How to Become the Best Partner in the Business
Succeeding in today’s rapidly evolving channel increasingly requires thinking outside the box, and going above and beyond the norm.
During the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 17-20, in Las Vegas, three winners of the 2018 Channel Partners 360° Business Value Awards – Infinit Consulting, LanYap Networks and Shamrock Consulting Group – will provide an inside look at the projects that earned them that designation, loyal customers and recurring revenue.
Infinit’s offering provided a retail cosmetics giant with: improved agility, flexibility and omnichannel fulfillment; improved operational efficiency and increased productivity; cost savings of about $340,000 through standardized connectivity; and increased revenue through greater systems availability and network infrastructure stability that enable retail store point-of-sale (POS) system transaction processing.
Because of LanYap’s offering, Arizona Biological Control’s productivity is up significantly, thanks to anytime-anywhere access to applications and critical data, and call-center personnel being able to focus 100 percent on customer experience and not deal with system outage issues.
And Shamrock’s offering provided a single, simplified network for a public utility that had grown through multiple large acquisitions and, as a result, had four different MPLS networks, disparate data centers and a complex IPSec network connecting hundreds of sites.
In a Q&A with Channel Partners/Channel Futures, Jerod Powell, Infinit’s president and founder, Angie Tocco, LanYap’s co-founder, Paul Cooney, Shamrock’s president and founder, and Ben Ferguson, Shamrock’s vice president and senior network architect, give a sneak peak of the information they plan to share with attendees.
Channel Partners/Channel Futures: What was the main objective of your project? What was the thought process going in?
Jerod Powell: There were three main objectives to this project. Our first was to solve immediate issues considered to be material to day-to-day operations, our second was to ensure the technology and solutions implemented created long-term value aligned with the clients desired business objectives, and the third was to create standards and a highly scalable architecture that would support rapid growth and retail expansion.
Our thought process is very similar for all of our client engagements; we use Infinit’s proprietary three-stage digital transformation (DX) methodology and prescriptive six-step DX Journey that focuses on a correct foundation, operational optimization and business transformation through technology. This allows us to drive an ‘outcomes-first’ approach for our clients.
Angie Tocco: To provide cloud-based reliable service to a customer that was struggling with their current vendor and long down times in general, (and) to provide efficiencies that were lacking in (its) current premises-based environment.
Paul Cooney: The customer had grown exponentially through acquisition and was facing a huge challenge as a result. They had multiple MSPs managing all of their Cisco routers, so whenever there was an issue between acquired divisions, there was a lot of finger-pointing and a lack of culpability. Our main objective was to build a solution consisting of one vendor to manage their myriad of endpoints. Initially, we conducted full audit of their telecom and datacom bills, and discovered that they had over 35 providers in their portfolio, a large portion of their circuits were four times more expensive than market rates, and they had three different MSPs managing all their routers — 40 percent of which were already end of life.
Our thought process going in was that we weren’t going to just find a Band-Aid solution. Instead, we focused on finding one single provider who was capable of managing the customer’s entire network. We knew we wanted to leverage new network function virtualization (NFV) technologies like SD-WAN and SD-firewall to drastically simplify the networking of their sites and virtually eliminate ongoing maintenance and managed services costs, while also freeing up tons of IT resources in the process.
CP/CF: What were some of the challenges associated with the project and how did you address them?
JP: The first challenge was convincing the client to create the budget needed to achieve their desired business outcomes. Based on the state things were in, a fairly significant spend was needed up front to set up a proper foundation for future success. The second challenge was that of the retail stores; many changes needed to happen in every store to standardize and make rolling out stores more manageable and predictable, as well as to stabilize the environments and hit the required up-time requirements which were 99.999 percent.
The third major challenge was how to deal with their offices in China to allow them access to technology deployed that was being blocked going out of the country. Finally, it was how to improve their clients’ retail experience after the foundation of each store was resolved.
AT: Customer spend was the largest hurdle to overcome. It is sometimes a difficult thing to explain to a customer that they are currently getting exactly what they are paying for. Desktop as a service (DaaS) was approached gingerly as we needed buy in from the IT staff.
Ben Ferguson: One significant challenge was getting the customer to open to technology outside the Cisco portfolio. We evaluated Cisco solutions such as Meraki and Viptela, but also provided options outside of the Cisco portfolio such as Versa, which the customer ultimately selected. Among other challenges were simplifying the procurement process, which we solved by obtaining a single master service agreement (MSA) and contiguous SLAs between provider networks and customer edge, resulting in a single point of contact to eliminate finger-pointing.
Finally, we leveraged the customer’s large presence to create buying power with providers, and we introduced new technologies to simplify their processes and give them far greater visibility into their network. We also help them speed up their internet performance at all locations, achieve cloud readiness, and increase their bandwidth to tackle high demands for speed among their users.
CP/CF: How is this project an example of thinking outside the box, and going above and beyond the norm?
JP: Our main focus was to help our client increase revenue and see return on investment from technology by ensuring their customers could always transact at stores and online. I think that is a unique way to position projects and, to be honest, we would not have been awarded this project without this approach. I also believe our proprietary, three-stage DX methodology is unique and something we have spent a lot of time on (and can) help you drive to the level you need to be with your clients to get to the things that matter and away from being viewed as a cost center only.
AT: This was absolutely a disruptive sale. We were tasked with making an extremely unhappy customer and environment functional, but also taking a frugal customer way out of their comfort zone. When we first approached them, they absolutely did not want to spend any more money; they just wanted what they had to work.
PC: If we had acquiesced to what the customer was initially asking for, I’m sure we still would have found a great Cisco router management solution for them. But it would’ve only been a temporary fix for their allotment of issues and wouldn’t have addressed the millions of dollars currently being wasted on poorly negotiated connectivity solutions. We had to push back against their ideas in order to take their network a step further toward cloud readiness and to successfully alleviate their bandwidth constraint issues. It’s never easy to tell a customer no, but in doing so we were able (to) develop a strong rapport to where they trusted our expertise and our ideas. And now their network is much better off because of it.
CP/CF: What do you hope attendees learn and make use of from your presentation?
JP: Perhaps the same thing I realized at some point in my career, that it is our responsibility to be a trusted adviser to our clients, to always keep their best interests in mind, and to ensure solutions offered meet the clients’ business needs and objectives while providing additional value on top. Don’t stop at “good enough”; make sure you approach every contract, project or service you sell with a mind to being great. Being good enough will ensure you are never great, in my opinion.
AT: To be disruptive, that it’s OK to ask for more spend rather than always leading with how much we can save them. And that doing your homework and research up front pays dividends.
BF: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Push yourself to learn new technologies, which allows you to not only be able to showcase the different features and functionalities of said technologies, but also translate them into solving the kind of real and complex problems that enterprise companies face. Be a visionary for your clients, not someone who simply takes orders to placate them.