UC and the Consultant Community – What Vendors Should Know

Having once played extensively on the vendor side of the field, I have empathy for the vendors’ perspective on where consultants fit in their go-to-market equation.  After all, we’re not as easily categorized as the end-user or reseller audiences.  And quantifying our impact on vendor revenues has never proved straightforward.  But we’re here, we’re very much a part of the UC equation, and we’re not going anywhere.  So I offer a few starter anecdotes and tips on how we add value to the enterprise market and how vendors can benefit from our involvement.1.  As an independent UC consultant, our clients expect us to always be on top of the latest “whiz-bang” application or concept. While vendor-marketing buzz may succeed in prompting attention from these end-users, it actually serves as a double edge sword for the consultant community. Often we find that even if we’re not familiar with the whiz-bang’s name de jour, a second look tells us it’s simply a newer version of a familiar application. Yes, manufacturers are incorporating enhanced functionality and features in their rebranding efforts, but in most cases the products are very similar to their predecessors where it counts most to us – in terms of technical requirements and integration issues.  A Marketing ‘de-coding’ tool would save us a lot of time.

2.  Demand for an independent consultant within an enterprise often starts with the CFO.  Many manufacturers and their distributors focus almost exclusively on “soft cost” business cases and (surprisingly), more often than not, these campaigns are effective.  The reasons for success are varied, yet a soft-cost business case often hits a roadblock when a consultant is engaged.  Why is that?  Are consultants not interested in soft costs?  Of course we are, but we are hired to address what the business stakeholders require most – The Bottom Line.  In today’s toughening economic climate, capturing illusive IT dollars requires a solid business case that considers hard and soft dollar returns.  The proof, though, is in the pudding; we follow-through after implementation to prove that the forecasted returns have been achieved, an important step which is often omitted.  Your probability of additional  sales would be greatly improved if you conducted or participated in such post-sales evaluation processes?

3.  Integration is a key driver to achieving returns, yet an area where businesses – and sometimes vendors – lack the necessary skills to evaluate related issues.  We surely don’t write integration code, but we have the expertise and responsibility to ask the hard questions that may otherwise be overlooked.  Can this slow down a sales process?  Yes, but enterprises can only leverage new ways to communicate when installations are successful.  An independent resource and client advocate who assembles the necessary pieces of the UC puzzle increases the likelihood of success for all involved.   Keep us educated on the integration side of house.

Remember, these are not knocks on anyone.  On the contrary, actually, strong working relationships with the consultant community allow us to effectively represent vendor capabilities.   Consultants should not be perceived as a threat, but as an educated avenue that can improve a vendor’s probability of success.  If an enterprise is willing to expend resources on a consultant, this reflects the enterprise’s seriousness to evaluate and invest in improving or optimizing their technology.  At the end of the day, an independent consultant and the vendor are after the same result – a satisfied and referenceable customer who can confidently say they achieved their business objectives.  Let’s keep talking.

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