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Text: Milou Snaterse

Caribbean ServiCe ManageMent
TOPdesk collaborates with a number of international sales partners, of which Next Step Consulting on the island of Curacao was one of the first. Apparently, the service management branch in the Caribbean is considerably different from that in Europe.

Photography: Next Step Consulting

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R

onald Lieuw-Sjong is the man behind Next Step Consulting (NSC), located on Curaçao. NSC offers organizations in the Caribbean a range of consultancy and training services in IT

Meanwhile, NSC is making up lost ground by organizing demo days and discussing best practice frameworks such as ITIL. Fortunately, we’ve noticed that young graduate IT workers are being introduced to management activities during their studies.” Doing business in the Caribbean also differs from the Netherlands, Lieuw-Sjong explains further. “You need a more personal approach towards the sales process. On Curaçao, who you know is often more important than what you know.”

service management (ITIL and MOF) and facilities management. Lieuw-Sjong gives TOPdesk demonstrations on location, works as a consultant and provides training courses in the areas of ITIL, FM and process management.

itiL sans tool
Lieuw-Sjong had taken a number of ITIL courses, and wanted to apply his acquired knowledge at his customers. “You need a good tool to support the ITIL processes, but the market was simply too restrictive for these tools to be available. I then started looking for a useful and practical tool, which led me to TOPdesk.” This is when Lieuw-Sjong contacted TOPdesk. He explains that “the response from TOPdesk was quick and friendly.” In 2002, the partnership started with installing TOPdesk 3 at three local companies and one company in Suriname. For the last ten years now, Lieuw-Sjong has been responsible for sales on Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba and software implementations in the Caribbean region. At the start of the collaboration between TOPdesk and NSC, LieuwSjong made frequent visits to the Netherlands for training courses and demonstrations. Things have really changed since then. “I can now attend most courses from a distance,” explains Lieuw-Sjong. “These days, we have access to numerous tools that enable us to communicate and exchange knowledge with people on the other side of the world. You merely schedule an appointment, arrange a time and go for it.” Nevertheless, Dutch consultants still visit Curaçao to share knowledge; and in turn Lieuw-Sjong comes to the Netherlands from time to time. You can also notice more subtle cultural differences in the Dutch colleagues. “I first have to ‘educate’ Dutch consultants when they

Different culture, different procedure
Hierarchy still plays a vital role within organizations in the Caribbean, according to Lieuw-Sjong. “If, so to speak, the boss tells you to jump, the employees will ask ‘how high?” This work ethic is unheard of in the Netherlands. Dutch consultants often ask their customers for their opinion when dealing with a particular approach: “Tell me, what do you think?” In the Caribbean, you will often catch people saying: “You decide, you’re the expert”.”

ON CURAÇAO, IT IS CONSIDERED A COST, MEANING YOU FIRST HAVE TO CONVINCE ORGANIZATIONS OF THE TOOL’S ADDED VALUE
Ronald Lieuw-Sjong - Next Step Consulting

Service Management in the Caribbean
Compared with European sales, selling TOPdesk in the Caribbean has proved to be quite a challenge, explains Lieuw-Sjong. “On Curaçao, IT is considered a cost, meaning you first have to convince organizations of the tool’s added value. If you compare the use of IT in the Netherlands to that on Curaçao on a maturity scale of one to five, the Netherlands will score a four and Curaçao a two. The reason for this is that many IT specialists in the Caribbean consider the technical aspects of the tool to be more important than the organizational aspects. As a result, the technical side of IT often runs smoothly, while the managerial side of IT is not up to par.

visit Curaçao for the first time,” explains Lieuw-Sjong. “I have to tell them that over here, a “yes” does not always mean a customer is committed buying, but that they expect an expert opinion instead. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, saying “yes” can have immediate consequences. Nowadays, I don’t really notice these differences anymore; after a while, you start speaking the same language.”

tOPdesk users in the Caribbean
Having years of experience, Lieuw-Sjong is able to spot which organizations are potential TOPdesk users. “There’s no point in trying to sell TOPdesk to international companies in the >>

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In addition to Next Step Consulting (Curaçao), TOPdesk

IT IS FROM MARS AND FM IS FROM VENUS
Ronald Lieuw-Sjong - Next Step Consulting

partners in the Caribbean also include ITEE NV (Suriname) and Gilette group (Trinidad and Tobago). TOPdesk currently has 24 customers in the Caribbean, including the government of the Netherlands Antilles, Harbour Port Authority and State Oil Company Suriname.

Caribbean, as their parent company provides them with the tools they need. Small organizations usually do not have the available budget, but an appointment with the IT manager from a larger local organization can be arranged without a problem.”

minor issue, I always visit them personally; otherwise, I just call the service desk. It has all become a lot easier with the help of modern technology.”

Customers on tOPdesk
Unlike the Netherlands, the Caribbean has seen a large number of TOPdesk Professional implementations. “Enterprise is often too expensive for smaller companies in the Caribbean, and many organizations consider our lite version to be too ‘lite’,” explains Lieuw-Sjong. Another remarkable difference is that SaaS is not yet seen as a worthy alternative. “Not many organizations on Curaçao outsource their IT tasks,” explains Lieuw-Sjong. “For now, SaaS is out of the question on Curaçao, as staying in control of the software is vital. On the other hand, our customers do use Gmail to communicate with one another!” TOPdesk currently has a secure market position in the Caribbean. “Customers are especially overwhelmed by our demonstrations; and the number of TOPdesk modules is so vast, that I usually only present a selection,” explains Lieuw-Sjong. “I begin the demo by showing them the basic modules of Incident Management and Configuration Management.” Once the customers, currently 25 in total number, start working with TOPdesk, Lieuw-Sjong is mostly met with positive responses. “When I see how customers can generate figures and control processes with ease, their response is usually “wow!”.” Some minor cultural differences aside, the Caribbean appears to be another successful location for TOPdesk.

it is from Mars, FM is from venus
“The IT and FM markets are extremely different,” says Lieuw-Sjong. “IT is from Mars and FM is from Venus. In the Caribbean, 80 percent of all TOPdesk implementations are for IT, while 20 percent are for FM. Although the FM market is considerable, people are not yet ready for a tool to support it.” Although implementing TOPdesk for HR purposes in the Caribbean is not yet an option, “I’m sure we can enter that market in the future, as the demand is already there.”
▼ A TOPdesk demo day on Curaçao

Support from 3.30 to 12.30?
The average time difference of five hours between the Caribbean and the Netherlands does not seem to pose any problems. “Once TOPdesk is up and running, it just keeps on going,” according to Lieuw-Sjong. “And if a customer has a