This is the first post in a short series on the models of engagement available to SMBs. In it you’ll learn how our new PartnerPass subscription consulting-as-a-service program fits into this ecosystem and discover why it may be the perfect choice for your organization.

Modern companies have a wider variety of business systems and tools to choose from today than they ever have. Tasks that organizations have handled internally for years – often via a laborious spreadsheet and email based process – can now be accomplished using a variety purpose built online applications. These solutions promise to help companies save time, achieve more and, ultimately, contribute to better earnings.

Deciding to take advantage of one of these platforms is just the beginning of the process. Due to the complexity of the platforms themselves as well as the integrations necessary to get the most out of them, many Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning, automation and AI solutions are difficult for even large corporations with significant IT departments to implement. For smaller businesses, they can feel unobtainable.

The Trouble With Traditional Deployment Options

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have generally had a couple of options for deploying business technology systems. If they’re confident in their technical sourcing capabilities, they can hire or train an internal resource. This is probably the most difficult course of action for a number of reasons.

For one, there’s a high potential for failure inherent in any hire, and the cost of failure increases when that individual is responsible for managing a significant investment. Additionally, an administrator or developer would also have to integrate with a small company’s existing IT team, which can vary widely in size and experience.

Another option is to engage a consultant in a traditional arrangement. These contracts can be based on a number of different factors (deliverables, capacity, etc.) but they have, essentially, the same results – a company pays a premium for experts to build and deploy a platform that fulfills their requirements, then the consultants leave and the client is left to handle their own platform. If things break or the customer wants to implement enhancements, they go back for another contract.

Contracting takes a huge amount of time, however. Organizations must go through a series of steps, including producing a Request for Proposal and reviewing bids before they can choose a contracting partner.

The other drawback to a traditional consulting relationship is that it’s expensive and, once it’s over, clients still need to determine how they’ll support or upgrade their solutions in the future. They can spend money on a proactive support agreement, but that’s another expense, and if/when they need enhancements or tools the only choice is to sign another pricey consulting deal.

SMBs Have the Luxury of Choice With Targeted Programs

While those are the two most common ways for SMBs to undertake business system deployments and enhancement, they’re joined by a couple of new options. One of those ways is via fixed price programs that offer CRM implementation through a standardized process.

These ‘quick start’ packages have their appeal, especially for smaller companies. The one-time cost, in particular, is important for companies without a large IT budget or who are unwilling to sign a traditional consulting contract. The promise of having their new solutions deployed within weeks is also exciting, as many companies are reasonably wary of getting bogged down in a multi-month project.

A final route for small and mid-market businesses searching for a technology implementation partner are new, subscription based consultative relationships, including Celedon Partners’ own PartnerPass. Under these arrangements, which are provided by a select group IT consulting companies, clients pay a subscription to get access to consultants, developers and engineers for a set number of hours over each chosen period.

While subscription consultative relationships initially seem similar to support arrangements, they differ primarily in their flexibility. Unlike support agreements, which usually are designed to provide a single service, long term consultative relationships typically include hours that can be directed towards any of the client’s priorities. This includes everything from implementation and enhancements to training or support.

At a glance

Subscription Consultative Relationship

  • Encourages long term alignment between technology and business goals
  • Technical hours available for training & support
  • Low upfront cost, affordable monthly payments

Quick start

  • Affordable upfront costs
  • Contains little or no training and post project support
  • Provides minimally customized solution

An Important Decision

It’s clear that hiring internal talent to deploy business technology solutions is time consuming and comes with a high potential risk of failure, while engaging consultants in a traditional relationship is expensive and presents management challenges. Celedon Partners operate most of our business along these lines, but they’re best for large or rapidly growing organizations with free cash flow who can mitigate or simply absorb some the issues that these arrangements create.

Smaller and more cost-conscious organizations, on the other hand, should and are thinking twice about whether the traditional methods for business systems deployment offer the right value proposition.

In our next post we’ll go in depth with Subscription Consultative Relationships and Quick Start solutions, and show why the former offers SMBs the best value and highest chance of success at every point in the project lifecycle.