Page 2 of 3
The good news for smaller solution providers is that a percentage of government IT projects requires them to be rewarded to small businesses, which the larger systems integrators often leverage as subcontractors to win the deal. There's legislation to increase the percentage of deals that will require small business companies too, executives said.
With that in mind, systems integrators are paying more attention to smaller VARs as partners. Unisys' Zapfel noted that Unisys is pursuing a big defense deal and his company's proposal includes 20 partners. "We started with 110 companies and whittled down the list to who adds value," he said.
SMB solution providers should start to clearly define their skills and niche in the market to attract the attention of large systems integrators for possible partnerships, said SRA's Patrick. In addition, VARS should be able to demonstrate strong relationships with their customers and the willingness to create long-term relationships with the integrators beyond just one project, she said.
"We're looking where execution must be flawless. Smart small businesses will begin to leverage that with large systems integrators. They may put you on an existing program right now, but we want to build a strategic relationship with you. And as soon as you begin to have intimacy within a customer environment, your value with larger SIs skyrockets," Patrick said.
Zapfel laid out the criteria that Unisys used to pare down the integrator's list of partners from 110 to 20 in the defense proposal: quality of service delivery, intimacy with customers and visibility with the right people within the organization. For example, if you're marketing to the data center operations manager, you probably aren't of value to a systems integrator that would be looking to target a management layer two levels up, Zapfel said.
"If your company is not known to those people, you are not adding the kind of value you need to add. We want our team to be filled with people that customers recognize," Zapfel said.
Woody Hall, vice president of IT strategy and CIO for General Dynamics Information Technology, added that you don't need to target top-level management because those people usually aren't making the IT decision anyway.
"It is hard because when you're dealing with a big organization that could have a dozen or hundreds of people who operate at that level [you need to target]," Hall said. "You need to know the players, and if I know you and I trust you, I'll want to work with you."