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May 17, 2021
By Christian Alvarez
The pandemic has created a widening gap between the businesses that are falling behind and those that are breaking away from the pack with resilient, future-proofed business models. For the channel, it’s critical to be aligned with this group of industry leaders and innovators, but simply partnering with them isn’t enough. Channel leaders need to ensure their own business models are future-proofed.
Post-COVID, strategic partnerships will be about strategic resilience: what McKinsey defines as an organization’s resistance to disruption. Partnerships have always been a cornerstone of success, but it’s important now to rethink your approach to ensure you are best positioned for resilience in a post-pandemic future.
When it comes to resilience for the channel, it is no longer just about products — it’s about services. Channel leaders who focus on enhancing and expanding their professional services offerings will provide more opportunities for partner growth and customer relationship building, both of which have a direct, positive impact on resilience. Here are key considerations for building up your services offerings to build strategic resilience.
Provide a road map to deploying and maintaining emerging technologies. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it at the start of the pandemic, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” The pandemic accelerated new waves of technology like hybrid cloud architecture, 5G, machine learning, edge computing and more. While this is a good thing for overall innovation, it can be challenging for partners and customers who need to navigate the rapidly changing landscape.
That’s where services come in. Channel leaders should leverage services to support channel partners in embracing the tools that will future-proof not only their customers but also their business model. There is opportunity to consider new avenues of advancing partners’ curriculums and preparing them for the next wave of technology to open up a larger total addressable market. It’s helpful to have an end-to-end blueprint that enables partners to ensure the best possible customer experience for new technology solutions. This might include executive workshops and training with experienced consultants who can walk through every stage of implementation, from deployment to scaling.
Think about how to improve “time to value” for new offerings. Customers don’t just need the latest technologies and solutions — they need technologies and solutions that work right now. Customer demands changed rapidly during the pandemic, and the most successful businesses were able to pivot overnight to offer new solutions. For example, restaurants shifted to contactless pickup and hospitals offered telehealth services, both of which demanded instant IT infrastructure changes.
Channel leaders play an essential role in speeding availability to the end-user. When delivering new offerings, increasing speed is paramount. Channel leaders need to focus on operational efficiencies, reducing quote to cash so that time to revenue and time to value is shortened for partners and their customers. For instance, the process to deploy virtual desktop infrastructure historically took months — but customers now demand deployment in days. Channel leaders can respond to the need for speed by …
… fast-tracking the solutions that help partners respond quickly to urgent needs.
Break into new markets — or reorient service offerings in existing verticals. The pandemic showed us that customer priorities can shift dramatically, opening opportunity in new markets. Many enterprises shifted the focus to health care when COVID-19 hit and started working with partners to reorient offerings to better serve the market. While most health care organizations were prepared for crisis situations that are handled inside the hospital (infectious disease containment, chemical spills, plane crashes, etc.), many were unprepared to enable nonclinical staff to work outside the four walls and needed IT solutions to adapt.
While this past year has been challenging, it has opened opportunities to work with partners like those in the health care space to develop critical solutions for customers today. Given the state of the pandemic, channel leaders shouldn’t discount health care as a continued key priority vertical in 2021 — or any vertical, for that matter. You never know where the next need will be, and the ability to branch out into different markets will make your business more resilient in an unpredictable future.
As subscription-based IT models grow in popularity, adapt your services to focus on long-term relationships. Services will become even more critical for partners’ success as the industry moves toward subscription models. Cisco, Dell, HPE and IBM all made announcements in the past year that they would be pursuing 100% subscription models.
The shift to subscription, and everything-as-a-service, is gaining interest in IT because it’s ultimately about the customer’s desire to make flexible, digital purchases on demand. But it also hugely benefits partners, offering a simplified pricing model, increased visibility and incremental upselling opportunities. Subscription is the future, which means you’ll need to evolve your professional services to build that future.
The industry’s shift to subscription can enable ongoing customer intimacy in the long run — if you leverage services. Partners will need to shift from a project-based view of their engagements to a customer lifetime-value view. By providing enhanced professional services, channel leaders can better nurture the longer-term relationships that come with subscription-based models.
What we’ve learned from the pandemic is that a successful strategic partnership isn’t always about the product. Channel leaders have to think beyond product to create service offerings that encourage innovation, provide agile support and build stronger long-term relationships. In a crisis, what matters quickly becomes clear — and we think it’s resiliency that will win. Through the rest of 2021, our approach with partners must be adaptable and responsive, giving them the competitive edge they need to be resilient far into the post-pandemic future.
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