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It’s fascinating to conduct tandem studies where we ask the same questions of two different but related groups. That’s what we did with "Emerging Technologies: Channel versus CIOs," asking solution providers and (separately) their customers about adoption and use of emerging technologies. Tandem studies provide real insight into the differing worldviews of tightly-connected groups.

And how different these worldviews can be! Most CIOs, by far, will say improving business processes is their top goal in pursuing the latest and greatest IT has to offer. But only a little more than half of the channel named this as a top goal in implementing emerging technologies for clients. What’s next in line as a goal? CIOs say increasing productivity; the channel says reducing costs.

This goes on. Four out of 10 solution providers say providing new products or services is a top goal of emerging technologies for clients, and a similar number says ensuring the client’s security, privacy and compliance is a top goal. But less than a third-and-a-quarter of users, respectively, name these as top goals.

What’s going on here? Does someone not have their priorities straight? That’s possible. You can get really different answers when you ask users what they want—and then you ask channel members what they think users want.

But I don’t think that’s the case here. I think you sell what works, and build winning sales arguments, not "correct" sales arguments. The channel lists cost reduction, new markets, security and compliance high among emerging-technology goals because clients respond to that.

Clients may list process improvement and productivity as top goals, but these days you don’t get far by saying to a client: "You should take a look at platform as a service—it will improve your business processes and productivity." Show them how it’ll save money or increase revenues, though, and they’ll respond.

And there you have it: research validation of just how tough life as a service provider really is. To sell something new and exciting that helps clients reach their top goals, you have to tell them it will actually do something else, which is not their top goal. If you told them it would help with their top goal, you might not be able to sell it (all sigh together).

There are other reasons, though—good ones—why your approach differs from your clients’.

For example, half of the users are currently testing unified-communications solutions or have them actually deployed. Only a third of service providers are in either stage with their clients, though. Why? Our survey also shows that users more often expect unified communications to reduce costs at their companies than service providers do at providers’ own companies. So the cost burden in the channel is greater, and clients are more often left to their own devices. This isn’t a difference in perception but a reality on the ground, leading to different approaches.

This is similar to the situation with the managed-services provision today: User demand is clear, but service providers are hesitating because many costs are shifted onto their shoulders. Even if potentially profitable, it’s risky, and you see real differences from one side to the other in perception of benefits.

All this leads to a terrific grand statement about the relationship between provider and client: You have different needs. You are looking to get different things out of the relationship. The key to success is the same as with any relationship: communication. And to communicate effectively and get results, you have to understand your client’s point of view.

Guy Currier is Executive Director of Research at Ziff Davis Enterprise. He can be reached at