Secrets Of The Rich And Strategic

Customers seek vendors who can provide a "total solution" as they implemententerprise systems and other IT initiatives to support business objectives and boostcompetitive advantage. Entering into a business alliance is an effective way for a vendorto provide customers with the right blend of technology, implementation services andmanagement expertise needed for IT systems that deliver on objectives and meetexpectations.

While striking up a business alliance sounds basic, ensuring these relationships arepositioned to provide customers a quick return on their IT investments can be tricky. Theultimate goal is to provide customers with a single source and point of accountability forthe hardware, infrastructure implementation and even systems management and financingdesigned to support a range of enterprise applications that includes SAP, QAD, PeopleSoft,Oracle and others.

Building an effective alliance requires much more than a promise to leverage resources.Alliances must have three key features:

  • Be a strategic fit for the parties involved.
  • Offer customers complementary products and services.
  • Be promoted through internal and external communication.

Without these components alliance agreements may be signed, however they may go nofurther and customers won't realize the benefits of the total IT solution they're seeking.

The enterprise "ecosystem" surrounding customers in enterpriseimplementations includes not only the software application vendors, but also systemsintegrators, systems manufacturers, distributors and infrastructure providers. And, justbecause a company has a well established name does not guarantee that it will be a goodpartner. Conversely, a start-up company may have a unique vision, yet may not have theproven skills and resources to bring value to a business alliance.

Taking a formal, strategic approach to the identification of potential alliancepartners -- always with an eye on providing the best possible suite of solutions to theend customer -- is the best method.

A second key component in a successful alliance is providing complementary products.Because the main objective of entering into an alliance is to bring added value to thecustomer, the partnership should capitalize on the strengths of each player and minimizeor cover gaps in offerings. The alliance should be entered into with the goal ofdelivering an enhanced suite of products or services that the customer cannot obtain fromeither partner individually. Providing a single point of contact for the enhancedofferings is an added benefit that has proven to be an important consideration from thecustomer's perspective.

The third strong component involves communication -- both internal and external. First,it is imperative to implement a strategy to communicate the benefits of the allianceinternally in order to gain buy-in and build understanding throughout the organization.Communicating the customer value that will be generated from the alliance is particularlyimportant to the sales organization. Plans must be developed and executed to give thesales force maximum awareness so they can bring the message to existing and potentialcustomers.

An external campaign can be de-signed to complement the internal communications plan.Generating market interest through media relations initiatives, sales collateral andtargeted lead generation programs will ensure top exposure for the business alliance andshould produce measurable results.

With the worldwide market for enterprise systems expected to climb to an estimated $55billion by the year 2000, IT providers who distinguish themselves by offering customers asingle point of contact for the full suite of products and services will be positionedahead of the curve. Entering into strategic business alliances designed to enhancecustomer value, then building awareness and understanding of the benefits both internallyand externally, will produce the greatest benefits for all.

-- Mike Coffield is Director of Business Development for ForsytheSolutions Group (Skokie, Ill.).