Technology vendors and resellers speak of their products as “solutions.” We’ve even changed the moniker of partners from “value-added resellers” to “solution providers” to reflect the delivery of comprehensive systems that meet business needs.

Products are not solutions, even if they have the characteristics of systems. This is especially true of technology products that have a limited lifespan or capacity to evolve. And the tolerance among technology consumers is diminishing for products that are superseded by increasingly rapid waves of innovation.

Think about the frustration of enterprise IT buyers that this technology will solve all their needs and provide the best return on investment, only to have the technology become obsolete two or three years down the line. Worse, the technology that will work for future needs requires a rip-and-replace strategy. Suddenly, all that investment in selection, implementation, fine-tuning, staff training, ongoing maintenance, support contracts and capacity expansion is wasted.

Nothing last forever, but a technology investment should still be durable and adaptable. The true nature of solutions isn’t selling the complete system that solves every business technology need, but creating foundations that protect investments. Many people refer to this as “future-proofing,” or making IT decisions with a reasonable degree of assurance that money spent today will survive beyond the initial life expectancy of a particular product. Future-proofing doesn’t mean a product or technology will never require replacement, but rather that investments made in the future will not negate the value of previous purchases.

Does this mean making trade-offs with current investments? Yes, at least sometimes.

The power of adaptability is one of evolution and extension. A particular product may not have all the features and functionality of a comprehensive product, but it may be part of a family of technologies that are easily integrated and interoperable. The value comes from the extension of capabilities and ability to change to evolving business needs.

Why are vendors moving beyond point-product development to offer customers and providers technologies built on unifying architectures? Because of adaptability and continual evolution. And what do those architectures look and act like? They act like platforms.

With platforms such as application management and extensible hybrid backup built on a common architecture, customers can rest easy that their IT investment will have consistent baseline experience and functions that will evolve over time.

Solution providers gain value from evolving systems because they provide the opportunity to engage customers with new features, support and performance. With each evolution or extension, a solution provider gains deeper entanglement with the customer and enhance value.

For solution providers, selling and supporting future-proof solutions require understanding a vendor’s core technology, the functionality extensions provided by complementary technologies, the roadmaps for future development and the value each component brings to the equation. What gets presented to the customer is not the totality of the system, but the components that meet current needs and the options for future expansion.

Some critics may say all this is overkill — a means by which vendors and solution providers accrete costs that gets passed on to end customers. Nothing could be further from the truth. All-inclusive point products are more costly because they have features that will never get used and are less extensible than a unified architecture. Providing unifying architectures and true solutions is more about tailoring to preserve value.

End-user expectations for IT value are changing. Customers willing to pay for value, but want assurance they’re getting true value from the expenditure of their precious, and constantly shrinking, IT dollar. By offering true solutions that meet current needs and are adaptable to future changes, solution providers will become as much of a source of value as the technology they sell and support.

 

Reprinted with permission of The 2112 Group –