With the increased demand for cloud services by local and regional businesses, several service providers have come to the fray to assist them with their transformation initiatives. Not all digital partners are equal, though: some may just look to sell as many services as possible, while others have rearchitected themselves in order to deliver innovation that truly matters.
Placing the focus on outcomes success – creating actual value for a business or solving its problems – rather than just project implementation success, and guiding business customers to get the best out of their IT investment, requires a new approach. Here are six ways in which an organisation can identify whether a service provider is not just selling them software or services, but is a true digital partner – and one that’s different by design – that puts their business requirements at the centre.
A framework of engagement
From the outset, there needs to be a framework that comprises a set of activities that occur on a quarterly basis, which help simplify licensing complexity and are designed around optimising and extracting value through the life cycle of a contract. This includes service level agreements that can be customised to focus on what is most important for customers and the standard activities that should be expected of any licensing service provider.
Beyond this, however, a trusted digital partner should also provide additional value to customers, such as assessments, user training and optimisation engagements, all of which should be designed to address specific pain points. In the case of Altron Karabina, the Altron License Management Framework is not just a tick box exercise and brings in dedicated specialists from other areas into these discussions so that customers stand to benefit from the breadth and depth of consultancy experience.
Providing neutral advice for customers
Being a trusted advisor means that you are on the customer’s side when it comes to what is needed. Rather than simply assuming what customers want or need, these discussions help in understanding their strategy, their plan around technology and what they need in order to meet their needs.
This ensures that the licensing solution being applied makes the most sense and that there is no unnecessary procurement of technology that doesn’t suit their objectives or is not needed at that time.
These advisory discussions are not about numbers or sales, but rather about providing customers with the best solution possible. It also ensures that they are well informed when they finally engage with sales teams and software vendors. This earns the customer’s trust and ensures that they are not questioning the value of what has already been implemented, or suggestions that are put forward for the way ahead.
Providing product roadmap advisory
It also helps if a business’s technology partner is able to provide them with roadmap advisory services around the software products that they already have, or are looking to procure. In the case of Altron Karabina, its Gold Partner status means the company has early access to the Microsoft roadmap and knows what new updates or products are coming down the line, or if there will be any changes such as products or features being deprecated.
This would traditionally only have an impact on enterprise agreements, where we are dealing with on-premises software that is tied to licences; however, cloud service provider licensing roadmaps also change and a trusted partner should be able to advise customers on how these changes can impact their business. For example, Microsoft is shifting from a legacy cloud service provider model to what is known as ‘new customer experience’; it’s crucial that customers are made aware of what this means for their business.
Again, while these discussions tend to naturally occur when engaging with new customers, during contract renewals or in response to customer requirements, it needs to form part of an ongoing discussion to ensure the best outcome.
Optimising costs across procurement and consumption
Being able to provide optimisation across procurement and consumption comes from a deep understanding of the customer’s strategy and then mapping the most optimal way to procure the right technology, for the right price and at the right time.
The type and size of the business will inform what technologies are needed, and a trusted partner will advise them on what form of licensing works best for them, be it enterprise agreements or cloud service provider agreements. Then, if customers already have existing licences, the conversation focuses on how to maximise these agreements and ensure no unnecessary procuring of additional software – it’s about taking a closer look at what they have, what they want and what they need to buy.
While these discussions usually happen when engaging with a new customer, or when it’s time for renewal of an existing contract, this also needs to form part of an ongoing advisory experience with customers in order for them to secure the highest benefit. The outcome here is cost savings, either through being more prudent when it comes to software procurement, or a reduction in the consumption of cloud-based services, such as Microsoft Azure.
Providing guidance around deployment planning
Once the software has been procured, a trusted digital partner should work with the business to ensure that they are making full use of the products that they now have by driving user adoption. This requires a deep understanding of the product stack being sold, the deployment roadmap of customers, what licences they have and what software products or cloud-based services it gives them access to.
This helps further reduce costs for customers by ensuring that they don’t buy unnecessary third-party products when the licences they have already provide them with access to the same features and functionality. This can include tools for web-based document management and collaboration, cloud storage, building low-code applications and even automating recurring tasks – all of which could be included as part of the package when procuring certain types of licences.
Being truly customer-centric means that all of these engagements have to start off as advisory discussions, rather than sales conversations. A challenge in the industry is that traditionally, licensing advisors and specialists are also salespeople. Taking a different by design approach requires that these roles be separated in order to prevent a conflict of priorities for the advisor/salesperson.
Having dedicated licensing advisors, who are not responsible for sales, allows them to put customers first as they are not measured on revenue brought in, but on how satisfied businesses are with the overall advisory experience they receive.
These conversations further help build trust with customers, as you’re doing what’s best for them and not trying to sell as much as possible. It also helps build long-term relationships and plays a major role in retention, as it demonstrates that you are just as invested in helping their business to grow.