When reading our success stories, one could conclude that UCS is geared towards mid to large size businesses, school districts and government agencies. While many of these use UCS, and we are proud they trust us with their day-to-day IT operations, a large group of our customers are missing on this listing. These are your mom and pop shop down the road, the 3 person law office around the corner and the small non-profit in the neighborhood.
What makes small business customers distinct from the bigger ones?
Often, they don’t have any person taking care of their IT, only have a limited understanding of the technical needs and even less time to care of them. Don’t get me wrong, they know exactly what they want from a consumer perspective, for example, an email system reachable from their iPhone 24/7 using only a single password for all their services, but they seldom know the requirements of the IT systems when, for example, dealing with legal cases involving minors, what the healthcare privacy act requires of non-profits and what would be the best way to protect their intellectual property from competitors.
At the same time, we at Univention are software manufacturers. We develop UCS and provide services and trainings around our operating and management system. Normally, we don’t know the customer’s complete software stack and much less their hardware situation. Naturally, we can neither be versed in the multitude of requirements across different jurisdictions. UCS includes the tools to pass HIPPA and SEC audits, but they need to be activated. You might ask, why aren’t they on by default? Simply because there are situations where these monitoring tools are not allowed by law.
The local IT Experts
So with neither us nor the customers themselves being sure on what the requirements of the IT system are, it becomes clear that we need a local expert. Our partner network provides this expertise to our common customers. They advise them on the best system and setup for meeting their needs, helping them to set up the designed systems and often take care of running and maintaining a safe and stable system including the installation of updates and deciding in which channel to direct support issues.
The work by our partners however goes far beyond UCS and the hardware it runs on. Our partners are generally versatile and able to focus on the whole picture of network, server, UCS, and application software running on UCS. This allows them to best take care of our customers’ comprehensive IT needs.
This gets especially important if you see the ever-growing eco-system around Univention’s solutions. By now, we have already more than 70 enterprise applications in the App Center, multiple hardware partners and an ever-growing number of cloud service providers, all of which are offering services around UCS. So if you are a small company, a partner can easily help you navigate this ecosystem while at the same time saving you money.
Likewise for the partner, a relationship with Univention is highly beneficial. Of course, access to a stable enterprise system is the basis of any relationship and the obvious benefits such as access to special trainings and quality leads are also important. One of the partners I work with here in the US however managed to sum up the most important point of being a partner with Univention. His decision to continue recommending UCS to his customers after the initial project was that there always was someone he could reach out to. No matter whether it was a technical problem, a billing question or a simple recommendation to whom to reach out to for some additional software.
Partners and the Univention App Center
Now one question I always get asked by new partners is how others deal with the issue of the App Center providing a one click experience for the installation. Doesn’t it ruin their margin if they only need to click that little button and everything is running afterwards? The obvious answer would be “Yes, the customer only wants a mail server and domain controller, you’ll be done much quicker and can charge a lot less for the work.”
However, in many cases this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, you will be done with these two tasks much faster, having a happier customer. However, most companies tend to rather have a fixed budget than a fixed list of IT problems. So while beforehand the partner would only be able to configure a DC and a mail server, now for the same budget the client can have the partner take a look at additional issues such as file sharing or VPN leading to a happier customer in the end which in turn results in a loyal customer and hopefully good referrals.
What the future holds
While it was often predicted that local IT shops will be replaced by cloud service providers, these predictions forgot that most humans don’t like to buy complex systems from a machine. They want another human to guide them through the decision process and help them with the implementation. I rather predict that no matter whether the customers continue using their own hardware or switch to a hosted solution, our partners will continue to help them make the right decision, allowing their customers’ IT to grow at the same speed as the customer’s business..
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Kevin Dominik Korte studied computer sciences at the Jacobs University in Bremen. He graduated as a Master of Science in 2011. Afterwards, he worked in the Professional Services Team at Univention for two years. Since 2013 he is President of Univention North America Inc. and responsible for the business development in the USA.