The economy is in a state of uncertainty and flux.  Recent events, epitomised by the Northern Rock crisis, have triggered a wave of fear in the markets, with stocks and share prices tumbling.  The US sub-prime mortgage market has been in free-fall, triggering a flow-on in local banks affected not only by shortfalls in the foreign lending market but by uncertainty and fear in local investors, with a run on withdrawals and a plunge in corporate investment.

There have been 5 consecutive interest rate rises by the Bank of England in response to rising house prices to try to curb personal spending and record levels of household debt.  Inflation is rising and the cost of oil is at an all-time high.  The housing market is in decline, triggered by the increase in mortgages while the value of property declines, resulting in ever-increasing instances of negative equity.

With less money to go around, the retail sector is reporting a significant drop in sales revenues of between 6 and 15%.  This is on top of a reoccurrence of flooding which hit large parts of the country, and the insurance industry – still recovering from the massive costs incurred from major flooding – will again be looking at passing on these costs to the suffering consumers, already feeling the pinch from so many angles.

So what does this all mean?  It means there is a shortage of money being spent in the country, and a loss in consumer confidence.  This in term will lead to a loss in business confidence, and industry will respond by tightening their belts, minimising costs and limiting spending.

So how does this affect IT?  It means that companies will limit their spending on IT projects, and it will be more difficult to generate new sales.

When the economy is growing business in general tends to have more money available to spend, and IT encounters a surge in new projects commencing. But this is not normally the case when the economy falters.  When businesses are limiting their spending IT budgets cannot be justified upon the lines of new technology for technology’s sake; instead the emphasis must be savings to the business, competitive advantages and returns on investment – all the best practices an organisation needs not only to prosper but to survive.

So how does this affect the markets we should be aiming for and how we position our propositions?  It means that we need to emphasis the business factors, often at the expense of technology factors, as often our target audience will have a greater representation or accountability to their organisation’s business sponsors.

This means we will need to emphasise the benefits to the business, including:

  • How the business will streamline their process and minimise waste
  • How return on investment is increased
  • How total cost of ownership is reduced
  • How the organisation will obtain an advantage over its competitors

We, as professional service providers and experts in our field, should be seen as being the facilitators of these benefits, so that prospective customers see us as being essential to achieving these results.  We can provide this by offering services such as:

  • Technology and service management reviews, to ensure that organisations are maximising their infrastructure and support facilities, and not duplicating costs.
  • Application reviews, to ensure that organisations have systems that maximise interoperability and minimise redundancy (of effort), to allow them to operate in the most efficient manner.
  • Business reviews, to ensure that the organisation has clearly defined what its information and processes are, common and consistent and aligned with IT, so as to allow it to proactively target and respond to market challenges.

Does this mean we need to change how we operate?  Maybe not – but it certainly means we need to be smarter.  And in all likelihood this means that we can no longer sell solutions that only focus upon technology, often at the expense of the needs of the business community – the people who, at the end of the day, are usually the ones who sign the cheques.






As a systems integrator and consultancy, we at Smart421 frequently have to justify to potential clients why they should use us, and explain what value we provide to their organisation.

Thinking on this point, which is primarily an issue for sales and marketing types, you will also realise that this applies at a personal level too – as an individual, during regular personnel reviews, or if you are job hunting, people need to explain the value that you bring to a company. I’m not gong to discuss the approaches that bring best results in these particular aspects (hey, we are all in competition at some level or other, but if you want to make a pitch to join Smart421 you can certainly check on our job openings and apply – a good pitch from you can get you into the team).

Back to the consultancy aspect, a prospective client has to feel comfortable that we will provide a level of service that they will be happy with, and that helps them in achieving something that they may not otherwise be able to do at that time. So what are clients buying? Two things, I would say. First is the approach that we bring in working to resolve their problems. Second is the experience and expertise that we hold as a company.

Smart421 has expertise over the whole area of the software lifecycle, right from strategy, enteprise architecture and analysis through to application design, development, delivery and support. We also handle migration and retirement of systems at the end of their useful life too. Within that whole range, we have knowledge of numerous software products and platforms, alternative project management approaches, quality controlled processes for delivery and service management as well as our own controls for staff and finances as required for any company.

If a single person held all of these skills, how valuable do you think they would be to your company?

An application from someone that could list and validate all of this knowledge on their C.V. would seem almost unbelievable. But that is what you get if you use our services – access to all of that knowledge and expertise, provided on either an individual or team basis.

Any commercial agreement will of course define the terms of each particular engagement, so you don’t get endless access to all of this just through using an individual consultant. That consultant does however have this backup to refer to, increasing their value substantially to the end client. For a team of consultants, that provides more of the same, through greater points of contact and an enhanced collective viewpoint. If you could create a small internal team with this large amount and range of knowledge, imagine the potential benefits to your business.

When project work is handled by Smart421, this same set of skills and knowledge will be used to assure reliable delivery, using best practice and with our commitment to providing the best solution to meet client needs.

Enough of the sales pitch. I just thought it worthwhile to put forward some viewpoints about the value of using at Smart421, especially from the point of view of being part of the team that has to deliver on our promises.

So next time you are considering the use of third-party resources and question the value over that of internal resources, or plain hired-in contractors, this should provide some food for thought about what you are actually buying from such a consultancy.


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