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What’s really meant by business-IT engagement?

Engagement is a common enough term to describe the relationship between IT organisations and the business units they serve. It can be interesting to see how much ‘engagement’ varies from process to process. But how, as a system integrator, do you ensure you are creating consistent enough value and leveraging business change through your IT investments, capabilities and assets?

In order to guarantee a smooth delivery process, it is vital to determine how best to sustain and, where appropriate, retire those capabilities and legacy business systems that were created earlier that no longer add any substantive business value.

Here, I highlight some vital aspects of delivery engagement that should be top of mind this year.

Don’t get too wrapped up in the detail of it all

Working closely with clients is always going to be the top priority for integrators and outsourcers. There are plenty of success stories that demonstrate at least some SIs are getting it right. However, recent research from Ovum suggests that there are still end-user organisations that would like to see ‘more business awareness’ from both SIs and service providers when it comes to digital awareness. The report states specifically that 57 per cent of enterprises are concerned its IT suppliers have low to virtually no business awareness. The report also suggests that SIs may be getting too caught up in a technical level of detail, rather than viewing the bigger picture when it comes to direct client need. With that in mind, a good reminder if you are operating in a SI capacity, is that you should always opt to take a more strategic, forward-looking stance when thinking about your customer, in order to encourage more business vitality for your engagement over the rest of the year and beyond (especially when it comes time to software renewal cycles).

Offer up vendor choice, but also allow the client to take the reins

Another aspect to take into consideration is striking a balance between proposing certain vendors to their customers, but also giving the client the space they need to make their own decision if they are keen to take the reins themselves.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are quite regularly involved in IT management (and sourcing) decisions instead of heavily relying on their SI’s recommendations. In fact, with 58 per cent of enterprises feeling constrained by their SIs vendor choices, it is wise to offer these choices but also leave room for the CIOs to do their own investigating. Nearly half (49 per cent) wanted to have complete control over which vendors were selected for their projects, while nearly a third felt it was critical that they at least knew of all the suppliers involved. For certain CIOs, it is important that they have some connection with their supplier relationships.

This can mean taking a step back and adapting to clients’ needs and preferences as this will generate more business value in the long run.

The importance of flexibility

Flexibility is also a key requirement for system integrators and one which must be addressed. With 67 per cent of enterprises noting an immediate need for more flexibility in existing product portfolios, it must become a clear priority for businesses and for SIs to adapt and adhere to being more flexible. In fact, as mentioned previously, if the majority of CIOs are feeling constrained by their SI's vendor choices than it is so important that in order to be viewed as 'the one true partner' by your corporate clients, you must deem it necessary to understand the market trends and conditions you are working to, as well as, how these influence technology purchasing decisions and advise them accordingly. This is particularly important when it comes to the underlying communications infrastructure, which is the foundation of every business, no matter their industry, in today’s business environment.

So what is keeping the most corporate customers awake at night?

Even the most attentive system integrators can face an uphill battle when it comes to being in touch with their clients’ business objectives. It is even more rare to find an SI which can design, implement and manage services capable of meeting these goals. As such, it is important for SIs to keep abreast of customer concerns and how they plan to address them in the short and long-term. Cloud adoption is one of the current issues that system integrators are increasingly facing.

According to Capgemini, as cloud services have matured, enterprise IT departments have lost control over which business applications are used and how often they are accessed. This creates untenable situation for SIs and their knowledge of bandwidth and network capacity requirements. Despite these negative trends, there is also the fact that in today’s ‘always on’ era, organisations can simply not afford to experience downtime. The answer is a reliable third-party provider to access to a robust, high-capacity communications infrastructure that can scale as their business grows.

Both outsourcers and SIs can fend off competition from cheaper cloud providers –and even put themselves in a position of strength – by gaining a good reputation for delivering and managing game-changing IT solutions and services.

Most organisations can no longer take risks when it comes to uptime and this is where SIs find themselves at great advantage. As issues related to cloud provisioning, security breach and business continuity are most likely to keep the corporate customer awake at night, SIs are perfectly positioned to take these worries away from the customer and support their business with an integrated and relevant communications solution

SIs should always take this into account so they are better prepared to deliver telecoms services that not only solve these problems, but also underpin and accelerate their partner’s business growth.

Stuart Dennis, VP Sales at Zayo Group

Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock