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Why More Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Should Consider a “Technology Broker”

December 1, 2017 | Dan Domagala

Dan Domagala | Consulting Senior Manager

From PC support intern to CIO, Dan has been in the technology arena for 30 years and counting. He has programmed applications, architected systems, and designed secure data warehouses for oil & gas, hospitality...

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Most of us are familiar with the concept and value of a real estate broker who finds a good match between a buyer and seller of property, or an insurance broker who finds the best coverage for a particular business risk. Many of us are probably less familiar with the concept of a technology broker. But the idea is very similar — understanding the technology needs and wants of a buyer, understanding the marketplace of available products and services, and brokering a favorable deal between the seeker and provider.

Rapidly Changing Technology Environment

As technology continues to evolve at an exponential rate, it becomes increasingly difficult for businesses and entities to keep pace. Innovative technology is a disruptive force in a competitive business environment — but how can organizations effectively invest in this tremendous opportunity while avoiding the technical dead-ends and failures that too frequently doom big technology projects? Consider the assistance of an independent technology broker.
EKS&H IT Maturity Stairway

Definition of the Role

Taking a page from broker-type services in the financial, insurance, and real estate industries, a technology broker brings strong expertise and fluid understanding of evolving offerings in a complex realm of sometimes overwhelming options. The broker is independent, but usually has a wide network of industry relationships. Familiarity with long-standing technology stalwarts as well as intriguing start-ups is a hallmark trait for seasoned brokers. Above all, a technology broker should be a trusted advisor who knows your business well and can effectively negotiate win-win partnerships with the right-fit technology products and service providers.

Areas of Emphasis

Emerging business technology can be categorized into three primary areas: infrastructure, applications, and reporting (or information). Each area offers a unique set of challenges, opportunities, and potential strategic investments for organizational entities — regardless of the industry you operate within. Brokers may specialize in one of these areas or offer an enterprise approach to integrating these key technical pillars. Let’s briefly explore each area:
  • Infrastructure
    Infrastructure-as-a-service, or IAAS, is fueled by the increasingly affordable and reliable availability of cloud services. The oft-used term “cloud” can refer to many virtualized technology services, but its roots stem from the concept of hosted data centers where servers and hardware reside. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are examples of the big players in this space, but numerous small-to-medium providers and niche-based services continue to emerge — driving down costs and increasing competition for prospective buyers (or renewals). Many factors should be considered for selecting the optimal IAAS or cloud provider for your technology backbone, starting with your business imperatives such as uptime requirements or data security mandates. This is exactly where a good technology broker can provide valuable assistance.
  • Applications
    Software-as-a-service, often referred to as SaaS, is a rapidly emerging and evolving area of hosted business applications. Examples are Google Apps or Microsoft’s Office365 for hosted email and office-type software. Financial accounting/general ledger (GL), operations/enterprise resource planning (ERP), and customer relationship management (CRM) software companies are increasingly offering cloud-based options alongside traditional “on premise” applications. Some software providers now focus exclusively on hosted applications in order to optimize design and frequently implement upgrades and enhancements. Other emerging providers specialize in industry-specific offerings, such as construction, manufacturing, healthcare, or nonprofit. There are many compelling reasons to subscribe to hosted applications, but navigating through contenders and pretenders can be a daunting task. It often pays to seek advice from an independent technology advisor/broker that has your long-term best interests in mind.
  • Information Reporting
    The “I” of IT — Information — is also experiencing rapid evolution. Companies are increasingly awash in data and struggle to translate this volume of facts and figures into useful information. Reporting tools such as IBM Cognos and Tableau cross over into the realm of applications but warrant a separate area of technical focus due to the intense customization and integration aspects of data gathering and information dissemination. Information database providers such as Oracle and Microsoft SQLServer may also cross over into the infrastructure area. Data warehousing, data integration, and accurate data reporting are unique challenge areas for evolving businesses that an experienced independent advisor can help establish or enhance by matching your needs with the optimal reporting tool and/or service provider.

Finding the Right Technology Broker

If a technology broker sounds like a winning concept for your business, your next step is to find the right person or entity. Consider asking yourself the following questions:
  • What should I look for in a technology broker? You will need someone who not only understands technology but, more importantly, understands your business. Ideally, that person is backed by a reputable company of proven expertise and customer satisfaction. Technology brokering services may be an extension of an already-established relationship with a trusted business partner or other business professional. Lastly, true independence is a key attribute for a non-biased view of technology — a person you can fully trust to give you honest and sincere guidance in the complex world of technology.
  • Does my technology really have to be complex and expensive? Unfortunately, many technology vendors and companies often oversell and overcomplicate solutions. Seek the broker who first focuses on understanding your true business needs and then evaluates an array of potential technology, from simple and cost-effective to feature-laden and expansive. Understanding the full suite of technical options (and associated costs) will allow a business to select the level of investment that best suits their business goals and aspirations.
  • How will a broker know my optimal technology strategy? A good-fit broker will get to know your organization from the inside out and ideally understand the current maturity level and future vision of IT within your organization. In addition to the areas of emphasis described above, it is important to intimately understand where an entity is and where they would like to go in terms of technology innovation — from firefighter to trusted optimizer to business innovator, with incremental steps along the way. This successfully establishes a customized roadmap for brokered technology services.

Conclusion

A technology broker will help you and your organization align technology investments with business needs. Enlist a trusted advisor to navigate the evolving technology landscape and match your business with the right service providers. Sure, you could go it alone — but like real estate and insurance brokers, a good technology broker will save you from analysis headaches and costly mistakes… and be your trusted technology advisor.

This article was originally published by BizWest on December 1, 2017.

With a comprehensive business technology services practice and expertise in more than 15 industries, EKS&H is uniquely positioned to assist organizations with technology broker services. To learn more, please contact consulting senior manager Dan Domagala at ddomagala@eksh.com, or call us today at 303-740-9400.
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