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CompTIA: Line-of-Business Leaders Open New Door to Channel

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Lynn HaberThere’s a big untapped business market waiting for channel partners, but it’s up to them to take the lead on making this new customer base aware of their expertise.

And don’t expect business as usual. That’s according to a new research report – “Considering the New IT Buyer” – from CompTIA.

While talk about how various departments, such as finance, human resources and marketing, for example, have been provisioning cloud solutions for several years now, this new CompTIA report focuses in on where and if there’s room for channel partners to play a role, and how best to seize this new business opportunity. CompTIA surveyed 675 U.S. businesses.

CompTIA's Carolyn April“The LOB (line of business) buyer speaks a different language then partners are familiar with but they need to understand it. While many have, it will be a challenge for some channel companies to make the shift to discuss business solutions and business outcomes with these buyers,” Carolyn April, senior director, industry analyst at CompTIA, told us.

Rogue IT users have always challenged IT but never to the degree that today’s line-of-business buyers have. Today, LOBs are not only taking IT purchase decisions about cloud, mobility, data and as-as-service offerings into their own hands, many are also staffing their own departments with IT-oriented job roles, such as data scientists, business analysts and software developers, according to the CompTIA report.

Four in 10 respondents said that cloud computing made it simpler to self-provision technology, primarily applications, without the involvement of the IT organization. Not all of these LOBs, however, are simply going it alone. Twenty-two percent of respondents cited that the company powers-that-be decentralized IT purchasing across business units. {ad}

Additionally, unlike the early days of self-provisioning cloud within the LOBs, today more LOBs are likely to collaborate with their IT departments. Four in ten LOB respondents said their departments work jointly with IT to determine which hardware, software, services and other tech solutions they deploy. About one in five (19 percent) said that IT handles all these decisions, and only 14 percent report that the LOB flies solo when it comes to making these decisions.

IDC reports that IT spending funded by non-IT business units will reach $609 billion in 2017; that’s up almost 6 percent over 2016. And by 2020, LOB spending will just about match that of the IT organization.

This shift for the channel is huge.

Selling and working with business-oriented constituencies is a different beast than negotiating a product upgrade or managed services’ SLA with a CIO or IT-related, end-user customers, the report notes. Not only that, many LOB executives surveyed, aren’t even familiar with the channel.

While LOBs take some IT matters into their own hands, there are other …

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… IT considerations that do not. The vast majority of LOB executives surveyed admitted that they didn’t use outside firms to implement, integrate or manage IT post-purchase in the past year. The respondents did note, equally, that they relied on their departments to handle IT tasks, or the IT department, or some combination of both.

Whether talking about lack of awareness or oversight, there’s a big opportunity for channel partners to step in and offer education and consulting on security, compliance, integration and other IT/business considerations that aren’t top of mind to the LOBs.

At the same time, the CompTIA report notes that half of those LOB buyers that did contract with an outside firm to manage their IT, did so on a regular basis — again, opening up the door to additional partnering opportunities for those partners who get a foot in the LOB door.{ad}

Clearly, as digital transformation drives businesses and LOBs to change the way they purchase IT, there are new opportunities for channel partners. However, channel partners need new methods to approach these new IT decision makers.

The new IT buyer could be anyone — chief marketing officers (CMOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), human resources executives, logistics managers, sales, etc. CompTIA’s April offers some key advice for partners:

  • The LOB isn’t currently looking at the channel because they’re not familiar with the channel. While this might be construed as a negative, it’s also an opportunity to discover many new customers who are out looking for technology that might benefit their department.
  • Get up to speed on what’s important to these individual business units, and remember that selling to one LOB – say, marketing – will be different than selling to, say, human resources. These opportunities will be a completely different sale.
  • Pick your battle. Maybe become an expert on a single LOB or opt to become a jack-of-all-trades selling to multiple business units.
  • Get up to speed and learn what’s important to the LOB owner and what language they speak. Be able to communicate about how a solution will meet their business goals and outcomes.
  • There’s value-add that partners can offer the LOB around the applications they procure, such as how to best exploit them, how to scale them and how to integrate with other applications they use.

“Some of this will require on-the-job training or real training or hiring new sales reps who know how to talk this language; and, it will require redoing your marketing messaging — who are you promoting yourself to; what is your branding; how are you going to be attractive to this new buyer,” suggested April.


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