Consultant and business partner: two generic terms that sound good, but depending on how they’re defined and practiced, have the potential to be great. The problem is that too many companies consider themselves to be great consultants and business partners. But, what makes them so great?
Most companies sell consumer goods and services, while very few companies sell information technology services. Ironically, the distribution of consumer products is facilitated by IT services, or the delivery of high-value information to end users. In other words, the success of your business ultimately depends on the accessibility and delivery of critical data: the true purpose of IT in your company.
IT delivers high-value company information to internal and external customers in a way that encourages efficient use of that information. I think we can agree that low response time, constant refreshing, and the difficulty of getting accurate and timely information can have a negative effect on productivity, user satisfaction, and revenue.
It’s common for the internal IT department of a small company to be understaffed and over-worked in their day-to-day responsibilities. So, if your company wants to gain a competitive edge in the field of information delivery, then it’ll require additional time, research, learning, and evaluation from your already overburdened IT staff. If you find yourself in this less-than-ideal situation, your IT staff might tell you that buying the newest and fastest piece of hardware from your current vendor is the best option. What they might not tell you is that it’s also the most expensive option. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Finally, let’s get back to consultants and business partners; I’ll address them individually, as I believe they have entirely different meanings.
Generally, a consultant is someone who gives professional or expert advice. In the technology industry, IT consultants provide solutions that meet specific requirements. Many IT consulting firms have an obligation to design solutions that use products all manufactured by the same vendor, however, offering pre-determined solutions like these can minimize options and hinder creative thinking. This is a far cry from great consulting.While multi-vendor consultants exist, the “options” they offer are essentially different prices for pre-packaged solutions. These cookie-cutter solutions might sound appealing, but are not as effective as solutions designed from the ground up.
To combat this, CMA has a unique capability to design integrated solutions that use products from a variety of vendors, each with its own strengths and weaknesses that must be considered when crafting a best-fit solution. Multiple vendors exist because some products have weaknesses; integrative solutions address this issue.
Now that we’ve distinguished the difference between good consulting and great consulting, let’s talk about business partners.
Generally, a business partner is a company that collaborates with another company to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. That sounds great, doesn’t it? Just what you were looking for? But, stop and ask yourself: What exactly am I getting out of this business relationship?
Well, the delivery of information is composed of several moving parts and, like a well-oiled machine, they must all work together toward a common goal. Therefore, a business partner should provide the following three elements:
-Storage and protection of your company's information. This includes disk storage, flash storage, encryption (on the fly and at rest), replication and backup, and storage area networking.
-Computing power to process data. This includes servers, virtualization software, applications, data center networking, and Ethernet fabrics.
-A network for the final delivery of information from the data center to the user. This includes routers, switches, firewalls, WAN optimization, remote access, wireless, endpoint security, and threat protection.
So, does your business partner understand these three fundamental building blocks of IT?
Will they be able to pinpoint the delay in your information delivery?
Do they know if you need a network overhaul or a better flash storage device to perform above your competitors?
These questions are important because if your IT business partner doesn’t understand how your system works as a whole, then their default response will be to “fix” the only part they understand.
It’s important to have a firm handle on the entire information flow, from the storage, through the virtualized server, to the user and back. It’s also important to have the ability and resources to research, examine, and test the best possible solution for each part of the information flow.
And because of this, CMA has been certified by every vendor that would comprise a total solution tailored to your unique business requirements. That solution may be a single-vendor solution or a multi-vendor solution, but would represent the best possible solution and ROI for you.
The question of single vendor, end-to-end solutions versus hybrid, best-of-breed solutions will be the subject of my next blog.
Bud Klink, Senior Network Architect at CMA