Partner or Become Irrelevant
So Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) just took the covers off its latest Gross National Product booster, the iPhone 5. I, for one, am sick of it already, and it hasn’t even been officially released yet. But that’s just me and doesn’t reflect the views of The VAR Guy (I threw in that disclaimer so TVG wouldn’t have to). I promise this is not going to be another Apple blog, but let me make my point and get on with what solution providers really need to know.
Pricing for the latest iPhone will range from around $200 to more than $700 depending on the amount of Gigabytes you want. And don’t forget the after-market accessories — additional power cords, cases, apps, etc. Regardless of these costs, the Apple Stores will be mobbed, pre-online orders will pile up and the new phone will sell like gangbusters.
So, as a solution provider, what are you going to do about it? If you think businesses were already struggling with trying to control the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement, with some folks shelling out more than $700 for their personal mobile device, the situation is officially aggravated. And most organizations don’t have a clue how to manage the process, change to an app store software distribution model, secure the devices and integrate them seamlessly into their network. And lifecycle management gets thrown out the window, as new versions of these devices come out every 12 to 18 months.
So who are they going to call? They are going to turn to you, the solution provider. After all, you’re already migrating their data centers to a virtual environment or operating a NOC (network operating center), or managing a hosting environment for them. But here is the rub: Mobile device management and integration isn’t exactly your sweet spot.
And unless you are one of the larger systems integrators, chances are you can’t afford to bring aboard new bodies with this expertise. So you are going to have to partner with a specialized mobile solution provider. And this doesn’t just pertain to mobile expertise — telecom, security and even cloud solutions are becoming more integral to customers’ IT infrastructure. Smart solution providers always want to own the customer relationship but they also know their limitations.
Partnering is not something new to the channel, but I will argue that it is more critical now than ever before as business needs and technologies have become more complex and specialized. Carolyn April, director of Industry Analysis at CompTIA, and I were just having this conversation. And while many business arrangements in the channel were somewhat informal and sealed with a handshake in the past, the stakes are too high now. Solution providers to go through a series of checklists before partnering with any organization for services, she said.
April stresses five main ground rules to embarking on a successful partnership:
- Financially vet any partner. Get as much available business, credit and customer history as possible.
- Decide who owns the customer relationship. This includes who is the direct point of contact for all things — whether it’s service- or billing-related.
- Formalize the revenue model structure and who is getting paid for what service and how they are getting paid.
- Take the time to understand each other’s business model. Get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Know how your potential partner goes to market, services and runs customer relationships, and make sure he or she knows yours.
- Formalize the relationship. Treat the partnership just like you would a vendor or manufacturer relationship. This is not just a scope of work, but should include an exit agreement and a strategy to keep the relationship going or replicated in other accounts.
As a solution provider you are going to have to partner with other firms to service your accounts and grow your business and influence. If you don’t embrace this model your business will become irrelevant quickly.
As for me, I am holding out as long as I can without an iPhone. However, my wife is now starting to ask about it. The writing is on the wall in my house too, I guess.
Knock em alive!