E-commerce in the IT Services Industry
April 9, 2020
April 9, 2020
You can't find them at Costco, and they are probably not something you would call technology household brand names like Microsoft and Cisco for, though exceptions may apply.
They are business-class services enabled by incredibly talented, highly trained, and hardworking humans who skillfully know how to employ and deploy technology to achieve a positive business outcome.
People in IT Services think in verbs: Integrate, install, deploy, secure, launch, manage, accelerate, optimize, design, consult, test, deliver, react, maintain, produce, develop, transform, . . . You get where we are going with this.
These services can be as simple as mounting a wireless access point in the office. However, more often than not, they are complex. They are woven throughout the fabric of critical business processes, enabling companies to function in a digital-first world.
And there are a lot of people providing them: the United States alone counts over 525,000 technology, and IT services companies.
Vacations. Research destinations, weather, activities, flights and book. The process is simple and can be done entirely online. What used to require a travel agent, guidebooks and many phone calls can be quick and painless.
On the other hand, buying IT services is arduous, heavily manual, "relationship" and word of mouth driven, with limited transparency. A single project routinely takes months. Research by CEB (now Gartner) in 2017 found that many companies have no idea how difficult buying is for their customers. CEB "asked thousands of senior executives at companies around the world to describe the complex-solutions purchase process in one word. Among their responses [were] 'hard,' 'awful,' 'painful,' 'frustrating,' and 'minefield.'" They found that purchasing takes, on average, twice the amount of time a buyer budgets.
How can technology vendors and IT service providers make finding and buying their products and services easier for their customers?
Our industry has something to learn from the process of booking a vacation. We need a simple, and intuitive online discovery platform based on the parameters that matter to the customer. We need to make purchasing easy. We need an e-commerce platform for IT.
Forrester estimates that B2B e-commerce will top $1.1 trillion and account for 12.1% of all B2B sales in the US by 2020. Despite the critical importance and supercharged growth of this channel, the IT services industry trails far behind all other services industries in the adoption of e-commerce.
There are key impediments to creating an e-commerce model for IT services. The industry is one of the most complex in the world today. It's massive, projected to top 408 billion dollars in 2019 in the United States. It's opaque, siloed, yet integrated. As business culture changes dramatically, its outdated purchasing models lag well behind the rest of the tech industry.
By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials and Generation Z. These professionals do and will expect to research, discuss, and purchase online, just as they always have. They expect to move as quickly as the tech industry they're driving.
Millennials are already changing the face of management, valuing openness over orders, and purpose as much as profit. In a recent report from Deloitte University, two-thirds of millennials surveyed said their company's purpose is why they work there. This emphasis on purpose and values also drives purchasing and partnership decisions.
The IT services market is highly fragmented. In the United States, buyers have over 317,837 IT service providers to choose from.
99.7% of these professional, consulting, or managed services providers are small and medium businesses. Making meaningful distinctions between them—choosing companies with the right expertise, and values that match those of their socially-conscious buyers—requires both depth and breadth of knowledge that most people and companies don't have—and don't have the time and resources to obtain.
This is true for technology buyers, like line of business managers, IT directors, CFOs, CTOs, engineers, and project managers. Big tech vendors, like Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN), partner with thousands of providers to market their technologies and products. Service providers are, for some vendors, their most important channel; for example, 100% of Pure Storage (NYSE: PSTG) revenue, comes through the channel.
Choosing—or being—the wrong service provider can be a painful, expensive, and lasting mistake. It is a major frustration in today's ecosystem. Unwinding a major misstep can be orders of magnitude more expensive than the initial scope and can take years.
Many product review sites that have sprung up in recent years promise objective and unbiased reviews. However, there is something fundamentally wrong with product reviews inspired by a $10 Starbucks card, a lavish lunch or vacation — only creating another layer of fluff, jargon, and pleasantries for decision makers to overcome.
Borza eliminates obstacles to e-commerce for IT services. We've built a new way to buy and sell IT services. It's beautiful, fast, transparent, data-driven, values-first, low-risk and completely delightful.
Borza is a global platform for IT. We use machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing to extract actionable meaning from mountains of unstructured data about thousands of services and providers worldwide.
Our platform transforms how users discover and experience services. It's powered by intelligence and fueled by concrete and validated data, not SEO, to drive service provider discovery. It empowers providers to answer crucial buyer questions proactively so that buyers can make better decisions in a fraction of the time.
Borza's model draws on the experiences of three broad categories of customers—businesses, IT service providers, and technology vendors—to create a standardized and intuitive experience.
You're responsible for achieving a specific business outcome or supporting the company-wide implementation of a new workflow process. As you figure out what tech or software serves you best, and how each piece integrates with your current tech stack, you're facing months of research, analysis, and back-and-forth discussion with sales teams at multiple providers.
When you boil down the problem, you realize your basic need is this: find a service provider with the right competencies, certifications, skills, and expertise that match your particular tech stack and industry. It should be simple; it should be quick. And with Borza, it is.
