Line of Business Spells Big Opportunity for Solution Providers

You’ve heard the old saying about the weather: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it’ll change. The same axiom can apply to IT sales, where buying trends seem to shift as often as the winds.

SAP Guest Blogger

November 12, 2014

4 Min Read
Line of Business Spells Big Opportunity for Solution Providers

You’ve heard the old saying about the weather: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it’ll change. The same axiom can apply to IT sales, where buying trends seem to shift as often as the winds.

For example, have you noticed the increasing influence line of business (LOB) leaders have within their organizations? In many cases, their authority now extends to the decision-making and purchasing for technology hardware, software and services. That’s a pretty big switch for solution providers who have spent years developing relationships with IT folks. All of a sudden, LOB is VIP.

So what does it signify for solution providers looking to grow their business? Obviously, it means getting to know the LOB leaders and understanding their business needs and aspirations. But at the same time, you can’t risk alienating your allies in the IT department. You need to keep those relationships in good standing. It’s a balancing act for sure, but one that will benefit those who can do it successfully.

The Rise of LOB

Last year, IDC reported that more than 60 percent of enterprise technology projects are now funded by business leaders, not the IT department. In addition, they will outspend IT going forward. IDC projects business technology spending to grow from $236.6 billion in 2012 to $330.7 billion in 2017, a 6.9 percent CAGR. That compares to overall enterprise IT spending expected to grow at 1.9 percent, according to IDC.

Your flexibility and ability to develop LOB relationships will only become more important. Consider other recent findings:

  • By 2016, 80 percent of new investments will directly involve LOB executives, and LOBs will be the lead decision-makers in half or more of those investments.

  • Fewer than one-third of IT executives are effectively collaborating with line-of-business leaders to provide IT infrastructure solutions to support their businesses (creating a gap where the channel serves as the link between IT and LOB).

  • Human resources, marketing, operations and finance are the business groups spending on IT.

As business executives continue to have more influence—and bigger wallets—regarding technology decisions, solution providers should be forging close relationships with those business leaders. The most effective way to gain that trust is to listen to their business problems, then identify and recommend the appropriate technology to solve those problems.

In many cases, the business leaders may not be familiar with the technology. They are, after all, business leaders. So talk business! You don’t need an MBA, but you can count on them being interested to hear about some common themes: saving money, being more productive, doing more with less.

For example, explain how employees should use business applications on their mobile devices for quick access to information from anywhere, allowing them to be more responsive. Show them how their salespeople in the field will benefit by being able to check inventory or order status and generate quotes or orders from anywhere. Educate business leaders on how they can influence business decisions on a real-time basis, making employees—and the company—more effective.

Don’t Get Lost in Translation: Speak Business and IT

Here’s the issue: sometimes, LOB leaders are making IT decisions without IT’s knowledge or involvement. This is BAD. And unfortunately, IT and LOB too often don’t speak the same language, making communication difficult and sometimes resulting in conflicts between the two departments.

But you have a tremendous opportunity to be the link between the two, by speaking technology and business. Although avoiding IT can shorten approvals and implementation times, you risk alienating IT and subjecting the business department to risk or liability without IT approvals. Sometimes, solution providers are caught in the middle. But that’s not necessarily a bad place to be!

Consider it an ideal opportunity to forge strong relationships with both LOB and IT. You’re looking out for the best interests of the customer, while avoiding issues down the road if the LOB solution doesn’t fully integrate with core applications from IT.

With the right approach—and the right technology—you will earn the mindshare and eventually the trust of LOB executives, and create a longer-term customer who has more faith in you as a trusted adviser.

After all, if IT and business are both happy, then it doesn’t matter which way the wind blows.

About SAP

SAP offers partners a complete portfolio of end-to-end business solutions that include applications such as ERP as well as analytics and databases. All of these solutions can be powered by SAP HANA, the powerful real-time computing platform; are mobile-ready; and can be delivered via on-premise, cloud or through a hybrid model.

Learn more about partnership opportunities at:

Ira Simon is vice president, Partner Marketing & Communications, at SAP. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual sponsorship.

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