In a company like ours, which doesn’t sell products but it’s a service (and “tranquility”) provider, the main assets are the people and values established to provide said services.
One of the fundamental values that we have adopted is the value of independence, compared to Hardware and Software solution providers and manufacturers. After working several years as single-brand service providers, we drew a very clear conclusion: one single brand can’t offer the best solution to all the problems a client has. Also, for clients to achieve their solution, professional advice from an independent and specialist figure is needed to guide them among the endless sea of technologies and solutions the market offers.
Here’s an example where we can see it quite clearly:
- We are Microsoft partners and good Exchange Server technology experts.
- Over time, more and more clients arrive with migration requests from their internal Exchange server to more recent versions.
- The complexity of migration, the license cost and the subsequent maintenance are factors to be very much aware of to see whether having Exchange locally is the most adequate solution to this day.
- It was probably the best solution back in 2003 or 2007, but with the current version of Exchange Online, the costs of maintaining a local Exchange server aren’t worth it and the opportunity of going to Microsoft’s own hosted solution should be carefully studied.
- 25GB mailboxes, Active Directory integration, pay-per-user model, high availability ensured by the Microsoft data center network, etc.
- Benefits all round, with an approximate cost of 3€ per month and user.
For CAPSiDE, recommending and directing customers towards maintaining their internal server, performing the migration and the subsequent maintenance would be much more profitable. In the short term, the economic benefit for CAPSiDE is infinitely greater if the customer continues with a local Exchange solution. But, does that mean that we are going to recommend it? No.
We will recommend the solution that makes the most sense to the customer.
And if it’s not Exchange online, it could be Gmail or any other email solution, including CAPSiDE’s solutions that outline the service the final customer needs if its requirements rule so.
Understanding the real business needs of the customer
At CAPSiDE we firmly believe that the first requirement for the factor of independence to work is listening to the customer and empathizing with it. In other words, not to directly recommend it the solution that we know best (the one we have worked on more projects in the past) and/or the one that we resell with a comfortable margin.
To do so, you have to spend time with the client, understanding and comprehending its business and the reason for the decisions taken up to the date. Once we have understood the customer’s criteria that moves it, we can start looking for a solution that covers the real requirements of its project and the business needs derived from it. Each client has its own unique needs and only the knowledge of its business, its criteria and the importance it gives to each one, therefore, allows to offer an adequate solution. Adequate to some extent, given that nowadays business and technology are moving so fast that the validity of a solution can also come with an expiration date. And this is where independence plays an important role again. As independent providers and engineers, our ability to proactively change a customer’s solution (if the current one no longer fits its decision criteria) is much larger.
We have several examples of success, CAPSiDE’s experience in infrastructure brokerage services and awards for large projects backing us up. When an infrastructure has supported a customer’s online business for several years, the emergence of new, much more evolved and stable technologies with scalable costs such as Cloud computing will cause CAPSiDE to suggest the client migrating its infrastructure so it can benefit from the new model’s advantages. If we were exclusive resellers of an infrastructure provider what we surely wouldn’t do is going against ourselves by inviting customers to migrate to another solution because we understand we can’t offer them a proper continuity solution.
That’s when we draw another fundamental conclusion for the value of independence to work:
Don’t apply a margin on third-party services
In this industry, where many companies generate business exclusively on services resale, this seems like a rule against nature. However, it’s the only one that guarantees real independence. Although we don’t apply a margin on third-party services, we do apply a concept that corresponds to the provider’s management cost. In effect, the interaction with support and the “service re-invoicing” represent our team’s hours of service, which we value and add to the monthly invoicing. The cost will depend on the complexity of the infrastructure and factors linked to the provider itself, such as the quality and response of its technical support.
Active benchmarking of infrastructure providers
Being independent also means for us not having an infrastructure of our own. Nowadays the infrastructure supply is extensive, and some providers can offer solutions for all kinds of needs and budgets. We don’t want to exclusively resell the solutions of a particular provider either, which would go against our freedom to choose. There are still many smaller players in the market who push themselves to set up solutions for their clients based on their infrastructure, sometimes located in data centers of doubtful technical solvency or by reselling low-quality third-party services. At CAPSiDE, independence is manifested by our ability to perform an active benchmarking of market solutions for our clients. It’s active because it comes from the real experience of seeing how solutions work on our day-to-day, from the provider’s feedback on business and technical issues and from its capacity to face problems and respond to incidences. This is the value we transfer to our consultancy clients where we assess where and how to set up an infrastructure.
A possible criticism to the independence model the way we contemplate it can be the fact that, wanting to cover too many providers and technologies, we end up being generalist, which goes against our focus of expertise. This has forced us to limit the number of providers we can offer a solution from as “primer contactor” by the global SLA we offer. We can also work with other providers, but without including the infrastructure part of our service warranty, due to ignorance or the lack of trust towards the provider.
Having said that, the independence criteria clearly shows the client that our interests are aligned with theirs. We won’t have more operation margin for not managing more infrastructure, so our recommendations will always be focused on the real improvement of the solutions. A key and real element that reinforces the trust our customers show us day after day.
About the author
Thierry Davin is a computer engineer and Senior Director at CAPSiDE. He started his professional career in France in 1991, the year Linux was born. After several years in Software development, he focused on systems administration until early 2001 to enter the world of hosting-related services. Now at CAPSiDE, he focuses on new services development.