Channel Partners

FAL 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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> COLUMN <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< New Role: Trusted Business Adviser On the flip side, I accept some skepti- cism. Every guy who's ever thrown an industry event tells you that right now is the inflection point for the event's theme. So let me take this opportunity to convince you that the cloud does indeed mean business, in a way it didn't even just year ago. First of all, I don't blame skeptics who want to take a hockey stick to anyone saying, "The cloud is it — forget everything else!" The cloud is not everything, and won't be for at least a decade. Forrester pegs the worldwide cloud market at under $200 billion versus more than $2 trillion in overall IT spend. While $200 billion is nothing to sneeze at, it's clear we're closer to the beginning of cloud domi- nance than the end. Still, in the same way that I'd like to sell electric cars even though they're a small fraction of the market, I'd also be happy to have a portfolio of cloud services. The space will yield annual double-digit growth for as far as I'd care to predict. My point is that if we think only about replacing existing services, cloud wouldn't be all that important. That's not the case. Particularly critical to the Channel Partners audience is the fact that voice is one of those functions that gets tossed into the mashup of cloud services. I took a look at my own daily office experience: About 40 percent of my voice interactions are through Skype for business, another 40 percent are through an Avaya soft- phone, and the rest are on my cell. I have no dedicated office phone. Voice is just one more form of data that flows into my office. While the death of the office phone may be a few years out for the general business worker, that isn't the point. The point is that communications of all forms (from voice and video to text and email) are happening in the context of applica- tions, and the applications that get those integrated services first are cloud-based. In some cases, the only applications to get an integrated communication function will be cloud-based. From the vendor and partner point of view, the gold rush is on. The question no longer is if customers will adopt more cloud services. It's when. From tactical functions, like tracking time and atten- dance, to IT services like DR, to produc- tivity tools like virtual desktops, to fielding applications that are core to the company business, there's something for everyone. For years, we've referred to channel resellers as "trusted technology advisers." As cloud services begin to take center stage, trusted technology advisers will be wise to transform themselves into trusted business advisers. The conversa- tion doesn't start with "How many seats do you have?" or "Which features do you need?" It starts with "What's your plan for growth?" The good news is that channel partners who are used to selling services are in a great position. That doesn't mean that selling cloud is trivial, but while others learn the intricacies of services sales, you're on to learning the ins and outs of being a trusted business adviser. And that's why, on more than one level, the cloud means business. See you in Boston. Art Wittmann is vice president of the Business Technology Network for Informa Exhibitions. @artwittmann 'The cloud means business' is the tagline for our fall cloud partners show. Wait, what? You already know that cloud means business? Here's my bet: On some level you don't agree that cloud means business right now, even if you do accept that it will, eventually. Some day. FINAL THOUGHTS BY ART WITTMANN But if your curmudgeon force is strong and you want to forego cloud and hold on to the traditional IT and telecom market, growth there will be closer to 4 percent or so for the next few years. Enjoy it. IMPROVE, DON'T REPLACE So why is now the time to get serious? One sign to look for when attempting to spot a new-technology tipping point is a leapfrog over the simple replacement of last-gen technologies. So, for instance, if you thought about replacing an on-premises CRM system with Salesforce, a previous driving factor might have been access for a distributed sales team. But now, Salesforce is much more than just an account tracker. It'll integrate with email to incorporate correspondence, it'll manage outreach campaigns, it can act as discussion hub and a lot more — from any device. Adding functionality is quick and easy. In short, it does more with less muss and fuss. Customers love that. There are plenty of other examples, from DRaaS to marketing automation. 26 CHANNEL PARTNERS FALL 2015

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