The long-term success of major system implementations in the Business-to-Employee (B2E) space hinges on whether the technology will be accepted and adopted by users.
Achieving high levels of acceptance can be difficult for companies implementing an off-the-shelf solution, if it does not take into account the business objectives of the organisation or the needs of its employees.
For companies looking to secure a place in the B2E market, there is no escaping the reality (or irony) that clients want a one-size-fits-all product, which also tailors to the specific needs of their business. In other words, they want customisation.
Leading off-the-shelf B2E vendors recognise this and actively leverage the expertise of implementation partners who understand long-term success is measured by more than just acceptance-test criteria. For many organisations, however, getting the technology right is the easy part. Dealing with people issues, on the other hand, can be a real challenge.
It is an imperative solution providers in the B2E space understand the culture and people of an organisation before a decision can be made about the best technology to put into place.
This calls for a new breed of thinking among vendors and their traditional implementation partners, who operate on the principle that "if we build it, they will come." For, as the plight of the dot-com marketer has shown, this is clearly not the case!
That's why it is important to go deep into the client's work environment and find out what makes people tick, how they do their jobs, and what would make them more efficient, effective and happy in their roles. If asked, employees are likely to reveal how they'd react to new possibilities - which possibilities would work and which they would leave to flounder (and they will leave it to flounder if they can't see the value in using them). For the sake of the client's business and the provider's reputation in the market, wouldn't it be better to realise this early on, rather than when a dissatisfied client is demanding answers (and turning into a PR nightmare)?
The skills needed to design and market an off-the-shelf B2E solution are very different to the skills of understanding the needs and culture of an organisation and its people, and to implement a rich framework around the core product that unlocks the real power of the solution. Both are necessary. To go beyond simple customisation of "look and feel" requires insight into the real communication, collaboration and content needs of the client. And that means staying closely engaged for the long term.
To achieve lasting success and credibility, vendors must enrich their B2E offering by leveraging high quality implementation and content partners with local knowledge. Unlike vendors, resellers can remain engaged with clients on an ongoing basis, helping to build upon their investment, and maximising the value of the vendor's reference site.
Conversely, for a reseller, developing specialist skills in systems integration, change management, business process redesign and content development and management means significant business opportunity, not least of all because their skills will translate into reductions in the risk of failure for the client and the vendor.
Steven Melville is Managing Director of B2E solutions specialist Ingena