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So You're the Customer

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Posted 2008-03-31 Print this article Print

The software Vendor's Project oasis, code name for a massive ERP overhaul, nearly crippled its ordering system. Refocusing on the user experience and connecting with a hidden class of customers salvaged the company's business. 

So You’re the Customer?

Project Oasis wasn’t designed in a vacuum. Symantec built the system with the advice and counsel of scores of customers and partners. Buyers told Project Oasis planners they wanted more purchasing histories and licensing analytics, as well as a better system for mixing and matching the tens of thousands of applications, developer kits and APIs.

What emerged from the ashes of Project Oasis was something Symantec didn’t expect: a community of customers it hadn’t known existed and hadn’t previously touched. Behind all the purchasing agents and account representatives that placed orders were armies of implementers, administrators and managers. These people knew nothing about the purchasing process, nor did they care. They wanted to be able to get the licenses they needed to complete their projects without hassle, delay or copious amounts of paperwork.

Suddenly, Symantec was dealing with people it had never fully considered—internal and external users, partners and resellers, customers’ in-house consultants, administrators and integrators. “The contact points in a customer just exploded,” CIO Thompson says.

Symantec was facing a whole new constituency: people with whom it had had little previous contact. The changes in the ordering and licensing system disrupted the processes these people were accustomed to, and they weren’t happy about it. Symantec discovered that these administrators and implementers were more than just vocal: They were influential in the purchasing cycle. Because they were the ones who actually handled product—post-sale deployments and maintenance—their experiences had tremendous influence over future purchasing decisions.

“The user base that was moved to this new model—what I call back-office IT-type resources who are heads-down technologists who apply the technology—was being forced to interact with Symantec in this licensing process, and they didn’t like it,” Thompson explains. “They’re a very vocal community.

*ERP systems are meant to bring centralized views in to disparate systems. International Game Technology, a multi-billion dollar maker of slot machines, did just that. Check out the article: ERP: Gaming Company Hits Jackpot.

“Some saw value from the change—the ones who did requested it. Others found it to be an extra step that they didn’t want to take. So there’s a balance here: It’s change management in the business process.”

The system wasn’t broken, but the way Symantec dealt with its constituency was. While Project Oasis was being developed and deployed, the rest of Symantec was moving forward with other initiatives that the ERP team discovered only in the aftermath of the rollout.

As Oasis was hitting the data center, the new version of Symantec Backup Exec 10d (a venerable Veritas product and one of the company’s overall best sellers) was being launched. Additionally, the change in the licensing schema was done independently of Oasis and, in hindsight, should have been included with the ERP project. Lastly, partners and customers were fuming over the mainstay of Symantec’s security business—Symantec Enterprise Antivirus 10—which many described as a resource hog that dragged down client performance.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.
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