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How to turn an IT system into an external product

CIO Executive Council | Jan. 27, 2011
CIOs share how they are learning to package, market and price their services

FRAMINGHAM, 27 JANUARY 2011 -

Scenario: Selling the USTA's Event Management System

Larry Bonfante, CIO, U.S. Tennis Association

Anything and everything can happen at an event as large as the U.S. Open. Whether there’s a disagreement among spectators, a medical emergency on the grounds or a logistics hiccup hampering service, responding to incidents requires that everyone coordinates and communicates. Our command center includes representatives from organizations as diverse as beverage providers and the FBI and NYPD. We looked for a commercial solution that could meet all of our needs, but there just wasn’t anything out there with the whole package. So we built our own, the Event Management System (EMS). Following fantastic response from our partners at the event, we decided to start marketing and selling the system to external users.

Of course, while my team and I have demonstrated the product to some interested parties, we in IT aren’t actually sales people. We’ve also done some competitive market analysis, but we aren’t experts on pricing or licensing, either. To move forward, we have to address both of these issues. EMS has been a great success for us since we first deployed it in 2008, and we believe it could provide the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) with even more value as a product bringing in top-line revenue.

Advice: Get to Know Your Customers Yourself

Richard Thomas, CIO, Quintiles

At Quintiles, we in IT are leading the effort to take our Infosario clinical trials management system from internal solution to commercial product. We also aren’t experts in this, so we contracted an external market research firm to help us determine the opportunity, create a brand and demonstrate the product. I selected staff who are excited by the opportunity and dedicated money to this, and we’re treating it as an innovation project. My job is to run interference with the company, and I’m working closely with our heads of marketing and sales to get their input and perspective.

Now that we’re toward the end of the research, finding the first customer is critical, and not because they’ll be paying us. If you believe in something, you have to find a customer who is going to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth as you refine your internal solution into a polished product. This “angel customer” will help refine your final offering and packaging. To fill this role, we’re looking at several existing partners and customers; it helps to already have that trusted relationship. As we polish the offering, we’ve taken the view that the customer is indeed always right, and we’re determined to present a product that will satisfy them. Take the time to use that angel customer as a kind of beta tester, until you are comfortable that what they have will fully represent the USTA in the market. Only then should you give it over to your sales group to sell it to the masses.

Advice: Know Your True Costs and Seek Recurring Value

 

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