When Ken Boyd walked into Goodys Family Clothing Inc. six years ago, he wasnt just starting a new job as technical services director; he was walking into a new way of doing business.
As lead systems analyst at his previous company, Boyd had grown accustomed to going through IBM directly for products and services—and IBM had always delivered. But by the time he joined Goodys, the Knoxville, Tenn., company was evolving and needed more specialized service. IBM, too, was starting to change some processes and beginning to offload services and direct sales to channel partners that offered more expertise in certain areas.
So when Boyd called his IBM contact to ask about an RS/6000 to run a new application for Goodys, he was surprised when the representative pointed him to a Chattanooga, Tenn., reseller, InfoSystems Inc.
"Where I came from, I was used to going directly to IBM," Boyd said. "I was concerned about this other level of interference between us and the vendor. But within a few months, I was comfortable that it would work out."
The key was the relationship-building work of InfoSystems President Clay Hales, which resulted in a solid business foundation between the two companies. While InfoSystems doesnt win all his companys business—Goodys policy is to get three bids for substantial purchases—it does get many of the contracts, Boyd said.
"They came in and understood our business first," Boyd said. "Not necessarily what Im asking for, but what I need. [And not getting all the contracts] hasnt deterred [Hales] from trying to come in and learn our business."
Goodys, which has $1.3 billion in sales and 328 stores, last fall bought two eight-way IBM eServer p650 Unix systems from InfoSystems for the merchandising and data warehousing part of its business; it is now considering buying a p610, a p615 and a couple of p630s. Goodys is also running a Shark storage device purchased in July 2002 through InfoSystems.
While the reseller installs the servers, Goodys installs the best-of-breed software, Boyd said. Ideally, the clothing company will run the systems itself, with little intervention from InfoSystems.
"[Customers] need way more than just getting these systems," Hales said. "How you hook it up at the far end and how you roll it out and how you deploy it is important. And it all starts with the designing of it."
Still, Goodys relationship with Hales and InfoSystems has grown beyond simply purchasing systems, and it offers benefits the company would not have found going directly through IBM, Boyd said.
Key among those is consistency. For the past six years, whenever Boyd has had to call InfoSystems, hes dealt with Hales. "I get a call every six or seven months from the Oracle [Corp.] rep," Boyd said. "I dont even remember their name. It changes all the time."
InfoSystems also brings a high level of experience—with both IBM and its systems—that Boyd has at times leaned on. For example, he and his colleagues decided to attach several legacy systems from NCR Corp. to IBMs Shark storage system. InfoSystems not only helped Goodys with the task but also was able to quickly find the right people within IBM to complete the job.
"If I had just called IBM directly, I dont know if I wouldve reached the right people," Boyd said.
InfoSystems also has taken some of the complexity out of the process for Goodys. Over a two-year period, InfoSystems helped Goodys cut the number of IBM customer contact numbers from 17 to one, with two location numbers.
"Now when I call, I only have to remember one customer number and two location numbers," Boyd said. "Thats exactly what I need. I never would have found the person within IBM to go through that process."
In addition, because of the lower costs, Goodys now goes through InfoSystems for 24-hour support for its IBM systems and software; it also goes through the reseller for its volume licensing agreement needs.
Ultimately, the business relationship is based on trust, Boyd said. There are times when InfoSystems will recommend another company for a job. For example, when Goodys was looking to expand its NCR environment, Hales suggested the company consider another vendor that is stronger in that area.
"Thats a level of honesty thats rare in the business world," Boyd said. "Building that relationship, its just like building a marriage or anything else."