Finding Help

Preferred Partnerships or Product Agnostic: Which Is the Better Approach for IT Consulting?

You want an IT consultant who can understand the needs of your organization, provide transparency, and who will offer recommendations that deliver real value. Easier said than done. There is an endless array of choices in the marketplace, and it can be difficult to evaluate IT firms to determine which consultants are honest, trustworthy, and will work successfully in your unique business environment.

Product Agnostic Consultants: The Industry’s Creative Problem Solvers

Most IT consulting firms operate on one of two basic models. They are either vendor/product agnostic, or they work with an approved set of vendors, whose products and solutions they recommend exclusively.

Product agnostic consultants are not contractually obligated to any specific vendor. Therefore, they approach each client with a blank slate. They will conduct a discovery process designed to gather enough information to make recommendations based on that client’s specific needs, goals, and budget.

When presenting their proposed solutions to the client, the consulting team will provide options and explain the strengths and the weaknesses of each product and service to help the client make the best choice for their organization.

Firms who take a product agnostic approach for IT consulting are objective and neutral. Since they are not tied to specific vendors, they are free to approach problems creatively, often marrying solutions from multiple vendors in order deliver the best possible results for their clients. At 5Q Partners, we take it one step further. We make sure that we include both technology and business leaders in this process, so that we always expose the root of the organization’s pain. This helps us customize the solution in a way that always benefits the strategic goals of the company.

Beyond Product Middlemen: Other Advantages of Product Agnosticism

Product agnostic consultants are able to provide their clients with the same type of discounted pricing as preferred partners. Though they do not have wholesale agreements with vendors, they do have purchasing power on their side. Just as large enterprise can negotiate discounted prices on everything from office supplies to packaging, product agnostic consultants can negotiate discounted pricing on technology solutions for their clients. In addition, once a product agnostic consultant works with the client to select the right technology, there is nothing wrong with then leveraging a vendor specific partner for expert implementation.

At the point the correct solution is decided upon, it is quite common for a product agnostic consultant to leverage a vendor specific partner for expert implementation. Once the client chooses and deploys a solution, the consulting team can provide ongoing support by interfacing with these vendors on behalf of the client. This eliminates the need for the in-house team to deal with those vendors in the event of problems, downtime, or other issues. This ensures that the vendor meets its obligations and acts in the best interest of the client at all times.

Preferred Partners: Vendor-Specific Solutions Can Limit Transparency

When an IT consultant enters into a distribution agreement or reseller agreement with specific vendors, they have a preferred partnership with those vendors. While some of these consultants may work with small vendors, most represent major brands such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, IBM, Amazon Web Services, VMWare, EMC and other market leaders.

These types of consultants are ideal for organizations with specific needs, and have already decided on a solution. However, when companies struggle to get to the root of their IT concerns, preferred partners have some limitations. Because they represent specific brands, preferred partners can only recommend those brands to their clients, which limits their ability to remain objective, and in some cases, stifles transparency. If another vendor’s solution would be a better fit, they cannot use nor recommend that product. Instead, the consultant must choose between stepping aside and doing what’s right for the client, or framing their solution as the best choice, and implementing it regardless of its limitations.

All organizations are unique: each has its own set of unique IT challenges and goals. That means these organizations need individualized solutions, as well. In some cases, a preferred partner will be the right consultant. But preferred partners have some limitations that can hinder the quality of the solution for the client. When the company requires a truly consultative approach to IT solutions, without limitations or bias, a product agnostic consultant is the right choice.