Testing time

Visiting competency centres to test the validity of solutions can prove beneficial to both enterprises and vendors, as long as companies have clear objectives in mind and understand that solution centres can provide only so much.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  May 10, 2008

Visiting competency centres to test the validity of solutions can prove beneficial to both enterprises and vendors, as long as companies have clear objectives in mind and understand that solution centres can provide only so much.

Competency centres or solution centres have become an integral part of the sales cycle for most information technology vendors.

Enterprises have to set their expectations right. Otherwise, it can be a disappointing exercise.

Depending on the complexity of the implementation and the value of it, many customers want to see how the solution can potentially work in their environment before investing and many vendors address this through these centres.

"Globally we offer customers this opportunity. The normal sales cycle involves identifying an opportunity, developing and proposing the solution. The solution centre helps customers get a feel of the proposed solution. It is often better for them to see it in action, rather than consider it on paper or as an office demo," says Ajoy Pinto, CDP manager for the MENA region at Sun Microsystems.

In essence, competency centres are a vendor-created area where customers can come to see their various products or solutions at work in as close to real life situations as possible.

They are also areas where solution providers work on proof-of-concepts for specific customers to display how their solution will perform within their specific requirements.

According to Pinto, Sun provides three sets of services for customers through these centres.

These include briefing sessions which address a high level of strategy, proof-of-technology sessions where they can see solutions at work and proof-of-concepts where the customer environment is replicated within the centre to give them a better idea of how the solution can perform for them.

EMC also provides a comprehensive package of services through their centre at Cork in Ireland which has been addressing the needs of EMEA customers since 1999.

"Essentially we are split into two main areas - the executive briefing centre and the solutions centre. The briefing centre is designed around strategy, and information and infrastructure management. Here customers will discuss the challenges they face and the type of investments they wish to make. The briefing centre is where we have strategic discussions with our customers," says John O'Callaghan, director of the Executive Briefing Center EMEA at EMC.

The solutions centre has evolved over time into being a part of a global solutions programme focused around building proven solutions that EMC can offer the marketplace.

According to O'Callaghan, the key things that the solution centre does are solution design, live and remote product demonstrations of hardware and software solutions, proof-of-concepts with customer applications and field marketing. They also support trade shows.

"They are the technology face for new EMC products. The briefing centre typically interacts with the solution centre team in relation to things like customer demos of solutions, and proof-of-concepts," says O'Callaghan.

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