Technology as Competitive Differentiator

By Ericka Chickowski

Are you and your enterprise customers ready to take advantage of the economic recovery? Do you have the right strategies in place? A recent report by experts at PricewaterhouseCoopers examined a number of strategies to help companies best position themselves for recuperation while the economy shifts upward in momentum.  

Several of these strategies have logical tie-ins with IT functions. But as IT departments look to help their businesses achieve these objectives, they're asked to do so with fewer resources than ever.

Enterprises that turn to effective channel partners are more likely to achieve greater success at putting these strategies PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests into play.

There are a number of ways channel partners can position themselves in order to enable clients to put their best foot forward during economic recovery. Here are a few suggestions, paired with the strategies PricewaterhouseCoopers put forward.

IT Gets Strategic

PwC Suggests: Sustain cost-reduction measures in order to improve margins with a smaller, more productive workforce and use newly freed resources for investments in the company's future.

The Channel's Role: Though cost-cutting measures within IT are not forecasted to be as drastic in 2010 as they were in 2009, channel partners will still need to work with customers to find ways to streamline their operations and get more done with fewer resources. This may mean the introduction of new technology, software as a service offerings or outsourcing opportunities. In addition to enabling IT optimization, the channel has an opportunity to bring forward project suggestions for ways to automate business processes through new technologies--preferably those that don't require large capital expenditures, though.

Approach customers with new project proposals that involve large CapEx investments. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, CEOs are not looking to make large capital expenditures in 2010.

Look for ways to shift to a services model, which often comes from customer's more flexible OpEx budgets.

Propose large projects without bringing sound financial justification such as ROI (return on investment), TCO (total cost of ownership), and business impact analysis.

Offer opportunities for cost effective outsourcing of business functions that would otherwise require more internal resources to carry out


PwC Suggests: Prepare for major regulatory changes through a cross-section of
Issues -- international tax frameworks, infrastructure development, healthcare costs and environmental policies.

The Channel's Role: IT is integral to a host of regulatory compliance activities, and yet most internal IT staffers do not have the bandwidth to keep up with the latest reforms, updates and new requirements. Channel partners who make the effort to stay knowledgeable about relevant regulatory mandates coming down the pike and the technological innovations necessary to automate compliance processes can add a huge amount of value for their overburdened IT customers.

Position yourself as a compliance expert without doing the necessary homework or hiring appropriately trained staffers.

Consider partnering with a compliance consultant if you are a VAR in order to quickly bring your compliance expertise up to snuff.

Look to offer solutions and services that add value beyond just meeting compliance standards--for example, security products that only satisfy compliance mandates but don't truly mitigate risk are not serving customers well.

PwC Suggests: Make technology a strategic asset and competitive differentiator by increasing your investment in technology infrastructure and applications.

The Channel's Role: This one is a no-brainer. Partners must offer strategic advice on the best areas for investment that suit the customer's business goals, rather than simply trying to sell the hottest technology. There is no better value-add than a deep understanding of the customer's industry, its competitive strengths and its weaknesses. This grasp of your client base's business objectives will enable you to suggest the most targeted technology investments that will offer customers measurable benefits in the future and should improve customer retention long-term

Look for ways to engage with non-IT business stakeholders in order to better understand customer needs.

Cling to the old box-pushing reseller model.

Pair up lower-margin, but customer-serving SaaS options with high-value consulting services. Customers that would shift to things like hosted e-mail will do so with or without you. Why not be proactive and serve them well while still packaging hosted solutions into bundles with decent margins?


This article was originally published on 2010-05-10