In the fast evolving digital world, the demand of technology platform and infrastructure solutions is being driven by the cloud native development and application modernization. The decision making power in customers’ organizations in this area is tending to move from the head of infrastructure to the head of applications. Basically, the rules of infra sales are changing dramatically in the era of PaaS.
Traditional scenario & modern challenges
For IT Infra sales, the requirements of technology stack are becoming increasingly application dependent or application down - in IT parlance.
In the traditional world, identiﬁcation of buyer/decision-maker in customer’s organization wasn’t such a big challenge as it is now. In the traditional world, silos worked. This world is now undergoing change as we know it. The concept of DevOps, which started as a niche IT concept, is now engulﬁng the IT business model itself. In this world, one can no longer afford to treat application development and IT infrastructure operations in two different silos. The basic sales question ‘Who is the buyer?’, can now give a tough time to IT Infra sales people who still prefer riding with horse blinders on. For example, Kodak had a very myopic view of the industry when it focussed on ﬁghting and winning against the camera companies. It just didn’t see that it needs to ﬁght with mobile phone makers.
In the present world, it’s no longer a secret that a lot of non-business-functional IT is becoming commoditized. Businesses are no longer interested in spending their time and money in dealing with non-business- functional IT aspects, and one of the clear symptoms of this phenomenon is IT automation.
Going forward, IT should be able to enable customers’ businesses with new features and functionalities quickly, instead of taking time to setup new infra and plan a development, release and such. That was the old world.
The new digital world has ready-to-consume platforms for the application development community to quickly build and roll-out new features at the click of a few buttons. Sales discussions with businesses in the digital world are taking a paradigm shift. Sales personnel no longer just directly go and talk to customers about how many hardware boxes they need.
Now, sales personnel empathize much more with customers’ business requirements and give them conﬁdence that they will deliver services on-demand and as soon as you see an opportunity for your business to grow instead of pushing traditional IT Infrastructure solutions.
The evolving solution
Thanks to the advancements of cloud computing, we have PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) making inroads in the IT world, apart from other promising next-gen IT solutions. Platform solutions encompass almost all of the non-functional aspects under them and provide a ready platform allowing application developers to develop, run, and manage applications without having to deal with the dependencies and complexities of the underlying IT infrastructure.
For the underlying technology stack solutions on which applications will be developed and run, the directions come from the application world. Application teams, developing modern digital applications decide the platform of choice, which carves out the on-demand platform solution stack i.e. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution. The PaaS solution has infrastructure components as a part of the full PaaS stack.
In this digital world, the basic question of ‘Who is the buyer?’ ﬂashes in front of an IT infra sales person and bifurcates into spectrum of questions: ‘Who is the inﬂuence?’ ‘Who is the decision maker?’ among others.
As an IT infra sales person, one needs to now go back to the drawing board and revisit sales and marketing knowledge. One of the ﬁrst and most critical frameworks one needs to consider in this context is the identiﬁcation of different members of the buying centre of an organization.
In the traditional world, it is pretty straight forward that VP of infrastructure will buy the solutions, but in the new digital world, the non-functional piece i.e. the platform solutions bundling the underlying infrastructure doesn’t have the same buyer anymore.
Now, the buyer of this non-functional piece is VP of applications, who needs on-demand self-service platform solution with minimized dependency on the infrastructure teams. The VP of infrastructure can now play the role of an inﬂuencer, as he/she is also looking for automated infrastructure and platform solutions, which can improve operational efﬁciency and reduce incidents/failures. In most common scenarios, in an organization, CIO is the primary authority in traditional IT efﬁciency and stability for the business, whereas the CTO’s primary focus is towards delivering the latest technologies for the company. So, we can safely assume that CTO will be the ﬁnal decision maker here.
The role of CFO increases signiﬁcantly in the new digital world. Here everything is changing into pay-as-you-go mode, and Capex is becoming less attractive even for companies with deep pockets. In this rapidly evolving digital world, customer-owned enterprise/IT Architects are the strongest gatekeepers, on whom the senior leadership depends to ﬁlter out and shortlist the best possible techno-commercial solution.
The market trend of rapid adoption of next-gen technologies, platform solutions and as-a-service model is something which will help IT sales people to convince these architects and gain mind share.
The change: An opportunity or a miss?
Whenever anyone tries to go and crack next-gen digital deals, one should no longer go fully conﬁned in the jacket of IT infrastructure sales personnel only. It’s best to go as a representative of the company’s overall integrated portfolio, encompassing infrastructure and applications, representing a single coherent team to the customer.
Traditionally, infrastructure teams have been calling themselves vertical agnostic to a large extent. As an IT infrastructure sales person, one should be aware that now there is a larger risk of being taken as a business-agnostic player. In the true sense, platform and underlying infrastructure might still be non-business-functional, but in the digital world there should be clear articulation of how the solution will beneﬁt customer’s business and not just customer’s IT.
In summary, best brokers make money whether the market goes up or down. Change can be the best opportunity or worst miss. Keep learning, keep adopting, keep winning.