Welcome to the year of the intranet. If you share the enthusiasm of product manufacturers, we will be selling nothing else this year. As resellers, we have to ride this wave of new technologies, but are all our customers prepared for it?
We are fortunate enough to participate in software programmes that enable us to review products and prepare our sales and technical teams before market demand. But given the pace at which products are being delivered, how can we expect our customers to tolerate it? Do they find the pace so overwhelming that they fail to recognise or consider the true business benefits of the emerging technology?
Two years ago I formed a team within the DS Group to focus on Internet technologies. Back in 1995, it was impossible to form a coherent strategy around existing products. Microsoft, our primary partner, could only offer ?Internet assistants?, as it was still just developing its own Internet strategy.
Delivering Internet solutions now is somewhat easier. The corporate customer has received a rapid and pervasive educational programme from every software vendor in the market, and the flurry of new products, and some renaming of older ones, shows remodelled strategies. Resellers are having to cope with the demand put on them by vendors to deliver solutions.
Ask a selection of our clients what Active X or Java is and the response may surprise you. Trying to demonstrate the benefits of a system which uses technology the customer does not understand, or worse still, has never heard of, is a challenge to the best sales teams. Sales people have to be confident they know the customer?s business and systems well enough to propose alternatives. These should include increased profitability, reduced systems complexity or improved competitive advantage through better communications and access to information; all solutions use tools which have been available for only months, not years.
The sales cycle would be incomplete without a solid technical foundation. This produces a partnership the customer relies on ? inexperience in any area will be obvious, so a coherent strategy becomes essential.
How many of us have advanced hi-fi equipment but use only a fraction of its total functionality? Internet technologies are very similar. Identifying products and services that are best for you and for your customers will ensure you do not become engulfed by this manufacturing tidal wave. In our experience, a large number of customers that have recognised a benefit for intranet technology have dismissed it through perceived complexity or failure of piloted systems.
The products now being delivered have moved into another league. Many solutions have become so distanced from the earliest HTML pages that some customers, sold on the need to include the latest Active X and Java codes, are often reluctant to even consider starting the project.
Among the prime resolutions for 1997 must be a continued determination to dismiss customers? fears that they have to become developers to deploy a solution. An Intranet will succeed if properly managed, widely used and regularly maintained. This is achievable by providing the client with tools that are intuitive and require little or no complex training.
Generating the intranet and ensuring it only uses elements necessary to achieve the desired results will ensure all-round success.
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