Thursday, 03 May 2012 16:00
What does the future look like for IT companies?Written by Holly Soule
The future! What a scary thing to think about right? But united we stand as the IT Nation so why not heed some advice from our very own CEO, Arnie Bellini and ConnectWise Advisory Council member and HTG Founder Arlin Sorensen? In preparation for the upcoming HTG Member Meeting next week, both Arnie and Arlin weighed in on what’s to come for the partner of the future.
Q: What does the successful company of the future look like?
Q: What does the successful company of the future look like?
Arlin: I believe we are at a point of needing to make a quantum shift in our industry. We have to move away completely from product and services to client experience. People pay for the experience they have first and foremost. Just look at the success of Apple. You can get a phone or tablet that does what an iPhone or iPad will do, but no one has created that kind of experience. As IT companies we have to get beyond the focus on what we sell or how we service and give clients a seamless experience that enables them to get their work done effectively and efficiently. It has to be simple, painless and consistent. Even in our move to selling solutions or flat fee services – we still don’t focus on the client experience nearly enough.
Arnie: Fast forward five years and take a look at what success looks like in 2017. I believe the successful IT solution provider of the future will get technology out of the way. Your clients care about one thing - productivity. They don't care about the latest technology - they care about getting their job done . . . and getting it done in the most efficient way possible. Technology is a double-edged sword. It does deliver productivity, but at the same time, it gets in the way of productivity, sometimes in massive way. Right now I would say it gets you to the doorstep of massive productivity. You can't get there without it, but you can break through it and head towards the promised land. Most of us suffer from a curse: knowing and loving technology. As a result, we emphasize and lead with the technology. The reality is the technology needs to fade into the woodwork, and delivering productivity as the value must emerge. The companies that embrace and understand this concept, and build their service delivery around this concept, will dominate the future. Productivity, as a value proposition, needs to move forward.
Q: What is the major barrier you see for most companies to overcome?
Arlin: There is a huge leadership void in many small businesses today. Entrepreneurs typically are not great leaders, and certainly have not invested in creating leaders in their organizations. For many companies this will be the key growth blocker. They do not have the team of people that can step into key roles to manage and lead others as they grow. So they will have a cycle of personnel changes and hit walls they cannot overcome until they create an environment where building and investing in people becomes a key focus.
Arnie: I would say it's truly knowing who you are and what you do as a company. Because we are companies that deliver technology we typically think in the discreet terms of that technology. That’s our greatest barrier. Let's zoom out and take a holistic approach to the clients we serve and truly focus on understanding their business needs. We need to have conversations about how we can better their organizations through the strategic deployment of technology. This is still a challenge for us as an industry. We like technology, so we want to focus on technology. We have to focus on the business. For example, it's positioning things above and beyond technology - don't just sell virus protection, offer to deliver a business intelligence solution. It's taking the technology and shifting the value proposition of how the technology manifests itself as value to our customers.
Q: To prepare to be a successful company in the future, what steps should owners take today to get their company ready to succeed?
Arlin: Success in the future will be determined a lot differently than in the past. It used to be based on what products or solutions we sold, or how skilled our engineering team was. There is a whole different set of drivers that will determine success going forward. It isn’t going to be the same. Here are key things that I believe will be foundational to success in the next 5 years:
• Know your why – have clarity of mission and vision and be able to share it clearly with staff and clients
• Build your team – invest in creating leadership and management so client experience can be delivered
• Focus on plans – know concretely what you are doing around business, leadership, life and legacy
• Balance your life – running a successful company has no meaning if you fail in the other areas of life – marriage, family, friends, faith – it has to be balanced
• Leverage peers and coaches to help – you will go faster and do better if you let others help you get there
• Utilize tools – focus on getting more from the investments already in place in the tools you have available
• Remember nothing happens until we sell something – we have to learn and embrace sales
Arnie: The IT industry has only been around for 55 years. One of my favorite pictures is an old photo of my father standing on the steps of the Poughkeepsie Library with 25 other nerdy looking guys. It was IBM's graduating sales class of 1959. It makes me realize how far the IT industry has come. At the same time, our industry is still relatively immature when compared to others. Lawyers have been around for thousands of years, doctors have been around for thousands of years, accountants have been around for hundreds of years. We've been around for 55 years. Successful IT solution providers of the future will mature just as the other industries have matured - and that process needs to start now:
1. Sales First. Successful companies are ‘sales first’ companies. They understand what they are selling and pound away each day with a great sales process. This quality is sadly lacking in our industry. ConnectWise has a great kit for you on this: www.ConnectWise.com/SalesKit
2. Service Level Agreements. Making your SLAs a math equation is an imperative of the future. Most IT companies promise clients SLAs but don't hold themselves accountable to the SLAs. I tested this by asking a Partner, "What SLAs do you give to your clients?" Answer: "We give them great service." Then I dug for the numbers - the math, "What is your response time for critical issues?" Answer: "Fast, we take care of those real fast.” It sounds funny, but that is a very common answer. Our industry has been able to get away with this SLA set for a long time. Those days are gone. You have to get serious about delivering and measuring your SLAs. Hold yourself accountable before your customers insist on it. Learn what you need to do to deliver great SLAs before you are accountable to your customers. The days of SLA accountability are right around the corner.
