December 16, 2020
The thoroughly analytical guru of the SMB, midmarket segments and channel, Anurag Agrawal, has been keeping a keen eye on the IT industry for more than 30 years. Today, we need his research and sharp insights more than ever. IT purchase decisions demand a new urgency as the pandemic forces businesses to rethink priorities as digital transformation progress.
For the last 12 years, Agrawal has led Techaisle, a global SMB information and communications technology (ICT) organization he founded in 2008. The chief global analyst’s roots go deep. He has also held leadership research positions at well-known firms such as Gartner Group, IDC and AMI-Partners (acquired by Analysys Mason in July 2018).
Techaisle’s Anurag Agrawal
The depth and breadth of Techaisle research provides vendors and channel partners an understanding of the buyer’s persona, their IT adoption journey, points of influence and business issues driving adoption. The research helps Techaisle clients achieve success by connecting the dots across technology areas, investigate routes to market, look at infrastructure drifts, provide thought leadership and competitive positioning.
The research firm connects with SMBs and channel partners – as well as vendors – throughout the year. The company analyzes the trends it gathers from these sources to decide on a research agenda. Some research topics and questions remain constant to determine trends over time, but most other questions change.
Techaisle translates partner challenges, likes and dislikes into strategy and advisory discussions with vendors. Most vendors work with the analyst firm for its thought leadership prior to evolving their partner strategy.
Wrench in the Mix
The pandemic throws a unique wrench into the SMB market.
“There is a state of constant uncertainty, yet the IT spend is increasing. We need to understand where the spend is going and what challenges are being solved using technology,” said Agrawal.
Techaisle’s Anurag Agrawal is a new member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board. See the full list of board members here.
Changes are inevitable in the channel business. What might that look like?
“The next channel will deliver networked, hybrid, orchestrated and automated solutions — this will sit at the core of delivery. Partners will engage with customers’ business-decision makers and extend through business collaboration with an ecosystem of complementary suppliers,” he said. Techaisle offers clients 12 transformation imperatives.
We asked Agrawal to share three areas that should be top of mind for partners as they move into 2021.
Partner Road Map
Looking at the partner road map, all signs point to delivering innovative solutions. Moving from best-of-breed products to delivering innovative solutions should be part of every partner’s strategy.
Most partners have focused on assembling best-of-breed products into an integrated solution; however, assembling a solution from robust parts is necessary, but not sufficient. Those looking to establish positions as “meaningful partners” will need to deliver solutions that drive innovation within their customers’ operations to share in the benefit resulting from technology-enabled business improvement. Today, one-half of channel partners offer best-of-breed solutions, but only 9% are helping customers to drive innovation. Channels must innovate themselves and help their customers innovate.
The channel will need to move to deliver innovation-focused solutions to help customers expand their focus to the “art of the possible.” Innovation-focused partners will need to proactively explore new technologies, and participate in marketplaces or approved app stores that are deployed within enterprise customers. Partners can also educate their customers on the potential benefits of adopting the technology and related business task or process changes.
Scaling the Business in a Post-Transactional Era
The pandemic is forcing changes in previously successful channel-partner practices. As digital transformation accelerates, customers are …
… not buying technology on a single-transaction basis; instead, payments may be monthly or annual, but in either case, the channel partner realizes money over time. The current-term value of a cloud deal is nearly always less – often, much less – than a product transaction cost, which creates a significant challenge for channel businesses developing cloud business operations.
To stay viable, channel partners need to transform core functions throughout their business. For example, management has to manage (and measure) differently. Sales has to sell (and compensate) differently. Marketing has to change and expand its purview and technical staff has to develop new and different skills.
‘Trusted Adviser’ Is an Archaic Term
The term “trusted adviser” is tired. It must give way to a meaningful customer partnership or super consultant.
There are few more cherished channel objectives than attaining the position of being a “trusted adviser” to customers. The phrase connotes a relationship rooted in respect, where the channel partner provides sage counsel to customers who rely on the partner for not just technology, but also strategy. For decades, channel partners have aspired to achieve “trusted adviser” relationships with their customers. The concept is so ingrained that it is nearly impossible to separate the notion of “trusted adviser” from the broader sense.
For the “meaningful customer partner” or “super consultant,” the nature of the sales relationship will be a critical determinant of channel success. When all channel partners call themselves “advisers,” there will be no differentiation left across partners — so focus on being a meaningful customer partner delivering customer success.
Becoming a “meaningful customer partner” demands that channel members change their approach to structuring customer contracts, to measuring progress on agreements, and to billing for services — in essence, moving from a tactical approach tied to “solving a customer problem” to a more strategic focus on “delivering customer success.”
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