Vendors often rhapsodize about aspiring to be "true business partners" vs. mere peddlers of tech. Well, here at EMC we're getting far more opportunities to actually do just that.
Case in point -- Pitney Bowes today launched a cool new document processing service, aimed at their customers, one where EMC is doing far more than just supplying some interesting tech.
But there are some broader themes here that are worth looking at more closely.
Big Trends Abound
The first (and rather obvious) theme is the growing need to digitize everything. Sure, lots of information is born digital these days, but you'd be surprised just how many organizations routinely handle physical paper as part of their processes.
The second theme here is the growing preference to consume specialized IT functions as a service vs. trying to do everything yourself. Providing a competent document capture service takes some fairly specialized tech and expertise. Pitney Bowes has that in spades.
Sure, EMC can sell its Captiva products (and all the associated stuff) as a traditional IT-led engagement. But wouldn't you want to consider consuming it as a service? And, with every passing day, there's ever more interest in the latter approach.
And the third theme? What was once thought of as traditional enterprise IT shop is now in the process of becoming an online IT service provider to their customers.
And it's that third theme that I'd like to dig into a bit ...
Service Provider Models Everywhere
This enterprise-IT-function-morphing-into-external-IT-service-provider thing is happening with increasing regularity. The first few were interesting curiousities -- now it's a common discussion. I can rattle off several dozen names that I've been involved with; there are likely many hundreds more that I haven't been engaged with.
The rationale is simple: our B2B customers see fantastic growth opportunities to leverage their legacy expertise and relationships by delivering what they do as an online service.
But it ain't easy -- not for them, and not for us ...
For one thing, traditional enterprise IT project-oriented models don't mesh well with the real world of starting and growing an online IT services business -- there's usually a mis-match between processes, skills and -- well -- culture. As I've learned, SP-oriented IT models are quite distinct from traditional enterprise IT.
And, of course, one aspect of the SP vendor relationship ideally needs to be a flavor of variable consumption. You're basically starting a business. Maybe it grows fast, maybe it doesn't -- but you don't want a bunch of unused IT stuff waiting around for customers.
But there's more we need to do ...
Helping Our B2B SP Partners Grow Their Business
Of course, Pitney Bowes brings considerable firepower to the table: unqiue domain expertise, great customer relationships, a trusted brand and much more. But think for a moment just how helpful EMC could potentially be on the *front* end of their business, e.g. helping them to secure new business.
We know the technology. We know the workflows. We know the use cases. We know the market, and the competitive alternatives available. We're calling on their prospects, or (in some cases) should be. We can bring additional credibility and expertise to the table. We have an expanded consulting and professional services capability to complement Pitney Bowes own. We have complementary solutions that we can bring to bear. We have our own marketing machinery.
Etc. etc. etc.
If you're the person who's launching this new IT-based B2B service, you'd like access to all of that good stuff, and more. It's really not enough to say "here's the technology you need, best of luck".
You've got to invest in making your partner's business successful.
And that's exactly what we're attempting to do here, and for all the other similar partnerships we've undertaken. We've had some notable successes (e.g. the First Data TransArmor solution), but it's still not the repeatable process with well-defined outcomes that we all would like to see.
What To Expect
This sort of IT-model-and-business-model morphing is popping up in just about every vertical industry. Right now, it appears to be primarily a US phenomenon, but -- like most things -- that's probably a temporary situation.
I think the successful vendors in this space will bring more than just great technology. They'll have to invest in a new class of consulting and partnering skills -- far outside the scope of what technology vendors ordinarily do.
I'm just glad that I'm working for a company with a headstart ...
And, by the way, if you're in the market for a great document processing service, why not give the Pitney Bowes folks a call? I found them a wonderful group to work with ...