Data partners need to be open to collaboration and let customers take the lead

By : |January 8, 2020 0

Globally, about US$3.5 billion is invested every year in research and development. This is increasingly made up of greater proportions of digital technology, as economies embrace a world driven by data. New realities include concepts like smart cities, smart industry or smart healthcare, where data is harnessed non-stop to gather deep insights into people, places and operations.

In this new reality, the relationship of how the provider works with its partners and how those partners work with their customers is evolving. It is moving away from simple supplier of products encapsulated in hardware appliances towards a collaborative supplier of outcome-oriented solutions.

The onus is increasingly on the customer to drive innovation and change. Be they government organizations or private firms, customers want to leverage the power of data as much as possible. They are very aware of the fact that the future is all about data, and to be successful in the digital age, they need to take their digital transformation seriously.

An inevitable outcome of this trend is a dramatic change in the relationship between the IT vendor, the systems integrator and the customer. It is this change that IT vendors and their system integrator partners need to take note of in order to stand out in the industry.

Once upon a time, having vendor-certified people to sell and install offerings was enough for a systems integrator. It was a unique selling point to merely be knowledgeable in vendor solutions. To become this proficient had a higher barrier of entry, as training costs to be vendor-certified were high, so once established, it was a good business to be in.

The needs of the customer of today are vastly different. Over time, system integrators have had to develop their own Intellectual Property, be it through product customisations using vendor APIs and automation tools to build their own workflows or through an increasing relevance in the end customer’s business through acquired knowledge in it. After all, these integrators have a much more thorough understanding of the end customer business than a hardware vendor could hope to have.

System Integrators Want to Bring Value

Systems Integrators of today don’t just rely on their IT vendor partners to do provide all the value anymore. They are investing in their in-house teams of not just IT experts, but also data scientists, data engineers and enterprise architects conversant with the customer business. They are as savvy and proficient in all things data related to their customers, and are setting a new bar for their upstream IT vendors to reach.

As such, the nature of working with vendors has changed from simply taking solutions from them and implementing these, to becoming much more of a trusted advisor to the end customer.

What this has meant for the partner-vendor relationship is that now the good vendors listen to the partners much more intently when it comes to their needs, because they, in turn, understand the customers. More importantly, these vendors make sure they develop interfaces through which the partner can express their own IP on top of those vendor products.

Partners noted that customers found provisioning storage, configuring virtual machines setting up data protection services, among other operational tasks, could easily consume up to 45 percent of IT staff time.

There are solutions that would automate the administration of IT infrastructure resources, freeing up their IT staff to focus on more urgent matters. At the same time, this solution needs to be customisable and agile enough for the customer to incorporate into their own data operations.

The robust API that integrates with analytic software and third-party IT service management tools. System Integrators can harness the power of this engine with their own understanding of the end customer requirements. In essence, they can build their own workflows to meet their customer’s own business objectives.

This is a great example of something that perhaps in the past would have been a “take it or leave it” management suite but now it’s about providing an automation engine for DevOps so partners or customers can express their own intellectual property.

This example of collaboration is remarkably different from how things were with vendors 20 years ago.

Willingness is perhaps the most important trait in co-creation – customers who understand that value can be derived from cooperation and are willing to understand that new solutions can arise that will provide them with an advantage in their business.

Once willingness is there, the other attributes for this type of venture such as agility in working methods and flexible mindset of the people working for the partners will follow.

The end goal for collaboration is to create new technologies that can be applied in real life. After all, innovation is only good when it is useful.

   Russell Skingsley, Vice President Technical Strategy and Emerging Solutions, GTM Strategy, Worldwide, Hitachi Vantara

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