Channel 2017: 'Don't Guess. Assess The Mess.'

Jamie Shepard, a senior executive at solution provider superstar Lumenate, has always bet big on consulting services to drive technology sales.

Shepard, a hard-driving 30-year technology solutions veteran, in fact, built ICI, which was acquired by Lumenate in 2013, from the ground up as a pure-play consulting services company.

ICI had its own unique consulting methodology, which put it head and shoulders above systems integrators that were 10 times its size. That unique intellectual property is what made ICI such an attractive acquisition target for Lumenate, No. 152 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500.

That sharp focus on a no-holds-barred unique consulting methodology is key to the success of any and all solution providers in 2017.

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In fact, the astronomical growth in cloud services makes the high-value consulting that solution providers like Lumenate are doing more valuable.

The key to success in the hybrid cloud era is stepping up with a consulting methodology aimed at helping customers make the mind-boggling decisions they need to make and make fast to be competitive in the cloud era. That is why Shepard is advising his sales force to stand firm and make sure they abide by his credo: "Don't Guess. Assess The Mess. Let The Data Do The Rest."

Shepard estimates that as much as 45 percent of IT decisions are uninformed – made without effective data with regard to the business impact. That 45 percent, by the way, is down from about 60 percent of IT decisions made without effective business data three years ago in the midst of the cloud services frenzy – which has cooled somewhat in favor of a hybrid model.

"I don't care what the platform is, whether it is cloud or on-premise, if it disrupts workflow and doesn't address business needs," said Shepard.

The issue is customers have built complex, heterogeneous IT environments with hundreds and hundreds of different hardware, software and services. That is why the Lumenate game plan is to make sure that they do detailed IT and business alignment interviews along with each and every assessment, rather than blindly selling the customer yet another server, SAN or software upgrade.

In fact, the consulting methodology is winning over cloud-savvy customers that have done their own detailed research via the web and are looking for guidance to make sure they have not missed critical data points in making the public cloud or on-premise decision.

Case in point: LifeImage, a Newton, Mass., medical exchange technology software maker, which is changing how doctors share radiology images and patient histories.

LifeImage had done some of the heavy lifting on evaluating public cloud providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services and on-premise solutions but turned to Lumenate to do a detailed assessment. The results were surprising. Bottom line: Amazon Web Services and Azure were too expensive and risky for the LifeImage test/development environment. The VMware VSAN software-defined solution that came from the Lumenate assessment was a lot more cost-effective and efficient than the Azure or AWS public cloud solution.

The "Assess The Mess" credo from Lumenate is resonating with customers. "We are having the challenging conversations with customers," said Shepard. In many cases, those "challenging conversations" are saving customers from making ill-informed IT decisions. In one case, a customer looking to make a massive move to Microsoft Office 365 for 16,000 employees completely missed how that migration would have impacted electronic discovery from the legal department.

Lumenate's knowledge of the business effectively stopped an IT disaster and led to a fruitful relationship with a cloud services provider – Archive Anywhere.

Lumenate is also pushing forward with a unique assessment platform called 1O1@1 – a five-hour one-on-one whiteboard session with customers that starts at 1 p.m., focused squarely on business processes and workflow. That process is aimed at getting customers to "slow down" and provide critical data that addresses the underlying business problems.

"If we can get the data and address the business issues with technology solutions, we can be very disruptive," said Shepard. "Our core value is understanding the business, collecting the data and then providing our consulting recommendations."

Those Lumenate customer recommendations are based on in-depth knowledge of the customer's business with detailed assessments and data models. "It's like I tell customers," he says. "It's not just an opinion. It is based on your data and your business."

In other words, it all comes down to: "Don't Guess. Assess The Mess. Let The Data Do The Rest." Sound advice for success for any and all solution providers in 2017.

BACKTALK: What's your business' credo for 2017? Contact Steven Burke at [email protected].