Worldview

Partners: It's Time To Embrace 'Shadow IT'

In which Per reminds partners that the biggest IT purchasers are not necessarily IT departments, but the executives and business units that are enabling the growth of so-called "shadow IT."

Microsoft partners are used to selling to the IT department, which is where the money was.

IT spending started to shift a while ago, and today, by some estimates, about half of the "IT" budget is controlled by other departments. Those departments, meanwhile, view their spending as an investment in IT and expect a measurable business outcome. Bad experiences pouring money into a seemingly bottomless black hole of IT has helped accelerate the shift.

We're seeing three reinforcing trends in buyer behavior that must affect how partners sell.

IT is being bought by the people that own the business. It is marketing departments, line-of-business units, financial departments, the CXO suite and others. Because IT is an enabler to accomplish more and better things, we see that the people who are closest to the business will make sure that they have the best systems to help accomplish their goals.

This drives what's often called "Shadow IT," but my take is that we should instead call it "Real IT." There's nothing shady about finding a great solution to help you and your department be successful. Many groundbreaking solutions are brought in on a credit card and expensed without the IT department ever knowing about it.

A related trend is verticalization, which means that you'll need to decide on one or perhaps a few verticals you want to service. When you focus on a vertical, you'll need to develop a detailed understanding of that business and how to address its requirements. When you consider the new buyer, being able to go deep and be concrete about their specific area makes that specialized focus critical.

The third trend is that customers want fast return on investment. They want systems implemented sooner rather than later, and they want to get rid of outmoded systems pronto. Subscription-based solutions delivered through the cloud is the name of that game.

Successfully selling to these new IT buyers outside the IT department demands a new approach.

First, you'll need new people that can drive business conversations instead of technology conversations. I suggest you recruit business experts. These people might not have been in sales before, so they'll need support in driving the sales process. Right now, they're probably working in the verticals that you want to service, and they're probably not looking for a job in IT. The big task is to get them to consider you as their new employer.

It makes sense to recruit nurses if you want to sell to health care and to recruit plant managers if you want to sell to manufacturing. These people are experts in their field and will command instant respect when they walk into a customer meeting. The sales people of the future are less about gloss and much more about substance because they'll need to know your customers' businesses in order to be able to find relevant solutions.

Another important factor is that you must invest heavily in digital marketing so that potential customers can easily find you and start to see you as someone who knows their businesses. Digital marketing should feel informative. When you find your right formula, you'll see that people will spend lot of time on your digital channels -- and you'll be able to convert them to qualified leads to hand to your new breed of expert sales people.

With a great digital-marketing approach you'll need fewer people making customer calls -- and the calls that will be made will have a much higher success rate.

More Columns by Per Werngren:

About the Author

Per Werngren has held many roles at the worldwide level of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), including chairman and president.