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Demonstration Centers Take Out the Guesswork
By John Hazard

For Lou Sciacchetano, vice president of IBM technologies at Agilysys Inc., results speak for themselves.


While a vice president in IBM’s storage sales division, he said one measure, above all, worked to close sales.

“When a customer came in for a demonstration, there was an 85 percent chance that we would close the deal,” he said. “Without a demonstration it was a 50-50 shot most times. That’s a tremendous difference. If I can give all my sales an 85 percent chance of success, that’s a win.”

Following the known path to success, Agilysys, the Mayfield Heights, Ohio-based software and services company, with the help of IBM, opened a facility this week in midtown Manhattan that will enable Agilysys to develop, test and demonstrate solutions in a controlled environment.

The $2 million facility is the 96th of IBM’s Business Partner Innovation Centers, most of which are in far-flung reaches. The centers deliver an IBM presence to partners and customers on a local level, said Debbie Kestin-Schildkraut, program director of Worldwide Business Partner Innovation Centers, who spearheads the program.

But the main advantage for partners is its use as a sale tool, she and others said.

The facility allows Agilysys to replicate a client’s environment to demonstrate full-scale deployment of its solutions.

“Before this, putting together a demonstration meant assembling a closet full of equipment on-site and dealing with their limited environments,” Sciacchetano said. “Here we have the latest equipment, the latest code, the latest technology to run it, and we can replicate their environment. You’re not really deploying anything. You’re just running a program, and they can see the result of full-scale implementation.

“Time to market is shorter; sales cycles are shorter,” he said. “I expect it to pay for itself in a year.”

The center replicates a Fortune 1000 company, but can scale down, said Al Schwarz, senior assistant architect at Agilysys. A dedicated DSL connection into the lab will allow demos to be run at the lab and displayed at a customer’s site.

“It gives partners the ability to kick the tires,” said Donn Atkins, general manager of IBM’s Global Business Partners. “It lets partners and customers test solutions, proof of concept. It takes the guesswork out of ‘Let’s try it.'”

While the sales results are impressive, the innovation centers also encourage development, Atkins said.

“It is helping customers and partners move to the next step, which is driving the innovation agenda,” he said. “It’s in centers like this where you are understanding how you drive innovation—what is necessary, the set of capabilities you need? You build things that don’t come in a box.”



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