Why Work with a Business Partner?
An exploration of the benefits and considerations when deciding whether to go direct to a major manufacturer vs. working with a value-added business partner and reseller.
Whether you use IBM flash storage, VMware virtualized environments, AWS cloud for development, DellEMC hyper-converged infrastructure, a fleet of Microsoft Surface books, or any other combination of IT manufacturer technologies, you've likely had to deal with the question: where do I go, who should I talk to, and what suppliers can ultimately provide the level of service I need for the countless technologies in my environment?
Maybe in the past you've gone directly to IBM, VMware, Microsoft, Amazon, DellEMC, or others for your needs. You assume they'll be able to give you the best prices, you don't want to deal with a middleman, or you simply didn't want to have to search to find a partner that you could trust. Those are all reasonable concerns. But before writing off business partners who can sell these technologies, services, maintenance, and more, we would like to illustrate some of the major benefits of working with a business partner, and when it makes sense to do so:
Do you have a major project involving a significant upcoming purchase, and believe that only a major provider/IT giant will grant you the discount you require? This is actually far from the truth.
Not only can business providers often leverage relationships at those IT giants they've built over decades to get privileged price reductions, but their pricing also will never be worse than the manufacturer itself if the partner is performing their job correctly. That's because those partner-friendly IT giants like IBM will discount the price even further for a business partner to leave room for profit, to incentivize that partner to sell their product.
Additionally, the manufacturer ideally doesn't want to be in the business of providing services for their own products - they would rather build a more agile ecosystem of business partners to do this work. So while they do offer services, maintenance, and support, its price is usually hyper-inflated, meaning you will pay unreasonable amounts for services when you go direct, vs. working with a partner.
When it comes to services in general, even though they are almost always far cheaper when procured through a qualified business partner, you may still be worried that the direct manufacturer would know their own product better, and therefore provide better services. This is an unreasonable assumption. In fact, business partners must have the same certifications, education, and qualifications as the manufacturer service provider staff you would be working with. In many cases, the business partners will have vastly more experience with more types of technologies, over a longer period of time. They have specialists, generalists, and coordinators which are far more agile, and can easily perform work on any piece of technology you have, rather than requiring you to call up each of your manufacturers directly every time you need a simple request filled.
One other major advantage to working with a business provider from a services perspective is the ability to provide services unrelated to the manufacturer's products. For example, at Frontier we work with clients to provide specialized cybersecurity services like penetration testing, social engineering, risk assessments, etc. We pride ourselves on taking a cybersecurity-first approach to everything we do; that is to say, we carefully assess the risk impact of any project we perform for a client, regardless of whether that project is directly related to a cybersecurity procurement.
Services from major manufacturers or the big 4 consulting firms are often automated, with less human touch, less expertise, and less specialization than a business partner. They have them available so that they can add another line item on your invoice, because it's convenient. Not because you need those services or they actually care about providing them.
When you speak with an account rep at a major manufacturer, their only incentive is to sell you their specific product. They don't care about services, cybersecurity (if they're selling you storage, for example), or anything else not directly related to their commission check. That means they don't genuinely care about you after you sign that purchase agreement, either. Business partners actually do have an incentive to continue to care, because you will leave them as a company if they don't, and their reputation will suffer.
Also, business partners have no incentive to steer you toward a particular product or service that isn't what's best for you. When you speak to a rep at a major manufacturer, they only benefit when you purchase their particular product or product line. Business partners have relationships with all of the major manufacturers, and will profit no matter which product is right for you. We at Frontier pride ourselves on being vendor agnostic, which allows us to have integrity when advising our clients to the best technology solutions for their unique environments and situations.
A good business partner won't be afraid to advise you based on your goals and your budget, because they understand that their role as a trusted advisor is far more important than meeting a sales goal for the quarter to earn a commission check from a major manufacturer/vendor. At Frontier, we have advised our clients to go with free, open source solutions and even helped them set up those solutions when their budget and goals didn't fit our bigger ticket options. A salesperson at a major manufacturer would likely face discipline if they were caught suggested alternatives that earned their company no money.
Working with countless vendors can be confusing, frustrating, and ultimately wasteful (of time, resources, and more). In our 30 years of experience navigating their gargantuan organizations, we find that their organizational structure is constantly changing, their office politics are challenging, and their bureaucracy can be nearly impenetrable. And you have to work with countless salespeople, reps, phone numbers, and contracts for every single one.
Working with a single partner (or partner network), a single point of contact, a single, simplified contract, and a single phone number for service requests can alleviate many of those pains.
Going back to the point about cost, consolidation can also impact the amount of money you can save! Imagine taking a hundred maintenance contracts worth a total of over $100 million from 20 vendors, and consolidating it into a single, $80 million contract with improved response time, resolution time, and a single point of contact to eliminate the confusion. We've seen that $20 million savings available to a major client when we evaluated their qualification for our managed vendor services.
We hear about "agile" teams as a buzzword almost every day in the tech industry. But working with a partner is one of the times where that word truly carries weight. We know you've experienced the dragging, obscenely slow pace that some of the major IT vendors can work at.
We have a secret: it's not that these organizations are incapable of working quickly to fulfill your needs. They just need the right motivation, and the right relationships to leverage to oil their machine. It's taken us decades to develop these techniques, and it's one of the major value propositions we offer our clients. We know how to get the job done at these IT giants so that you don't have to learn the complicated navigation of complex, massive organizations (which change their structure every other month, it seems).
A good partner will know who to talk to, how to get them to listen, and who will actually provide what they need, when they need it. And that value extends to you when you work with a partner like Frontier.
Taxes and Supplier Diversity
If you can find a business partner like Frontier, who is a certified woman and minority-owned business recognized by the federal and state government, you may be eligible for tax incentives. Your business likely already has a supplier diversity internal organization or at least goals to diversify their supplier base. But many technical team members don't have involvement and are unaware of the savings they could win for their business (and therefore career recognition) by working with a diverse technology business partner.
Working with woman and minority-owned businesses can qualify your company for a tax break from the federal government, and reduction of tax liabilities may apply when your project is partially funded by federal or state grants or loans. Check with your supplier diversity team, procurement team, or company leadership to find out if they're aware of these benefits, and reach out to us if you have questions about how to qualify!
It's also statistically true that companies who work with diverse suppliers are more profitable, even apart from our belief that diverse businesses bring inherent, innovative strategic advantage. Diversity of societal composure and culture results in a diversity of ideas and disruptive thinking, which benefits competitive business environments, even before the tax incentives and direct financial gain.
So, when should you consider working with a business partner? If you suffer from any of the pain points discussed above related to navigating complex bureaucracy at major IT vendors, have many disparate large contracts with multiple vendors, are purchasing overpriced services directly, or want a single point of contact and a single contract to wrap your complex IT purchasing environment into a more manageable device that will save you money, then you should explore such a partnership.
We have 30 years of experience helping clients like you make complex strategic technology decisions, build enterprise datacenters, transition to the cloud, and innovate with cutting-edge tech like AI, blockchain, IoT and quantum computing. We are a certified woman and minority-owned business, and would be happy to connect you with clients who have experience working with business partners like us who can tell you the advantages for themselves.
Have questions about what we can provide or the benefits not discussed here? Please reach out to us in the chat bubble in the bottom right!