It's like DNA, but for IT services. We've developed a global blueprint of IT services encompassing over 107,000 service providers and growing. We carefully collect and validate hundreds of thousands of data points—from hundreds of thousands of sources—that are otherwise unavailable to the general buyer. We streamline that data, and standardize self- and third party reported certifications and skills.
Our company landing pages highlight each organization's core values and business identity, helping buyers select providers who match their values—whether that's a local small business or a company committed to living wages and equal pay.
Our data-first approach creates a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the capabilities of each provider. Buyers can compare apples to apples and make informed choices at the pace of change.
As an IT service provider, you're up against thousands of other businesses trying to convince customers to purchase your expertise. How do you target the right audience—or get them to discover you?
Hint: it's not your website. Google's algorithms favor abundant, fresh, and dynamic content, so it's tough to land on page one and stay there. If your site isn't frequently updated and full of juice, you're at a disadvantage. And, if you're like most IT service providers in the United States , you're a growing business focused on serving customers, not churning content.
SEO is fantastic at what it does. It helps billions of users find what they want, sometimes even before they finish typing. However, for complex searches with both hard elements (technology stack) and soft (company values, use-cases), it's too literal. And to get the attention of the right customers, you need something more sophisticated, something based on more than just text-matching.
Building a funnel and pipeline of opportunities is expensive and time-consuming. But what if you could enlist a technology that effectively pre-qualifies your opportunities based on capabilities, experience, and values?
The Borza platform lets providers create a secure, high-performance online presence that's engaging and appealing, data-driven, and not dependent on shifting SEO sands. Using the same data that we leverage for users to discover service providers, we created a product called IT Pages: an easy-to-use, digital Go-To-Market platform, where providers can publish their services and take them to market globally. Buyers provide the content; we handle the expensive SEO grind.
Pages were engineered to become the gold standard for company profiles. (What LinkedIn did for the online résumé, Borza does for companies.) A complete profile means better discoverability. Here's how it works:
Company profiles are pre-built, using sophisticated natural-language algorithms and our extensive data network. Providers are free to claim and customize their profiles, adding character and personality to their data. Values, too: IT Pages let businesses highlight not just their competencies, but also their core values and causes, engaging customers who share their priorities.
Clients want to understand a provider's specific experience in a particular technology, in a specific business sector and a given use case. But the fragmentation and nuance of our industry can hinder buyer understanding. So we leverage our validated data to structure, clarify all that nuance, and help buyers discover the companies that match precisely the particulars they need.
Providers also want to learn from their customers. Buyers can provide feedback directly on the platform. And on the backend, advanced analytics allow companies to track engagement across all their digital assets directly.
Your strength as a vendor is your partnership with hundreds of service providers. You both invest time and money in up-skilling their engineering, architecture, sales and marketing teams to suit your products and technologies, and your go-to-market strategy. Your buyers, however, need to understand a provider horizontally—across technologies, strategies, industries, and use cases. No technology is deployed in a vacuum; everything integrates.
Borza lets vendors provide that horizontal analysis, without expensive, drawn-out strategies for renaming, reorganizing their model—they simply build out their partner network.
In one easy step, they've made buyers' jobs easier and solidified buyer trust in their partners' services. With Borza's help, they're offering customers immediate access to information they need—without leaving their branded vendor site to search their competitors.
Vendors can claim their profiles, too, and use them to build and strengthen partner networks and identity.
Our founders bring decades of combined experience in IT, and a drive to disrupt business-as-usual. We're deeply disenchanted with the inefficiencies of spray-and pray-marketing and high-touch sales, as well as the mounting costs of time-consuming purchasing processes.
So we founded our company to cut through the mess—by bringing all parties together in one intuitive platform, powered by an unprecedented level of data-driven insight. Businesses will discover the best provider matches—by expertise, values, trustworthiness, and technical capabilities. Providers can dramatically bump their visibility and stand out from the crowd. And vendors can increase their authority and build new partner relationships.
Our company name calls to mind great centers of community and commerce: picture Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, one of the world's oldest and greatest marketplaces. Our name reflects our commitment to both simplifying and elevating commerce. It speaks to the thrill of browsing exciting choices and finding exactly the right fit. And it reminds us that we're out to create a simple, useful, profoundly human experience, cutting through the chaos and jargon of the IT world today.
B2B Marketplace Models on the Borza blog: The past few decades have seen the rise of online marketplaces. These marketplaces include both platforms with a horizontal business model that caters to a broad user base, and platforms with a vertical business model that seeks out niche markets. Initial marketplaces were horizontal, e-commerce platforms, including Amazon and Etsy. Later platforms, such as Grubhub, Uber, and Airbnb, focused on vertical, service-based offerings. More recently, the marketplace sector has seen the rise of “business to business” (B2B) platforms, including Upwork and Fiverr. However, despite the proliferation of the B2B marketplace model, such marketplaces have failed to succeed to the extent that e-commerce and service-based platforms have.
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