As a relative newcomer to the IT industry (I moved to IT in 2008) the one thing that struck me was the constant use of jargon. From technical terms to the marketing hype surrounding technologies, the industry really does love its buzz words and tech speak.
While this is a mere annoyance for someone like me, focused on selling IT services and expertise through the channel, how does this affect the relationship with customers?
The simple fact is that IT is just a cost of doing business; it enables certain processes and enables organisations to do particular things, but ultimately is almost like a grudge purchase. Customers, regardless of industry or market, don't necessarily have the in-house skills and expertise to rely on when it comes to making IT-based decisions, evaluating new technologies or implementing associated products. As a result, they rely on established IT providers and trusted suppliers to guide them through the maze of jargon and marketing speak.
This is compounded by the fact that there is more choice than ever before when it comes to technology and consumption of IT. This also means that the marketplace itself is highly competitive, filled with myriad suppliers with competing solutions, conflicting messages and increasing complexity.
A prime example of this is in the cloud space where, in addition to phrases like private, public and hybrid cloud, there are continuing arguments over the precise definition of cloud, its benefits, effective migration to the cloud, optimising it and how to combine it with other services. This makes it difficult to compare both cloud providers and their offerings on a like-for-like basis.
The result is that IT suppliers are stepping up and helping their customers understand changes in technology and in the industry itself, and how they affect their business. But what happens when those suppliers don't have the necessary knowledge to fully understand new, or even different, solutions?
On the one hand, the customer could actively seek out another supplier, one with the requisite skills and understanding. However, this might not be as easy or uncomplicated as you'd expect. The go-to method for searching for anything new these days is a quick internet search. Type cloud into your browser and you'll see exactly what I mean. Finding these new suppliers becomes an obstacle in itself. Likewise, evaluating their credentials, analysing their products and services, and vetting them becomes a timely and often costly exercise. From the existing supplier's point of view, these new providers may be better poised to deliver a more comprehensive range of solutions and will be competing for a share of tighter and tighter budgets.
However, if IT suppliers are watching industry trends and proactively staying ahead of new technologies or approaches, for both their customers and their own benefit, they can seek out partnerships with other technology providers.
Keeping with the example of cloud, a traditional IT supplier would stand to benefit from a partnership with a cloud services provider. Not only would they be able to better inform their customers in the short term, but in the longer term they could use the complementary partner products in seeking out new business and expanding their initial product range.
Is this happening already? Of course it is; IT partnerships are nothing new. However, we're now in an era where it's the way in which these partnerships are approached and how the benefits are communicated for the end customer that are changing. In an industry where trust is fast becoming one of the most important aspect of any technology-based relationship - especially in the cloud sector where security remains a critical consideration - the ability to look beyond the jargon and use plain language to explain technologies and solutions could very well become a competitive advantage.
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