Solutions Not Products

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Comms Business talks to Mike Constantine, CTO at GCI about giving the customer what they really want instead of just selling them what is in the managed service provider toolkit.

Mike Constantine, CTO at GCI, says that too often MSPs say to their customers, ‘This is what we have – you want it don’t you?’

Customers are savvier today and want a supplier that can deliver solutions for business cases, optimise their efficiency and interact with supply chains. It is therefore critical to understand what organisations are using technology for. Solutions are just a set of products integrated together but not complete until you understand what the customer is trying to achieve for their business.

How do you shape your services Roadmap?

We have two streams for services development. Firstly a tactical road map developed from user demand and secondly developments that are more R&D based. Ask yourself – where are customers going? What do they need to deliver a tech transformation? The services we offer should be available on a service as a utility basis and be capable of flexing enough, up and down, to meet demand. They should have electronic automations and transparency so the user can see how that service meets their business need.

People are used to simple experiences in a retail environment but find business service consumption more complex so helping users to consume services is crucial.

How do you differentiate your service in a cluttered market?

The MSP market is growing rapidly but also changing – services today are very different. We have seen the move from physical to virtual servers and these themselves are now being replaced by a move to the cloud.

Our differentiation lies in the way we are helping customers navigate that journey. The elements here are part product, part how services are consumed and part people – how we can help.

User Digital Transformations (DX) need breaking down into individual projects. For example UC is a part of a DX but it is as much an HR issue as it is a technology issue. The way people are working today means that home office boundaries need managing and here we will assist with our expertise.

While the need for a DX is common for both enterprise and the SME users the drivers are different. For larger firms DX is driven by the need for standardisation, optimisation and efficiency whereas for the SME it is more about competition and their own differentiation. The common thread is the need to interact with customers in new and different ways.

Where does SDN fit in this landscape?

Software Defined Networks (SDN) means many things – each vendor defines it in their own way. If you bring it back to basics then SDNs are networks with intelligence built in but in my opinion this vision is still a long way off. The network virtualisation element of SDN – moving centrally to the cloud, is being deployed today and overall SDN is gathering pace. SDNs will have an increasing role to play as the number of applications being consumed increases and all compete for resource on the network. 80% of traffic on network is going through the internet – public IP ranges, and this not at all efficient and gives credence to the hybrid WAN, an SDN. GCI will consume these intelligent SDN services for our customers from asset based network providers.

How do you provide a service that gives extra… and keeps on giving?

It is important to give users the data to show they are delivering against their targets. Show they have provided an x% increase and invested wisely. We help customers with this by delivering what was set out in their requirements. It is essential to remember that customers can switch providers easily and fast today so showing that technology delivering against a business case and that they are hitting targets as well as returns on investment is crucial.

As I said earlier, the market changing rapidly – services need to be flexible and when it comes to undertaking a user DX make sure you understand a customers business and break it down in to discrete components to ensure all will work together.

Can users source from one or multiple suppliers? Of course that depends on what they are trying to achieve but our aim is to deliver a large proportion of these services ourselves.

Overall the channel has to become more comfortable with the ‘sell with’ process as solutions and DX become more complex and sophisticated.