THE days of talking speeds and feeds to customers when bidding for a slice of their ever-slimmer IT budgets are well and truly over. Channel players can no longer just engage in geek-speak with IT managers in the server room, they also need to be comfortable in the boardroom discussing the business value of new technology to senior decision-makers.
These are the sentiments of Microsoft’s self-styled business value guru Robert McDowell, which he delivered to local partners and customers during a recent visit to the country.
McDowell is vice president of the Information Worker division at Redmond and co-authored the book In Search of Business Value — Ensuring a Return on your Technology Investment, with technology writer William Simon, published last October.
Meeting with partners in Auckland and Wellington, McDowell said he wanted to learn how Microsoft could help them better articulate the business value of its offerings.
“I am trying to understand what the kinds of things are that we can put in their hands to make them more successful,” he said.
This is especially relevant as Microsoft releases a host of new products. “SQL [Server 2005] is kicking off what is going to be a 12 to 18-month run of a refresh of almost every one of our major products,” said McDowell.
Unlike in the past, Microsoft’s marketing messages will not just focus on the features of the products, and it wants to help partners follow suit.
“It is important that as these technologies roll out customers see the business proportion stronger than in the past,” he said. “Historically Microsoft has come out with new products and we emphasised the features. Going forward we have to get smarter in understanding the customer scenarios in which this stuff is going to be used and evangelising that to our partners as well as our customers.”
Meanwhile, resellers also have tremendous opportunities helping customers extract more value from existing technology, since many users do not utilise Microsoft products like Office to their potential, said McDowell.
“There is unbelievable untapped capacity in what is out there now,” he said, acknowledging Microsoft could have communicated the full value of the technology better. “When I hear people barely use ten to 20 % of the product, I am ashamed of us for not being clearer about what the value is. We have to do a much better job of clarifying that.”
Articulating the business value of new technology correctly and talking to top decision-makers can also generate new business and services revenue for resellers. This means salespeople will be dealing with people they did not need to a few years ago.
“It is not just the IT department, but the business and government leaders. That is where the debate over business value is happening,” said McDowell.
To deliver value to their clients resellers should focus on their strengths and attempt to be all things to all people.