My TechDecisions recently visited Carousel Industries, an IT services consulting, management, and integration firm headquartered in Exeter, R.I. This building is unique in that it houses one of the company’s two executive briefing centers – spaces for existing or potential clients to visit the company and discuss possibilities of new technology.
When I heard about the space, I had to check it out (you can check it out, too, just click on the video above).
It got me thinking about the way we discuss technology projects prior to installation.
As a technology decision maker, you’re probably used to the traditional relationship with an integrator or installer when it comes to implementing new technology. You create your request for proposal, send it out to bid, choose the installer that best suits you, and start the build.
Often, the installers you choose from will get on the phone with you and/or travel to your building to meet with you about what you’re looking for. You’ll hash out details both major and minor and, before long, the project is off and running.
Now, at first thought it might seem strange to visit the integration firm at their space, rather than the other way around.
It’s certainly not the way things are typically done. However, many of the best decisions are those that go against the traditional way and introduce a newer, improved way of doing things. That’s what Carousel Industries hopes for with executive briefing centers.
“For existing customers, we kind of go through any updates in our service offerings, and any updates to the company that we may want to give,” says Jason Albuquerque, Chief Information Security Officer for Carousel Industries.
“If they’re a net new customer we literally go through the entire gamut, soup to nuts, of what the company is about. Our mission to be client-focused, and getting them to know our company.”
After that, Carousel Industries flips the script and asks the customer to tell them about their business. What drives the business? What generates revenue? What holds the company back, or creates headaches to those missions?
In a crisp conference room outfitted with the types of technology Carousel installs for its clients, the conversation steers not toward what the company can do for its clients, or even what the clients need done, but instead simply what the clients are trying to do as a business.
“The benefit of that is we want to understand their business drivers, and what outcomes they’re looking for,” says Albuquerque. “In order for us to be that true technology partner, and be able to integrate into the business, we need to learn about how they manage their business. Not only from an IT perspective, but also from a business perspective. That way we can align our technology and services to their needs.”
Music to my ears, as it should be for any technology manager.
At My TechDecisions, we focus on the business of technology – I constantly stress to technology managers that the business case is what make a technology work, not the technology itself.
If you go in with an expectation that a specific solution will fix your business, you’ll come out disappointed.
Often, that technology will fix a small gap, but does nothing to solve the long-term strategy behind the problem. It seems that Carousel Industries subscribes to the same point of view.
“That’s why we talk about those business drivers,” says Albuquerque.
“It allows us to see, and really consume, the long-term strategy of the company. To say that this is a short-term fix, but let’s think about the long haul. Maybe you need something more enterprise-level, or a different technology altogether.”
The beauty of it is that Carousel can help customers put investments into the organization with a plan. Instead of instant gratification, the company puts a premium on the long-term plan.
Meeting at the executive briefing center helps to create that connection, have that discussion, and come up with a plan that suits the end user to the best of Carousel’s ability.
It’s an interesting take – certainly there is more pace in flipping projects and moving on, but the long tail of setting up partnerships is where Carousel hopes to truly make an impact.
However, you’re not only going to the executive briefing center to have a conversation…
As I mentioned earlier, that can be done over the phone or on your own turf. Where the EBC takes it to the next level is two-fold: not only does it serve as an experimental space for Carousel to try new things, but it serves as a showcase for customers to see the technology Carousel recommends in action.
“From each one of the technology stacks, we run the gamut,” says Albuquerque.
“We have best-of-breed partners that we leverage – the Crestrons of the world on the AV side, Cisco and Avaya from the Unified Communications side, if you look at the data center side we’re partners with the VMWares and Microsofts of the world, from the networking technology obviously the Ciscos and Junipers, and from the security side the Fordinets and the Cisco security side of the house. We cover every technology vertical out there aside from application development.”
Depending on the customer, an end user might head to the EBC during the bid process to discuss the possible partnership, or during the sales process to get a better idea of the potential technology to utilize, but customers really go in during that relationship-building stage rather than the transactional stage of the project.
The EBC is meant to be strategic, to foster a relationship, and then to show off the technology. As the meeting is being set up, customers will talk about what they’re interested in.
Carousel Industries will then build the team to present – focusing on areas of need and bringing subject matter experts that focus on the areas (security, data center, AV, etc.) that the customer needs. As a technology manager, you’re speaking to exactly the people that you need, and the ones that know what they’re talking about.
Afterwards, the customer can see the technology in action, whether through the automated presentation system in the meeting room, one of the data centers housed in the facility, or at the fully-staffed, 24/7/365 Network Operation Center just down the hall from the meeting room.
“Typically coming out of these meetings there are outcomes that are put together,” says Albuquerque.
“It could be anything from getting you a deeper meeting on security, and scheduling an on-site meeting with our security experts, to getting a quote after sitting in the meeting, realizing the needs, and then being able to architect a solution to that need. Normally it’s either going right to a quoting process or going to a deeper dive at the customer’s organization with our subject matter experts.”
Technology is complex. Years ago that complexity meant hiring an integrator to install the wires, boxes, and such necessary just to make a display screen work. Today it means hiring an integrator to design a system that makes every piece of technology work together.
The technology at every company is a business in and of itself – wouldn’t you want a business partner instead of simply an installer to help you set that up? Spaces like the Carousel Industries executive briefing center offer a conduit to that partnership, and it’s well worth the trip to get the service, in my humble opinion.