You don't need to be an expert. You just need to partner well.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

July 29, 2021

5 Min Read
Robotic process automation
Fit Ztudio/Shutterstock

Partners can break open robust cross-selling opportunities by adding robotic process automation (RPA) solutions to their portfolio.

Take Kevin Buckley’s word for it. He serves as a global account manager for the Irvine, California-based VAR Technologent. But as of last year he has added the role “business automation executive” to his profile. Technologent drives approximately 70% of its business through infrastructure sales, and Buckley manages hundreds of accounts that started with an infrastructure conversation. However, Buckley realized he needed to change his approach if he wanted to drive new business.

Although Buckley sells a great deal of infrastructure to existing, he said he was struggling to land new accounts. In many cases, potential customers were already working with partner that sold them products from vendors like Cisco and Dell EMC. Add to that constrained IT budgets, and Buckley wasn’t seeing much room to grow.


Technologent’s Kevin Buckley

That’s where RPA came in.

Buckley found that he could approach a customer from an entirely fresh and convincing angle if he started with robotic process automation. Consider that RPA implementation often occurs at the behest of the a business initiative.

“Robotic process automation is 90-95% of the time a business initiative from the CFO, the controller or the CEO. It is not an IT conversation,” Buckley said.

If you start with the business goal – for example, automating the invoice process – you can find a foothold.

So What’s RPA?

RPA provides a bot that automates keyboard-oriented tasks. The RPA bot fills out forms, sets appointments or performs contact center functions. Buckley said RPA takes over the “error-prone, repetitive, mind-numbing” tasks that unnecessarily consume workers’ time.

“It frees them up from the mundane things and allows them to focus their day either providing better customer service and adding value back to the business,” Buckley said.

It’s worth delineating how AI, RPA and hyper-automation differ. While RPA automates keyboard-oriented functions, artificial intelligence (AI) connects legacy applications to automate business workflow/processes. Hyper-automation combines RPA and AI and adds governance, audit capabilities, security and process automation.

But Buckley said most companies start with basic RPA. They see if automating tasks provides them decent return on investment and go from there. But that’s the problem for most RPA customers. They’ve bought a license from a company like UiPath or Automation Anywhere but don’t know what to do with the license. Buckley said it reminds him of ServiceNow’s early adoption phase 3-4 years. Companies are grabbing licenses but possess neither the expertise nor a plan.

Partners can enter the picture to provide the missing structure.

“[Customers] can’t just do this ad hoc. You have to have an overarching plan to deploy this,” Buckley said.

In addition to providing a plan, partners provide value by helping the buyers identify relevant use cases that will in turn drive executive sponsorship and employee buy-in.

And Buckley said the floodgates open once the C-level sees those use cases. Observing the cost savings RPA provides– at times exceeding eight figures – more than convinces leadership to invest in the technology. Although IT budgets…… run notoriously thin, RPA opens the wallets from other parts of the company.

“When they’re seeing the return, the business side says, ‘Okay, give me some more. Give me some more,’” Buckley said.

Easier Said Than Done, Right?

RPA undoubtedly provides compelling business value that can help partners expand their customer base. But how does a traditional infrastructure VAR, telecom broker or managed IT services provider break into this space?

First, Buckley dove into research. He found an RPA services partner that had been in business for a long time. He took advantage of their education resources and market information. All it required was time and a genuine desire to provide value to customers

“You have to invest the time to educate yourself enough, and you have to have an interest in it. And I was truly interested in this idea,” he said.

Second, Buckley gave himself reasonable expectations. He did not assume responsibility for the granular technological details of RPA or assume direct responsibility for the services.

His job revolved less around technology, and more around bringing people together. He offered a multitude of customer accounts that the the RPA services partner found tantalizing. Buckley was “teeing them up” for a win, so to speak.

“Why would a services partner want to work with me? I’ve got access to hundreds of accounts. We’re an extension of their salesforce, and we can bring them into accounts they’re not in,” he said.

On the other hand, he could bring the partner into his conversation with the customer and answer all of their questions.

“I’m a sales guy. I’m not expected to know everything,” Buckley said. “But I’m expected to know who the right people are to come in and have this conversation.”

A Big Win

Armed with his education and his new partnership, Buckley approached a prospective client. The large, Phoenix-based company’s IT buyers had turned him down on an infrastructure conversation. However, the IT people sent him up the road to the business side to converse about RPA.

Buckley brought his services partner into the meeting as Technologent, and they carried the conversation. Technologent won the deal.

Buckley said partners who want to build an RPA practice should form a partnership with an RPA license provider such as UiPath or Automation Anywhere and build developer relationships with people at those companies. Add to that the services partner we’ve already mentioned, and you’re golden.

“What’s the investment in our part? There really isn’t any investment,” he said.

And are partners adopting RPA as part of their portfolio? Buckley said his impression of the industry indicates that not many traditional partners have gotten into the market. Yes, plenty of pure-play RPA partners exist, but a massive space exist for partners that can cross-sell RPA with infrastructure reselling, IT services or telecom brokerage.

“It augments your practice and enables partners to have conversations they are typically not having today,” Buckley said. “And it is another way into an account without competing with every Cisco VAR in town.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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