Channel Partners

SPR 2015

For 25 years, Channel Partners has been a resource for indirect sales channels, such as agents, VARs and dealers, that provide network-based communications and computing services, associated CPE and applications, and managed and professional services

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10 CHANNEL PARTNERS SPRING 2015 FEATURE Jo Peterson, vice president for converged cloud and data services at Clarify360. "We may start with the financial health of the provider, but also look extensively at its technology, portfolio, SLAs, contract flexibility, orchestration/governance, connectivity options, end-user ease of use and just plain channel friendliness," she said. As part of the vetting process, you should decide to look for cloud offerings that can integrate with a client's Active Directory environment so that access and authentication don't involve a separate system for IT app managers and separate authen - tication systems for users. Stand-alone authentica- tion and access control are fine when you have one or two SaaS apps in use, and completely unmanageable when you have 10 or more — which is increasingly becoming the case. Active Directory is the Swiss Army knife of authentication and access control, and when SaaS apps integrate well with it, user administration is greatly simplified. Sooner or Later, Integration Is a Must The ability to integrate cloud apps with existing on-premises applications is another sticking point. No app is an island, and eventually SaaS application users will want data from one application to flow into another. If, for example, your clients decide to go with a cloud-based time and attendance system, as many do, the last thing you want is for that system to be incompatible with a cloud-based payroll system. It's an unfortunately common scenario. Generally the providers of SaaS apps have been far less interested in integrating with other applications than they have been in improving usability or adding new features to their apps. This isn't a new phenomenon; on-premises software vendors for years have favored features over fixing performance issues. The SaaS providers know that features win sales, often from line-of-business executives with their own shadow IT teams. These teams have domain expertise, but they may not be qualified to properly vet the apps their bosses choose. The answer has always been to use connector software often written by a third party — or in some large organizations the connectors are written in-house. In the cloud world, these connectors can also run in the cloud. One example is MuleSoft's CloudHub, and there are many others — including, increasingly, some written by the larger SaaS providers themselves. Understanding how to integrate SaaS apps with connectors is an excellent way for partners to serve their customers. That may sound like a big endeavor. After all, unless you intend to be a soft - ware developer, the last thing you want to do is get into software development. Luckily the connector market is relatively mature, and unless your customer is using some mighty obscure software, chances are someone somewhere has already cracked this integration nut and a connector is available. If you're lucky enough to get to your customer before they start choosing SaaS vendors, integration and connector availability should be part of the vetting process you do. It won't be uncommon for businesses to get themselves into a bind with difficult to integrate SaaS apps. There will be a healthy business to be had in untying those knots. Many of these integrations will be familiar to channel partners — they may call for data integration into call center applications or possibly call routing systems. Many SaaS apps are pretty focused in their function, and the only way they can get away with that in business is to well support integration points, usually through REST-based APIs that connector writers can capitalize on. Getting on the Growth Curve The double-digit growth of the cloud market in general and the SaaS industry in particular makes the cloud attractive. By vetting cloud providers, simplifying SaaS app management and helping customers to integrate the SaaS products they choose, partners can put themselves on the leading edge of that growth curve. Clients will implement these applications just once (with your help); meanwhile, you'll have done it dozens of times. It's the same fundamental value you're used to providing, but in an area where growth will continue probably for more than a decade. It doesn't get much better than that. Art Wittmann is content director of Channel Partners. @artwittmann linkedin.com/in/artwittmann Need tips on selling systems and services to professionals outside IT? In the session, "Shadow IT: Capitalizing on Tech Spending by Line-of- Business Buyers," Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes, leads an exchange of tips and tricks for speaking in your customers' language. MONDAY, MARCH 16, 11:45 A.M.–12:30 P.M. +

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