"It’s all about baby steps," Garst says. "Every CIO is nervous to take that next step because they know that every move they make is being watched like a hawk."

The consultative sales model has the added benefit of transferability. EIM and BTP both report developing systems that grow dynamically within organizations once the initial deployment is completed. Likewise, those same systems and methodologies are applicable to other environments, relieving solution providers of having to reinvent systems for each customer.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.

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