Solutions Providers, the Pandemic and the Swift Pace of Today’s Digital Products
The pandemic, you may have noticed, is rushing companies to push out digital products. Fast. But these very-quick-to-market offerings must also be needed and feasible in the market. Balancing time to market versus demand can be a challenge for even the nimblest of organizations.
This acceleration is of course a trend that's been happening in the marketplace for quite some time. Solutions providers have been standing up websites for client companies ever since websites came on the scene, around 1995.
In the pandemic age, if you’re a retailer and you don't have a robust marketplace website, you need one—and you needed one yesterday. You can't wait for a custom-built site. This massive increase in the need for nearly instantaneous solutions has amped up the need for solutions providers to churn out products for the marketplace.
The market for just-add-water-types of solutions, for customers in various industries, has increased vastly because they're trying to more rapidly respond and pivot to dynamic market needs.
Below are four factors that account for how solutions providers are currently approaching the creation of products to address rapidly evolving client needs.
New Tech Makes for New Business Cases
We’re seeing increasing capabilities of technologies to deliver new unique solutions that enable interesting business cases. Until recently, what companies wanted—in terms of requirements and capabilities—was either too small to merit a solution or too unique to an individual company for broad scale commercial software development.
Today, because technologies have evolved to enable so many different use cases in so many different ways, what were previously considered edge use cases have now become part of the mainstream. As a result, solutions providers—like EPAM and many others—are able to build effective, client-centric software solutions for a variety of customers. These solutions have evolved into platforms and product offerings in the market as multiple customers in similar or adjacent verticals can benefit from their functionality. This is part of the reason why there has been such a rapid and broad development of software products from these solutions providers over the last five to 10 years.
The Connecting Advantage
Solutions providers stand on the front lines, engaging daily with clients and assisting them with their quotidian business needs. This allows them to bridge the divide between what clients want to do, what they need to do and what can be done, utilizing technology to help achieve those business goals.
The solution provider acts as connective tissue between clients and the technologies that help them build real-world solutions. The solutions or products can be an enhancement or an extension of an existing product in the market customized for that client, or they can be built off of existing client IP. They might be an open source solution or some sort of a hybrid that takes the best of breed from a variety of different sources to build a new and unique offering. Regardless of the approach, solutions providers have a unique edge in building products—at scale—which independent software vendors can’t in today’s marketplace. This is also why there have been so many startups dedicated to the enterprise software market, also known as the B2B market.
In short, solutions providers—by virtue of the position they occupy in the value chain between client and technology providers such as Microsoft—are able to build a new breed of products. Their front-row seats in the IT ecosystem enables them to develop effective and fast solutions and products.
Moving Up the Value Curve
Historically, solutions providers have acted in a staff-augmentation role, helping clients identify and get access to new talent. But as they seek to migrate up the value curve and move away from commoditized staffing services, solutions providers are evolving into strategic partners and thought leaders. Solutions providers are increasingly becoming industry veterans, helping to add more value to their clients’ businesses—and building products for these markets which also helps to differentiate themselves.
Solutions providers look at their products to create a “moat” around their business, as Warren Buffet might say, because now they are defensible. They’re not just competing on rate card or apples-to-apples for Java engineers. Instead, they can make a more formidable moat by bundling their technology services, along with their products, so that they create a one-stop-shop for clients.
The benefit, from a client perspective, is they now have a single place to go to for help solving their challenges. They don't have to run to the vendor for technology issues or to the service provider for implementation ones. They need not rely on other parties in their technology supply chain, including precious internal corporate IT resources. Instead, they always return to the solution provider, the one who built and delivered the solution for them—for all issues.
Finally, this also then creates the requirement for a solution provider to step up their game and commitment to clients since they can no longer pass the buck to the software vendor for any issues or material defects, as they are the software vendor in this scenario.
Tech Vendors Go Broad
Technology vendors have tried to go deep with their solutions. But the truth is, technology vendors are all about scale. They don't want to, and their business models don’t allow them to build tech for just one company; they want to build it for every company in that industry. They don't want to just build it for one industry; they want to build it for as many industries as possible. That gives them the horizontal scaling capability required for their solution to succeed in the marketplace. Take a look at Salesforce.com. As a comparatively late entrant into the CRM and SFA markets, Salesforce worked hard to have the broadest solution that could scale to any industry or vertical. Now, nearly a decade later, it has successfully achieved that and is moving to replicate this approach in the cloud, competing against the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
Tech vendors want, and frankly need, to partner with solutions providers to help them with specific industries, customers and use cases. Their business model is based on volume and scale and adoption, not on customization for individual clients. So, they utilize solutions providers to help them apply their technology to solve the actual problem that customers have in their businesses.
They don't have the headcount required for working with clients (who may need considerable customizations or support). Instead, they rely on solutions providers to extend their technology footprint and capability. It’s in their best interest to get in the trenches, and they look at solutions providers as partners to do that.
In the end, the solutions providers come in and create these custom products and solutions that are tailored to particular verticals and customer needs and validate the whole process. Everyone wins!
This model then becomes the foundation from which the solution provider is put into the position to develop products and solutions to help drive a customer’s business and the essence for why this is happening at scale today in the market.