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DEMAND GENERATORS: Eric Berridge and Michael Kirven, Bluewolf Group

As is often the case, the business relationship between solution provider Bluewolf Group and video distributor GoodTimes Entertainment was forged in a time of crisis.

GoodTimes, which specializes in the distribution of self-help and entertainment videos, is modernizing its entire IT operations in a multiyear project under the guidance of company CIO Felix Santella. But before hiring Santella, GoodTimes decided to implement Oracle's suite of applications—a plan that was behind schedule when he arrived.

Bluewolf principals Eric Berridge and Michael Kirven had been doggedly trying to build a deeper relationship with GoodTimes for years. They soon had their chance.

With GoodTimes' Oracle implementation lagging and requiring more hands, Santella decided to call in Bluewolf to get the project back on track. Shortly thereafter, another crisis emerged when Wal-Mart told GoodTimes that it needed to change its EDI implementation to comply with a new company standard that would soon go into effect. Once again, GoodTimes turned to Bluewolf. And when Bluewolf pointed out that GoodTimes lacked the database administration expertise needed to run the Oracle apps, GoodTimes asked the solution provider to supply that capability as a managed service.

Those projects spawned a blossoming relationship between the New York-based companies. Santella now relies heavily on Bluewolf's assessments of products for future IT projects. But as in all relationships, creating such a level of trust wasn't easy.

Shortly after the Oracle project, GoodTimes decided to modernize its Web platforms. Bluewolf pushed for a custom application built atop Microsoft .Net, but GoodTimes' business executives were committed to using ATG e-commerce software. Still, Bluewolf fought hard for the .Net solution, to the point where it risked losing the distributor's business. Berridge said Bluewolf's willingness to tell clients that they may be wrong helps distinguish his firm from other solution providers.

"We kind of butted heads with them a little bit on that, which is what any good independent partner should do," Berridge said.

Ultimately, GoodTimes opted to go with ATG, but Bluewolf earned the respect of GoodTimes' management. The end result: Bluewolf and Santella now have weekly conversations that help set GoodTimes' IT agenda.

"What I really like about Bluewolf is that as a CIO, I really feel like they've got my back and are looking out for me," Santella said.

In the coming year, Santella said he plans to call on Bluewolf to help select a CRM app, which he and the solution provider agree will probably come from Salesforce.com. "CRM is going to be huge for us," Santella said.

Next up will be a major data-integration effort and more software projects, include warehouse management and business intelligence applications, Santella said. Though Oracle may be the incumbent vendor, he said the decision will lean heavily on the product matrix that Bluewolf develops for each project to show the pros and cons of each product choice.

"The important thing for us when it comes to building out that matrix for a client is to make sure we're not working in a vacuum," Kirven said. "We need to be engaged with the business side."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Share your own success stories about how you shaped product and technology selections for specific customers by e-mailing mvizard@cmp.com.

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