Bimodal IT isn't a long-term strategy. Here's the million-dollar question to help customers get agile.

September 6, 2017

5 Min Read
Million dollars - check amount


Derek Siler

By Derek Siler, Director, Solution Engineering, Channels Organization, Sungard Availability Services 

Across industries, the majority of companies want to take a cloud-first strategy when launching new applications — and the investment in IT is following. Gartner predicts the worldwide public cloud services market will total $246.8 billion in 2017, up 18 percent from 2016. And 74 percent of tech CFOs believe cloud technology will have the most measurable impact on their businesses this year.

But what about customers that have legacy applications that can’t be decommissioned and can’t move to the cloud? They’re operating with a mix of on-premises servers and cloud capabilities. Gartner has dubbed this hybrid environment “Bimodal IT,” and it’s incredibly common. The stable, legacy applications of Mode 1 environments often involve mission-critical operations, are largely housed on-premises and represent capital expenditures (CapEx) for the business. The born-in-the-cloud applications of Mode 2, meanwhile, are much more agile than Mode 1 applications, and they represent operational expenditures (OpEx).

While businesses are moving toward cloud-native Mode 2 applications for speed and agility, the shift naturally results in a redirection of spending from CapEx to OpEx. But if you don’t understand the role of both modes and how they play together in your customers’ digital journeys, you could be saddling your clients with the wrong solutions while hurting your own business by leaving money on the table.

The problem is, we need to dig deeper into what customers need, not just what we want to sell.

Everyone has biases in how they approach a sale. Master agents, for example, are all about selling network services into Mode 2 opportunities, while value-added resellers (VARs) typically focus on selling storage, server and virtualization systems to support Mode 1 applications. Each plays to its own strengths, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this penchant for one side of IT over another means that neither master agents nor VARs are capturing the full opportunity a prospective client presents. Customers’ systems can be much more complex than they let on, and if you’re asking leading questions to favor your bias, you may not get the full story.

You can dig deeper in every conversation, however, by asking a few key questions. As you’re learning background on a customer’s environment, slip in this: “How much have you been able to migrate to the cloud?” The average organization will tell you about 20-30 percent.

Then, follow up with the million-dollar question: “What’s preventing you from moving all your applications to the cloud?”

Maybe the barrier is security, or the organization doesn’t want to be in a multi-tenant environment, or the applications can’t be virtualized. Regardless, the right partner can help them tackle these objections and move their IT into …

… an OpEx cloud configuration.

Security, Speed, Spend: Knocking Down Cloud Objections: Survey after survey show that when customers resist cloud, they cite three factors. How do you respond? Join us later this month to get data and talking points to address all three objections and win over even the most stubborn cloud holdouts; use “CP20” to get 20% off! Check out our speaker lineup!

Business problems don’t stop at the edge of a particular application environment, and the million-dollar question puts the focus on the bigger picture. Taking a broader view of the client’s business strategy can identify a much larger issue, like the desire to undertake digital transformation and move away from running its own data centers. One recent partner-led deal, for example, started off focusing on a small problem, but the client ultimately ended up migrating its entire SAP landscape to an application-specific cloud.

Once you ask the million-dollar question, productive conversations will start. You’ll learn a great deal with this ice-breaker, but there’s much more you can do to uncover every opportunity. Try these strategies:

  • Peek into all corners of the client’s environment. The near-term project may only involve moving applications on traditional x86 systems. But look for opportunities like open-source systems or mainframes, and ask how the organization is addressing those other environments. Does it have similar plans around digital transformation for those environments as well? The answer is often yes.

  • Be patient. Avoid the temptation to look at these conversations as merely transactions. Bimodal IT engagements generally have a much longer sales cycle that can range anywhere from a few months to a year. However, there are opportunities to address smaller issues incrementally as you’re working toward the bigger goals. Committing to your client will pay off.

  • Pick the right partner. Bimodal IT environments are naturally complex, so it’s important to choose a service provider that can navigate your organizational needs and bridge those two worlds. The focus is often on public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure for the Mode 2 applications and on-premises private clouds for Mode 1 applications. But there’s a wide range of other options out there, such as application-specific clouds and hosted private clouds, which can help businesses transform their CapEx investments in Mode 1 applications into OpEx. The right service provider will be skilled in all of these areas.

  • Treat your service provider as a true partner. Channel companies can be protective of their customer relationships; it’s the nature of the business. They want to keep third parties at an appropriate distance from the sales engagement. However, keep the provider too far removed from the customer and you could miss out on some important insights from their perspective. Don’t stifle the relationship — keep the lines of communication open, and engage your service provider early. Their expertise can help uncover potential opportunities for both of you.

  • Tackle their biggest roadblock: fear of change. Even after asking the million-dollar question and getting the thousand-foot view for your client, you may still encounter hesitation. Their minds may entertain a move to the cloud, but their budgets or fear of losing data may still hold them back. Guiding customers step-by-step and truly understanding their bimodal IT environments may take more time and research, but for the customer, it can make the process less daunting.

Demonstrate that you can work within their current constraints and that you have the dexterity to operate in Mode 1 and Mode 2 without pushing them one way or the other. They’ll see you as a knowledgeable and reliable partner with their long-term goals in mind, and that’s the clearest path to better business.

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