Okay, so you’ve got some business challenges that can be resolved through the adoption or expansion of Information Technology. Being the wicked-smart professional that you are, you’ve investigated your technology options, narrowed the field, and have reached the point where your pretty close to deciding which direction you want to go. Is it now time to lean back, take a big stretch, and congratulate yourself for a job well done?

Frequent readers of my blog already know they’re not getting off quite that easily.
There’s a whole ‘nother dimension to take into consideration. While the technology
choice is obviously critical, assessing the best path-to-acquisition is every bit as
important.

Different companies often come to the table with different portions of the value
proposition. The general categories listed below are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but the correct choice, or choices, largely depend on your needs, your budget, the direction you want to take, and the degree to which you need help with the selection and technical aspects.

While this phenomenon is especially true in the SD-WAN market, it also pertains to a
number of other technology spaces as well.

Product Vendors
Starting with the source, we begin with the product vendors. These are the companies
that develop the software, products and solutions that deliver the technology. These
players often fall into two basic camps. The first group began with a focus on their
featured technology since Day One and entered that market from start-up mode. The second group has their roots in some related technology and expanded into this chosen direction. Though neither group carries a distinct advantage against the other, it’s important to keep in mind that the latter category comes to your prospective technology as an extension of their previous strategy. So, you’ll want to take a close look at how effectively they do that, and at how well their offerings integrate with whatever else you’re using. Vendors of the technology often rely on third parties to sell and integrate their products, though some also have their own professional services arms.

Carriers
Carriers may offer your desired technology as an add-on service to their data circuits
and related offerings, acting, in many respects as MSPs (see below). Carriers will often argue that owning the network provides them a better end-to-end experience. This may come as a one-size-fits-all proposition, in which case you may not be able to make your own vendor selections for the underlying technology. But what you give up in terms of choices may be counterbalanced through greatly enhanced simplicity, plus the ability to negotiate lower rates by bundling multiple services together. On the other hand, the
more your communications needs are met by any one single source, the more you
become susceptible to outages, carrier-targeted security breaches, and other issues.

MSPs
Managed service providers may, in many respects, function very similarly to carriers,
except that MSPs are not likely to have their own network. MSPs use products
developed by vendors as described above, and often provide a portfolio of vendors from which to choose. MSPs can also aggregate billing and provide a variety of optimization and support services, as well.

Consultant/Agent/Reseller
This segment of the industry typically does not have an internally developed product or
technology. They instead are designed to function as independent entities that can help you sort through the available options based on the specifics needs, budgets, and
legacy infrastructure of your company. Their role is to do the necessary legwork,
understanding the differentiators among the various offerings as well as those of the
vendors that provide them. Aside from helping with the pre-sales phase of the
engagement, they can also play a key role in deployment, optimization, support,
training, and other facets of technology. Some may work with a number of different
vendors providing a given technology. Others may focus on only one vendor.

We at AVANT
We at AVANT work with companies in all four categories, so we can speak from a
position of relative neutrality. Each category has its strengths and each category has its
blemishes. But most enterprise IT executives do have resources and relationships that can loosely be described as trusted advisors, and we recommend that you confer with those people to help identify your best path.