October 15, 2020
By Brett Cooper
The COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainties for virtually every business in every industry. Technology channel partners are no exception. They’ve had to adapt to a new, less personal way of doing business. For example, replacing in-person handshakes with Zoom calls and lunches with UberEats. More than ever, customers are looking to their partners to help navigate these trying times. To do this, channel partner best practices are warranted.
While technology partners’ futures are dependent on a lot of factors outside of their control, there are steps they can take to ride out the pandemic and position themselves to capitalize by solving the most complex challenges their customers face of reducing the risk, cost and complexity of their most important asset – their information. They can do what channel partners do best, that is serve as trusted advisers. Partners become extensions of their customers’ business and help guide customers to a future where technology tools adapt to serve customers’ needs.
Here are a few channel partner best practices to deploy heading into 2021.
Focus on Solutions, Not Infrastructure Upgrades
While this trend has been in play for a while, the pandemic is making solutions development more of a priority. Customers are looking more closely at every expense. For example, they’re prioritizing moves that drive value over investments in newer, more feature-packed infrastructure components. That is leading partners to opportunities to create additional revenue and profit from stacking solutions, including services. The extra due diligence will force partners to structure upgrades as targeted investments aimed at addressing specific business problems.
This plays to channel partners’ strengths. While customers want best-of-breed components, integrations are complicated — and if partners can package total solutions, offering services and best practices, they can do a better job meeting customers’ needs.
Solutions are becoming more critical in deals involving storage technology. For years, buying storage was all about building capacity and performance. Adding more servers means you can house and process more data. Now, with data playing a more indispensable role in digital transformations and having to be always on, companies need more nimble and accessible storage to quickly deliver for applications. Storage solutions are required to integrate into apps like Splunk for heavy-duty analysis that supports informed decision making within an organization. Channel partners that deliver an integrated package — blending together software, network and storage in support of the application stack — can help customers scale their business and solve problems across their IT organizations.
Ride the Consolidation Wave
Data center consolidation will continue to be a huge focus for technology customers in 2020 and well into 2021. This is nothing new. Cloud adoption has accounted for some of the change, with organizations offloading servers and shifting workloads to public, private and hybrid clouds. But it goes beyond that. Customers are looking to manage storage systems more efficiently, both on-premises and in the cloud, and they’re looking for solutions that can streamline their processes.
It’s all about simplifying their business – doing more with less. This applied prior to the pandemic, and now, with companies looking for cost savings, platform consolidation is at the top of their lists.
That means channel partners will need to help customers pursue consolidation strategies. This could spur partners to enable heavier use of containers, virtual machines (VMs) or smart storage systems. The goal is to shrink the number of platforms they need to use and make the platforms easier to manage. Rather than having multiple disparate storage systems, for example, create a …
… dynamic storage infrastructure. This infrastructure is designed to meet their objectives for performance, reliability, cost and scale.
Enable Operational Efficiency and Flexibility
During the pandemic, companies across industries found themselves needing to suddenly be flexible with their IT infrastructures. One week, everybody’s working in the office. The next week, the office has a bare-bones staff, everybody’s working remotely. And, IT has to provision new resources to run the business in an entirely different way.
Expect more of this disruption going forward. The effects may not be as pronounced as they were in the spring of 2020. However, customers will face situations where they need to dial up new resources to deal with new, unforeseen challenges. And then, and then dial them back down when they’re no longer needed, to keep costs from running rampant.
Channel partners will have to embrace this new mode of operational flexibility.
Customers will look to them for guidance, about how to, for example, have access to big pools of on-premises storage but pay for only what they use. Flexible consumption models are optimal as they have resources already deployed within their data centers with the additional capacity and performance they need now and into the future — just-in-time resources. Customers expect data workloads will grow — but how quickly, by how much and in what areas?
To operate efficiently, you need to be able to tap into resources when you need them, know they’ll be there and know you won’t have to pay premium prices to keep them around when they’re not needed. Customers also want the flexibility to dial up and dial back resources without having to make additional capital acquisitions, moving the expense to the operating budget.
Look at it this way: The channel partner’s job is to avoid the so-called “I’m sorry” moments with the customer. This is where you advise a customer to buy a system and the system ends up being way more or way less than what they needs. Then you have to apologize for telling the customer he needs to cut another check. Embracing elastic models, where capacity and costs swell according to needs, is one way to avoid those moments.
Help Customers Avoid Risk
The pandemic has made businesses more pragmatic. Rather than invest in risk-taking initiatives, most are focusing on “de-risking” their operations. That means being strategic while ensuring that they meet the status quo.
Channel partners can help customers think ahead. It will be more important than ever to have them put on their consultants’ hats and get customers to think about what kinds of resources they’ll need well into the future. Getting them into elastic buying arrangements helps, but that’s not always possible. Ask where their business will be in a few years and how they’re going to manage it. Asking the tough questions will help customers make better buying decisions.
Like their customers, channel partners haven’t had it easy during the pandemic. Dedicating themselves to the basics — helping customers streamline operations and avoid risk — will not only help them to respond to short-term challenges but also help position them for success in the future.
Preparing for Future Uncertainties
The future is uncertain, yet by understanding our shared customers’ requirements and delivering proven solutions that integrate not only best-in-class infrastructure but services built through years of working with customers, we will be able to overcome whatever is thrown at us.
Brett Cooper is the CTO – Channels at Infinidat. He has more than 20 years of experience in enterprise storage with leading providers including Veritas, NetApp, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems. Brett is a graduate of Ithaca College and an avid classic BMW car enthusiast. Follow him on LinkedIn or @netcooper10 or @Infinidat on Twitter.
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