Tiffani Bova has the unenviable task of balancing inspiration and pragmatism in her industry address, kicking off the Channel Partners Conference & Expo Sunday. “Flat is almost the new up,” she pronounced half-jokingly, referring to the forecast for IT/telecom spend for 2009.
Bova’s official title is vice president of research at Gartner Inc., but a more appropriate title might be channel guru. Her experience isn’t all secondary; she’s been there, done that with more than 13 years in the channel sales, most recently at Gateway Computers.
This gives her a practical perspective on the challenges and opportunities our country’s economic situation presents for the tech channel.
“If I were still in sales …,” she said (and no doubt will say a lot during her presentation), “and I only had one slide to show, I would show this slide.” She is talking about a slide that segments the business IT budget into three buckets — run, transform and grow. Gartner contends no more than 65 percent of an IT budget should be allocated to technologies that you have to have to run the business; the other 35 percent should be invested in technologies that transform (make the technologies in the run category more efficient) or grow (add to current capabilities).
“That’s the only slide I would talk about to my potential clients. I would talk to them from a business perspective. ‘Let’s look at your current IT spend and figure out how much you are currently spending in each of these buckets.’ If they are way over on run, if they are at 80 percent, they are not efficient. ‘We need to spend less on run, so you have some money to spend on transformational and growth activities to help you stay competitive. If you are literally trying to keep your head above water and keeping the lights on, you are not staying competitive.’”
A transformational technology might be unified communications, she said, explaining that it should result in consolidation of disparate infrastructure and, therefore, be more efficient from a management standpoint. It’s also transformational from a business process standpoint.
So, then, she said the question arises about whether the ROI will happen fast enough. The answer will vary depending on the size of the company. Small businesses may struggle, but midmarket clients are taking advantage of planned refresh cycles to buy new technologies, she said.
But, she added, most companies are not going ahead with technology refresh for the sake of doing a refresh. That’s the difference in this environment. It’s around reducing costs. So, there will be pockets of growth within verticals and technologies, he said. An example in the data center is not necessarily new servers and storage, but anything around consolidation, like virtualization. In communications, again, it’s about true unified communications with consolidation around a single interface.