3. Help Desk. The one thing you MUST do to position your company for the future is to build and own your own Help Desk. Help Desk allows you to create "command central" for your clients and position a first line of defense. And within that first line of defense, present the all-important option play for how you can resolve and remediate. Every touch is an opportunity to provide outstanding service . . . to wow the client, and be efficient while doing so. Here's where you're able to differentiate and demand a premium price for better services and peace of mind. ConnectWise has a great kit for you on this: www.ConnectWise.com/HelpDeskKit
4. Vendor Management. Everything is becoming digital. Phones, TVs, Radio - there is a convergence going on that points to a showdown for ownership of the digital highway at each of our clients. Are you going to let the phone company win that battle? How about the copier company or the internet provider? The answer is no! We should win that battle, and we will win by stepping up to the plate and providing a new service offering: vendor management. Put yourself at the center of managing all the digital vendors. ConnectWise has a great kit for you on this: www.ConnectWise.com/VendorManagementKit
Q: If you were to give one final piece of advice for preparing to be successful in the future, what would it be?
Arlin: At the end of the day, we are in the people business. We sell and service technology, but it is really all about people. That has to start with ourselves as owners and leaders. We need to skill up and learn how to lead more effectively. From there we need to invest in creating leadership and management so our company can scale. We need to skill up our team so they can effectively communicate and create a vibrant client relationship. And then we need to transform our efforts with clients to much more – to an experience where we are vested together with them in their success as they participate in ours. Most of our clients have the exact same needs and challenges that we do. It always comes down to the people. We are in the relationship business and the sooner we make that transition and focus – the more likely we are to succeed.
Arnie: Focus on developing your leadership skills. Simply put: become a better leader. Leadership is the hardest lesson you will ever learn and it's the class that you're never really finished with, that you never really get a final grade on. You have to constantly improve your leadership skills. Many of us in this industry are accidental entrepreneurs. We fell in love with technology, we got ourselves a couple of clients, we had to hire some employees, got some more business and oops - now you're a business owner! You probably didn't sign up for being a leader, but you are. The good news is, you CAN learn how to be a better leader. The best way to lead, is to relinquish - hand off parts of your job to those around you and be ok with them making mistakes. Your new job as a leader? Mentor through their mistakes, mentor as mistakes are made, and teach it’s ok to fail, because failure is a big part of the learning process. At ConnectWise we teach our employees to fail fast - it is a very powerful and liberating concept. Teach your company how to fail fast and learn how to mentor, then you will be on the fast track to becoming a great leader.
Q: In closing, what should attendees at the HTG Summit next week focus on learning?
Arlin: You have the opportunity to spend time with some of the best and brightest in our industry. Take advantage of that. It starts with the relationships in your group meetings. Dive deep, ask the hard questions, know what you need to learn from your group and come prepared to maximize those two days of interaction. Take advantage of the workshops and the great content that will be provided on Monday. Three key areas – leadership, social media and disaster recovery/business continuity – that you need to address. Participate in the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to get perspective from others who are interested in the same key areas you are. This is another place to hang with thought leaders. Learn from the vendors. They invest more in training their teams around sales, marketing and lots of other areas than we will ever be able to. Leverage time with them to learn. They are a wealth of information and knowledge if you make the investment. So in a word – focus on relationships. Come with an attitude of creating as many as possible. Spend the time being a Go-Giver and sharing value. In return you will reap far more!
Arnie: The best part of HTG? Interaction with your peers. I encourage you to step up that interaction, embrace this community you're a part of. Ask a lot of questions - about what you learned in your Quarterly Business Reviews, the Vendor Profit Sessions, Arlin's address, etc. Be present, be curious, be open. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn so much from those around you.
Source: http://www.htgpeergroups.com/ and the HTG Way Newsletter
So what lies in the future? We can’t know for sure, but change is a certainly, especially in the IT industry! That’s why we band together to help each other stay ahead of the curve. Thanks to HTG for sharing this content with us and allowing us to share it with the IT Nation.
Published in Word of the Wise
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