Over the past month I’ve visited our partners around the world and talked to at least half the countries that we do business in. In case you’re curious, the mood worldwide is the same – from Chicago to Dubai, London to Sydney – business is hard but everyone is optimistic and working hard. We have some of the best IT Solution Providers in the world and I have no fear that everyone will triumph over the regional issues – my primary concern and point of all the trips was to understand what we can do to help our partners move faster.
My primary talking point was our new migration service: Why waste time on administrative and detailed work when we will do it under your name, your brand and process? It’s always thrilling to watch the reaction go from “that’s sounds nice but I think we have it under control” to “oh my god, I had no idea how much time we’re wasting” – so it was the profitable trip to say the least.
Here are some notes on my commitment for the rest of the year.
Partner communications – things have changed: If I had a penny for every time I heard “I didn’t know you guys did that” I probably would have brought more staff along with me and just left them there. I understand our portfolio is extremely broad but the change we are undertaking – from being a partner focused software company to being a service business – will be involving you a lot more in our process. One part that was particularly disappointing were questions about the issues that have been addressed years ago that still seemed like a problem. We will do our best to help drive partner involvement more in the coming year.
Product marketing – support goes beyond the product breaking: Last year was the record year for partner training and blog posts focused on business building. Pat on the back for all the praise I got for that. Partner feedback was quite clear that selling and positioning our services was quite easy, marketing and differentiating them requires more collateral. I hear you – while we have some comparative marketing collateral it is neither as organized nor easy to find. Most of it was put together for specific deals our partners worked on with us directly and honestly we can do a lot better. Next quarter you’ll see a major refresh in our marketing collateral as well as our process workflows that we’ve started sharing with our migration partners. Everything we do makes us better – except consolidating that information for mass distribution; we’ll get right on that.
User education – value beyond the essentials: The age old problem of users getting the solution and then severely underutilizing it is still there but it’s more prevalent these days because of the economy and general expectation for IT costs to be minimal. Almost everyone I spoke to said their clients have pushed for lower rates and even questioned why they were paying for certain services at all that they seemingly never used. Clients that use more than one feature, or are engaged with the product web services (think more web site visits, less email reports) have 9 times more stickiness to the product! Obviously we all have a vested interest in educating our clients about the solution they are paying for – and as we transition to a more service oriented business I expect we’ll help solve the real problem of why users aren’t relying on more of the solution: Someone has to do the work of rolling this stuff out and training everyone how to do it. We’ve got a plan for this as well and I look forward to sharing it with you.
In summary, this was an incredible trip. It was a pleasure and an honor to be invited to so many businesses and spend some fun time with so many of you as well. I got to bring my son along for the trip so he can see what daddy does, and particular shout out to Greg Lipschitz from Summit IT for taking us around to hang out with the local wildlife. Everywhere I go I am always told “things are different here” but in the end there are just nuances in business preferences – we all share the same annoyances, challenges, difficulties and also the same opportunities.
I appreciate the hospitality and look forward to sharing significant progress on the three points above on my next trip around the world. We certainly have our work cut out for us and the major global initiative as well as the service oriented business model will go a long way towards getting that done.