Here's How The Channel Can Overcome The IT-Business Rift

Amy Henley
Amy Henley

When it comes to custom software in the cloud, the findings of a recent survey make it clear that IT channel professionals must address both influencers and decision makers in the sales cycle. Pursuing one group over the other is a recipe for failure.

The Harris Poll omnibus survey included both business executives and IT decision makers. Results showed that American businesses might be wasting billions of dollars each year on commercial off the shelf (COTS) software solutions. 

There is a strong case to be made for custom-developed solutions in the cloud, as long as these custom applications don’t have the limitations of traditional code-based legacy systems.

Business execs not convinced

Business executives are less convinced of the need to move custom development to the cloud than their IT counterparts. Among the survey findings, 87 percent of business executives believe that custom software drives innovation, but far fewer (58 percent) believed in investing in the cloud. That’s compared with 70 percent of IT professionals who would make the investment.

Despite this key difference, both groups also agreed on the business benefits of custom software, which they characterized as the ability to serve unique client needs with greater agility, better customer service and improved business efficiency.

The business community was not blind to the value of custom software. Some 60 percent of those polled see competitive advantage and customer experience as compelling factors for investment in cloud technology. Other influences included cost reduction and better time to market. They were just not as convinced of the need to make the purchase.

The big picture that’s missing here is that by putting off what seems to be an important decision – custom software to improve the user experience – a company could be set back years when compared to more forward-thinking competition. In the long run, that could damage the business’ market position.

Remember the influencers

What’s the upshot for channel sales here? Clearly, there is a need for a hybrid approach to custom applications, which don’t have the challenges of legacy applications. Those challenges include code-heavy custom configurations that make updates expensive and time-consuming, and applications that don’t allow for good collaboration and information-sharing across the enterprise. (After all, many of a company’s applications are silo-specific; user data often has to be re-input for every business unit that needs to use it).

A good rule of thumb to follow in both commercial and public sector channels is to remember the groups that make up the sales cycle: the recommenders, the influencers, the specifiers, and the buyers. Even though the buyers might be IT professionals, the purchase will get stalled if you don’t engage the influencers – in this case, the business executives. To get through to that community, it’s important to show how to solve their operational problems with the benefits of custom applications.

Business users need to understand use cases, because you’re helping them build the argument for custom application development. IT professionals need to understand the intricacies of the technology, because they are responsible for procurement, and will also be the ones responsible for making the transition as smooth as possible.