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Of all the changes that have taken place in the channel over the past ten years, one the most significant transitions did not directly involve technology or business models. It started with the “consumerization of IT” with mobile devices and apps, and continues to expand rapidly with innovations such as the cloud, IoT (the Internet of Things) and Big Data. The new IT decision makers are everywhere in an organization.
The secret? Influencers have always been there, but today’s end users have become more vocal about what the technologies they want and how they want to use them — and their employers are listening more than ever. A step or two up the ladder and you’ll find business unit leaders with actual IT-related budgets. Competitiveness and efficiency are key focus points, and who is better to lead the innovation charge than those with the greatest understanding of their field, teams and challenges?
The end user is truly king today, and the number of people invested or involved in the IT services procurement process is at an all-time high. The problem, according to industry research, is that many VARs and MSPs are still following the traditional technology sales mindset: their focus is primarily on the CEO, CTO and internal IT team leaders. While those people still play a key role, the decision-making process has flattened across the organization to include virtually everyone who touches a computer or anything else connected to a network (think IoT).
New Faces, New Titles
The increasing relevance of technology in the business community is driving other changes. As noted in the 2017 CompTIA IT Industry Outlook Report, companies are developing new roles and titles at a dizzying speed. In an effort to get ahead of the innovation curve, they’re bringing in skilled, knowledgeable professionals who can help design, build out and support their technology strategies. The emerging job titles to watch for include:
Today’s not only have to understand what each of these roles means, but where the individuals in these positions fit in the decision-making process. Of course, channel firms can always fill some, if not all of these roles, so do some research and figure out the responsibilities (and opportunities) related to each.
Know the Supporting Cast
Everyone should know by now that many influencers exist outside that core team of IT professionals. In fact, 33% of companies said a department other than IT has the final say in their technology solutions, according to the recently released CompTIA Digital Organizations report. That doesn’t include all the people who hold some sway in the decision. The person fielding incoming customer service calls may make be offering suggestion on a new VoIP solution. A utility worker out in the snow and inclement weather might have come across ruggedized device that costs less and is more reliable than the company’s current technology. Of course, the executive team (all of them) have more input than at any other time in the history of IT.
The reason for that is simple: they rely more on technology today. It offers a competitive edge when properly designed and implemented. Whether implementing a Big Data solution to improve sales opportunities, or a self-checkout terminal to reduce labor costs and improve customer service, the people with the business challenge are rightfully given more input today.
Of course, these “new voices” can complicate and delay the procurement process. One of the key roles for an IT services provider will be as a project manager: gathering employee and perhaps customer input quickly and effectively, and helping businesses navigate everything from design to support. Knowing who needs to be involved and at what point in the process requires focus and patience. Technical decisions still require IT proficiency, but providers also need strong interpersonal skills to better manage all of their clients’ needs today.
Brian Sherman is Chief Content Officer at GetChanneled, a channel business development and marketing firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@getchanneled.com