Is Cloudy a Good Thing for the Channel?
Several weeks ago, I attended the CompTIA Breakaway conference with roughly 1,000 other channel-focused (or at least interested) folks and, from the buzz I have been hearing, it sounds like everyone involved thought the event was well worth the time and effort they invested. I was lucky enough to take part in a debate during the Cloud Community meeting with some well-known channel veterans, including Dan Wensley, Dan Shapero, Jay McBain, Tony Francisco and Wendy Frank.
The discussion centered on whether the Cloud was beneficial or disruptive to the channel. While we all reached a tenuous middle ground by the end of the debate, several very important points were brought to light which make good mental fodder for everyone in the channel. Here are some (but by no means all) of those observations.
The cloud is driving more attention to channel offerings than anything else in the history of the channel, and MSPs are going to flourish as a result.
The first part is undeniably true; the cloud is receiving an insane amount of hype—and with good reason. Cloud deliverables are changing the way the entire channel talks to end users. It simplifies, clarifies, and in many cases makes the acquisition of new technology easier. Therein lays the trap. If the acquisition of new technology suddenly becomes easy, then why do businesses need to continue working with MSPs? In all actuality, the cloud complicates as much as it simplifies, and the MSP community has to be able to clearly communicate its value proposition when it comes to the cloud. Be prepared to show your clients and prospects just how easy it is to increase productivity with cloud solutions, but be sure to emphasize your role in coordinating and managing a host of different remote solutions. Those activities and responsibilities are every bit as valuable as what you do for them today. The MSP who leads with “the cloud makes everything easier” is asking for a pay cut. The providers who say “with careful management, we can leverage the cloud to make your business even more productive” and then demonstrate how to do it will be in a much better place.
Vendor relationships are critical, more now than ever before.
This is a pretty obvious fact. If you are counting on your cloud vendor to deliver solutions to your customer base, and you have very little access to what is actually going on behind the curtain, you had better have a clear understanding what you can expect from that vendor. That all makes sense, but the devil (as usual) is in the details.
- Do you have a consistent screening process to vet vendors?
- Is your vendor committed to the tiered sales approach (do they sell only through the channel)?
- What are you doing to manage the relationship long-term?
- Do you maintain the relationship with your client from a brand perspective?
It is critically important to control each aspect of vendor evaluation and vendor management, and both require skills that aren’t historically strengths of channel partner organizations. Have some fun with this–call your Intronis sales team and pose these questions. My guess is that the answers will help you set expectations for the rest of your cloud vendors.
The future channel belongs to those bold enough to build their own cloud solutions and integrate them into the broader public and private cloud communities.
I recently spoke with a fairly successful MSP who lost three customers over the last year. The interesting thing about that conversation is that he attributed each client casualty to what he described as “a failure” on the part of his cloud vendors. This MSP is a quality individual who works hard to support his customers. He engages honestly and deeply with his vendors, and knows what to expect from them. He is solid. With that having been said, as a reseller of products, it was fine for him to point the finger at the vendor and say “he did it.” Most of the time, it was true. In the future, with the cloud as the support mechanism and business value as the goal, it will no longer be acceptable for MSPs to point the finger at anyone else. In this new “cloud competitive world, the response needs to be “this is my mistake, and I will make it right.” MSPs and CSPs who step up to the plate prior to any failures and own the responsibility for both their deliverables and their customer relationships are going to clearly demonstrate their value in this new “cloud ecosystem.” That means building redundant solutions, assuming fiscal responsibility for downtime, and fulfilling a host of other responsibilities that today’s channel resellers expect from their vendors.
Sound tough? Maybe, but to quote Channelnomic’s Larry Walsh, “Professionalism has come to the channel, and the wall is getting higher.” If you’re ready to do what it takes to scale that wall, the rewards are likely to be considerable.