When it comes to application development, channel partners have traditionally made their revenue by leveraging offerings from larger vendors, either through reselling or integration into customized business suites. That’s no longer enough to remain competitive.
With the advent of cloud and mobile, and the business model transition from one-time box sales to ongoing solutions and services, the digital transformation occurring in the channel means that VARs and MSPs that want to succeed need to learn to leverage the power of proprietary intellectual property (IP) if they want to succeed.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go out and hire an in-house development team or learn complicated coding languages. Homegrown channel IP can come in lots of different forms. The key to finding a market for your application is ensuring it provides a unique value proposition that’s scalable, repeatable and easy to use.
Here are four channel partners who, in one way or another, are riding the IP wave straight to the bank.
CHIPS is a business processes and IT solutions provider that’s been around since 1993, so founders Evan Leonard and David Tan definitely know a thing or two about navigating times of transition. In addition to providing IT services from partners such as Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Cisco, IBM and other giants, the company has an IT Solutions division that develops custom web and mobile apps. But it also has made a killing building customized solutions on top of existing applications such as Salesforce and FileMaker.
Last year, the talent behind CHIPS founded CrushBank, a SaaS solution utilizes the power of IBM Watson to create a virtual IT engineer. CrushBank ingests large volumes of unstructured data related to IT systems technical support to create the ultimate asset for help-desks. Customer support specialists can quickly and accurately find answers to end-user questions, increasing productivity and first-call resolution rates.
Redient is an MSP that provides IT consulting services and support. They provide traditional services such as network infrastructure configuration, cloud services, disaster recovery and intrusion prevention, but one of their most profitable service offerings is custom web application development.
A strong Microsoft partner, Redient provides SharePoint customizations and BizTalk business process automation implementations to address customers’ specific operational goals, as well as business intelligence suites utilizing Microsoft offerings. But when an organization has a need that no existing application can satisfy, Redient’s development team can design and build a custom application from the ground up. Because it’s a strong Microsoft shop, its developers work only in .NET, the programming framework provided by Microsoft. By developing specializations in a wide range of a single vendor’s offerings, Redient is able to offer multiple services in the hottest business IT trends.
ExterNetworks is a provider of managed IT services. When we talk about channel partners acting as external IT departments for SMBs, we’re talking about companies like ExterNetworks. They operate network operations centers (NOCs), provide helpdesk solutions, have remote monitoring and management (RMM) capabilities and offer outsourced IT solutions like infrastructure setup and data center management.
But ExterNetworks has a big advantage over many of its competitors. It’s created an application development offering that’s based on repeatable core offerings that can be tweaked and customized according to the end user’s needs. That means they can offer development in a wide variety of areas—e-commerce, cloud, mobile, custom portals, enterprise applications—that are specific to customers’ business goals and yet still delivered much faster than normal. Custom development with a quick time-to-market…now that’s a channel partner sweet spot.
A few years ago, SkyKick was another Office 365 migration provider, which is not to downplay the market opportunity there. In its recent "State of the Office 365 SMB Cloud" report, the company found that on 7.5 percent of SMBs are using Office 365, they are still the minority—providing a major opportunity for IT solution providers in a growing cloud market.
But this month, SkyKick unveiled a new service offering specifically for channel partners: syndicated apps and APIs. Essentially, SkyKick’s development team created app and API white-label templates for migration and backup use cases that channel partners can embed directly into their own portal. Three lines of code, less than an hour and BAM—channel partners have their very own API. So SkyKick is still serving an endless sea of customers, but without having to customize any code themselves. It’s repeatable, infinitely scalable and, after the initial product development, requires very minimal development resources from SkyKick.