In the Battle of Aljubarrota of 1385 featuring Portugal against the Crown of Castile, the Portuguese King John I faced off against another King John I of Castile (otherwise known as the Battle of the Johns). The John of Castile enjoyed overwhelmingly superior numbers on the battlefield. Yet, at a crucial moment in the battle, arrows from English longbowman from the Portuguese side (the result of a recent alliance signed with England) suddenly blotted out the hot August sun and fell with devastating effect on the Castilians. John of Castile would retreat from the field, Portuguese sovereignty assured.
That’s ancient history, but companies today face any number of ongoing battles for supremacy: how to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace; how to attract and retain talent; how to successfully compete on customer experience, how to scale up sales rapidly; etc. Partner Relationship Management tools (PRM) are increasingly being deployed to address these challenges but gaining support from IT can be its own battle. Alliances can be powerful tools to succeed in these efforts but they can work both for and against you. In the above anecdote, does your IT team represent the longbowmen or the Castilians? The answer is revealed below…
A COMMON ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEM
Most companies today are still organized in such a fashion where IT can assure both your success and failure on the battlefield. A cloud-based, SaaS PRM solution represents vital innovation companies need in order to create and maintain competitive advantage, and unless your company happens to be in that particular software business this is not your core competency.
But wait, innovation in your company is the domain of IT and they have a habit of holding derision for and are highly suspect of anything they didn’t either 1) source themselves or 2) build in-house; both of which having rarely satisfied the needs of the business. And while the cloud is increasingly the go-to model there are still many IT organizations that are leery of SaaS solutions due to the simple lack of familiarity with these platforms.
Companies that make the mistake of tasking IT with sourcing software for key business activities or with creating them in-house end up with solutions that oftentimes failed to first accurately define the needs. The next most common failure is their natural penchant for cost savings, meaning even if they did go with an external vendor chances are they chose the one with the least to offer based on price. Bottom line: It’s unfair to them and the business to make such requests, yet it happens all the time.
Not surprisingly, a McKinsey survey published in 2015 states:
“On the whole, executives’ current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative.” According to the survey, “The results also indicate fading confidence in IT’s ability to support key business activities, such as driving growth. In the 2012 survey on business and technology, 57 percent of executives said IT facilitated their companies’ ability to enter new markets. Now only 35 percent say IT facilitates market entry.”
It’s not because IT is staffed with a bunch of Negative Ned’s, they’re simply being asked to do things that are behind with [?] today’s needs. The bimodal model of IT today attempts to strike a balance between safety and accuracy on one side, and speed and agility on the other. A balance that facilitates the introduction and collaboration with external software vendors and SaaS in particular.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY or IT STARTS WITH HAVING THE RIGHT VENDOR
As a result of this bimodal recognition companies increasingly are re-thinking the technology purchase decision by moving it out of IT and into the respective business units. That doesn’t mean IT still can’t get in the way of a BU’s procurement decision, far from it. That’s where a little communication AND having the right PRM vendor become paramount.
The right PRM vendor is one that is confident in their service and capabilities, and is chomping at the bit for the opportunity to weather the potentially withering scrutiny of IT that naturally comes with any responsible performance of due diligence.
Vendors that are evasive to or dismissive of such inquiries might have something hide, and might not be the partners they present themselves as. The right PRM vendor has assembled a SaaS solution fully vetted for compatibility with leading enterprise systems and has covered all the appropriate security issues. Be wary of those who shirk from it.
BUILD YOUR IT ALLIANCE or WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
The key to it all is communication. Here’s a short list of actions to start your own successful journey with the right SaaS, cloud-based PRM system, actions that will go a long ways toward building your IT alliance:
- Involve IT by asking for input on questions you should be asking potential vendors as to compatibility, security, etc. Feeling brave? Form a project task force and designate an IT person as a member. Nothing buys support like sharing responsibility in the final decision.
- Perform a marketplace assessment of commercially available solutions and share the results with IT and even purchasing. This has the effect of showing that you take finding the right vendor seriously and with the same due diligence they would.
- Provide a SWAT-type analysis of what the competition is doing as a way of validating your expressed need for these solutions and showing how, with the proper solution you can compare with or exceed their service levels and extent of capabilities.
- Articulate what fulfilling these needs will do towards eliminating friction both for internal constituents and external stakeholders who count on your services to help them better serve the company’s needs and goals.
- Get IT and your chosen PRM vendor talking early and often. IT is far more likely to support your ultimate vendor selection once they are comfortable that compatibility, security have been addressed, and that deliverables meet what you originally expressed need for. Look for information from your vendor that proactively provides the information you know they’ll be looking for to have confidence in bringing in the solution of choice. At Impartner, we’ve anticipated those questions, with this breakdown on 16 reasons to love our SaaS.
It’s the natural disposition of human beings to fear the unknown. Throughout history that instinct to “fight or flight” has ensured the survival of the species. But you can unwind fear and resistance to the unknown by making very deliberate and specific overtures to your IT department and it all starts with the right PRM vendor.
No one’s asking you to marry off your first born to IT in order to form an alliance. But before the sky above suddenly turns dark, the thoughtful executive has to ask the equivalent of: “Do we have any longbowmen on our side in this battle?” Well, do you?
So in answer to the earlier question: Is your IT department the longbowmen or the Castilians? The answer is entirely up to you.