FlexPod Blog – Champion Solutions Group Drives Innovation One Question at a Time
“When you have two best-of-breed companies like NetApp and Cisco working together on a single support structure, it really sets them apart. This means that the product [FlexPod] is consistently evolving to meet new challenges, which gives it incredible flexibility and scalability.” Johann Quiroz, Senior Solutions Architect, Champion Solutions Group
Johanns Quiroz’s job is to make his customers look good. He’s an infrastructure expert, so just like an engineering contractor, his work is less about interior design and more about making sure that your critical systems such as plumbing and electrical wiring have kept up with your renovations.
Quiroz is a senior solutions architect at Champion Solutions Group, an IT solutions and service provider in Boca Raton, Florida, that helps customers mitigate risk and increase productivity. He asks a lot of questions to learn as much as he can about the challenges his customers face, so he can help them drive internal innovation. What Quiroz enjoys most about his work is that there’s no single way to do it. However, there are three core principles he always keeps in mind.
#1: Innovation needs to match company culture
“When it comes to technology, there isn’t just one solution to a problem,” Quiroz says. “The challenge is finding the right solution for a particular business. Businesses have different cultures and goals, and the technology solution needs to mesh with those.”
Since first opening their doors more than 35 years ago as a reseller, Champion has gone through its own transformation, something the Champion team leverages to its advantage.
“If you’re not innovating and reinventing yourself, you’re going to be left behind,” Quiroz says. He’s seen competitors and partners emerge and disappear because they couldn’t adapt. “If companies are able to innovate internally, they’ll definitely be ahead of the curve compared to their industry competitors. Internal innovation drives external innovation.”
This philosophy is well grounded. In business literature, it’s called “intrapreneurship” and it’s most often associated with large companies that can more easily afford to give their employees creative time. As the Harvard Business Review described[i], innovations like Facebook’s “like” button and 3M’s ubiquitous Post-it notes all came from employees thinking outside the box. Quiroz sees the same thing happening among customers big and small, across all verticals. Doing it successfully requires input from all sectors of a company.
“IT is no longer just providing hardware and infrastructure within their own company,” he explains. “They need to understand where their business is going so that they can make the best suggestions moving forward.”
That applies on a personal level as much as an organizational one — something his own children find alarming.
#2: Innovation requires constant learning
“My kids are always asking me why I’m always taking tests,” he jokes. But achieving and maintaining new skills and certifications has become an essential part of the landscape. The Champion team boasts more than 400 certifications, which gives them added credibility when making recommendations to customers because it demonstrates their commitment to customized solutions.
Likewise, he says, his most successful customers are the ones who do their homework. One of the biggest changes he’s seen in recent years is the financial analysis that successful companies are doing on the IT services they need.
“I’ve talked to more financial people in the last five years than ever before,” he notes. “People are taking a hard look at their big data center expenditures and dedicating those systems to applications that produce revenue for the business, instead of on applications needed to run the business, like e-mail or file sharing.”
That, in turn, has driven growth in the as-a-service model, something Quiroz expects to grow even more, moving into areas like disaster recovery, virtual desktops, and even security. What he really wants, though, is for his customers to talk with him about their goals and embrace innovation within their own operations, regardless where it happens.
#3: Innovation thrives on strong relationships
By asking questions at the front end and learning about their customers’ needs, Quiroz says Champion is able to develop a range of options for their customers, then talk through what will serve them best. He wants his customers to do the same thing within their own organizations and bring those discussions to the table with Champion.
“That’s harder to do if you don’t have a good rapport,” he points out. “But we work hard to prove ourselves to our customers, and we take on the role of a trusted advisor.”
Quiroz is proud to have worked with many of his customers long enough to meet their kids and hear about their family vacations. In fact, longevity runs in the company — much of the Champion team is from the class of ’00, and many have been working together ever since. The power that comes from strong business relationships is also what he values about FlexPod.
“When you have two best-of-breed companies like NetApp and Cisco working together on a single support structure, it really sets them apart,” he says. “The product is consistently evolving to meet new challenges, which gives it incredible flexibility and scalability.”
What he appreciates even more is that he can apply the validated designs after the fact.
“Being able to certify a product once all of the components have been added is a huge plus that gives our customers an added layer of confidence,” he says. That means the solutions he builds for his customers do exactly what they need to do, when they need to it. “We can lead with FlexPod, but we can also grow into it.”
For his customers, that means they get exactly what they need at exactly the right time — something that makes everyone look good.