It's About the Meeting, Not the Product

In all of the stories circulating around this week's reorganization and layoffs at Microsoft, I'm most struck by the supposition that the changes are in large part meant to facilitate a shift in sales and marketing focus away from products and toward solutions. To that, I say: At last!

We're forever encouraging enterprise IT decision makers to focus on business need rather than technology type or specific product. On paper, so to speak, that advice seems almost too silly to articulate. At this point in time -- and IT budgets being what they are -- that should be a given, right?

That's easier said than done, however, when you're the one in the buyer's seat and all that's coming at you is "this product can do this," "this product can do that plus this," or "this product can do anything you might need it to do." I'm overstating, obviously... but the point is that framing a purchase decision around business need can be challenging when vendor account reps have a myopic, product-centric view.

And so I'm encouraged when I hear about vendors breaking down their product silos. I thought so last month, when I heard from a Microsoft representative that the company was working to re-orient itself around "meetings," not Skype for Business per se, and I think so again with the latest news coming out of Redmond.

Microsoft isn't alone here. Speaking to the business need, not the product, is a theme I've been hearing or reading about a lot lately.

In today's No Jitter post "How CEO Chuck Robbins Rebooted Cisco," for example, Zeus Kerravala called out "competing on its own terms" as one key to the company's success. "Cisco should rarely compete at a product level; instead it needs to focus on how to solve customer's big problems," wrote Kerravala, principal of ZK Research. "For example," he continued, "network hardware accounts for less than 10% of the overall total cost of running a data center, whereas operational costs tally to almost half. So instead of trying to prove its Nexus data center switch is better than the next vendor's, it has been focusing on helping customers knock 20, 30, or even 40% off of network operations."

This same idea surfaced in a conversation I had last week with Karen Hardy, VP of product marketing for Avaya, about the company's new Customer Engagement Cloud (see "Cloud Contact Center Offerings Shaping Up"). "What you're going to see more and more is that we move away from product lines and product names ... so we go to market supporting the flexibility of different use cases that customers need to solve," she said in explaining the company's new approach.

In yesterday's No Jitter post, "Digitally Transform... Or Else," Dave Michels, principal analyst with TalkingPointz, put the imperative of focusing of business need in context of digital transformation. As he wrote, "Buying new technologies to do things more efficiently doesn't cut it anymore." Rather, he continued, "Digital transformation represents more about approach and philosophy than anything you can buy -- though that may not be evident in the sales pitch."

And if that's the case, to that, I say: Look elsewhere! If the vendors you're talking to are still stuck in a product mindset, then your business needs are likely best met by moving on.

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