Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scaling Solar tech.....quickly.....

Read an interesting post in Earth2Tech about the challenges in scaling solar technology businesses to a large (and hopefully ready) market; link is here.

Solar is now in a "land grab" mode; with the race to grab as many customers as quickly as possible. Makes me think that if demand is there, then the key to scale is to build out your channels as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The key channel to leverage? Correct: the engineering & construction (E&C) industry.

Many of the solar tech vendors have focused on smaller buyers (i.e. residential owners, smaller real estate companies). While those entities have served as thought leaders, the market itself has moved mainstream. The challenge is to secure larger clients (corporate real estate and facility owners, and builders & owners in heavy industry). I think the key here is to leverage channels that can both sell and help deploy solutions across key verticals; and get your technology out to a large audience as fast as possible.

Clearly, the E&C industry is poised to sell such solutions, although culturally, it is not their mindset to do so; this is a very conservative industry that has traditionally not driven additional revenues from technology sales (unlike the system integrator industry).

But, there is a strong desire on their part to provide thought leadership to their clients around emerging technologies, including those in solar and energy development. E&C's can leverage this knowledge to provide a valuable differentiator for business development purposes in competitive 'bake-offs'. Also, it may provide a mechanism to drive higher margin consulting and engineering design services; which are certainly welcome in what is a low margin services industry.
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Our Opportunity Management System is Crap"

... a VP at a publicly traded E&C firm recounted to me recently....

He was talking about their CRM system, but it made me think about the challenges of selling professional services and aligning required technology across a global enterprise (in some companies that can be described as loose confederations of feudal kingdoms) in the global environmental and engineering design industry.

So what 'opportunity management' objectives are critical to E&C firms?

  • Improve service delivery (responsiveness to RFI / RFPs)
  • Improve margins (identify those prospects who may require higher margin consulting services, and also those do not cause AR headaches)
  • Increase revenues (allow for wider range of services to be delivered to key accounts)
  • Assure alignment with strategic objectives for growth (reporting and analytics)
  • Provide mechanism to build stronger relationships and partnerships with clients

I think improving margins may yield the highest and most rapid ROI for any BPR work and enabling technology deployment in opportunity management. Many of the global E&Cs are already targeting higher margin consulting in mining, environmental sustainability, and energy efficiency services, which should also help drive 'downstream' revenues in engineering design and construction management.

The CRM toolsets being used today? A whole 'nuther subject...from spreadsheets to SaaS....

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