Channel Partners

FAL 2016

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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FEATURE mass-adoption stage; partners will have to differentiate their business and offerings to remain competitive," says Wenk. To do that, she suggests offering a unique value-add that can position clients and partners for financial success. Finally, as companies move more of their key applications to the cloud, the need for site-to-site connectivity lessens, says John Hogan, vice president of partner sales and business development at Bigleaf Networks. Hogan advises partners to offer solutions that leverage cost-effective and ubiquitous broadband, and that prioritize and provide failover for cloud-based traffic. "If partners are not proactively bringing WAN design options to the table, not only will they be missing out on tremendous growth potential in the cloud space, their existing base of WAN customers will be soon be at risk," he says, specifically referring to SD-WAN, which plays to Schijns' recommendation to embrace software-defined networking. ➋ EMBRACE THE SERVICE ADVANTAGE "Managed service started a first phase of transformation for the channel by forcing partners to not only lead with products, but all the things that make up service delivery," says Rob Rae, vice president of business development at Datto. With the move to the cloud and IoT, Rae emphasizes that partners will need to let go of the data center build-out. The challenge: replacing decreasing margins on hardware and other one-time sales with recurring revenue streams for digital services, while maintaining a direct relationship with customers. "He or she who owns the data, owns the customer and the profitability from the relationship," says Rae. ConnectWise's Bellini maintains that partners must open cloud service provider practices and charge for managing services, either physical or digital, on a monthly recurring revenue basis. "Customers will pay for making your life easier," he says. It's a nice vision, but Seth Robinson, senior director, technology analysis at CompTIA, points out that digital requires a mindset adjustment. "It's important for channel partners to realize that digital services are not products," says Robinson. "This may seem obvious, but the implications are hard to put into practice. Managed service providers are well along this path, having made changes to the way they sell to clients and build ongoing contracts. Digital services take things even further, and channel firms that have not yet explored managed services will have a lot of ground to cover. " There's also a mindset change to go along with the business transformation. "Understand what solutions look like in a digital services world," he says. "Implementing email is a product-based approach; a full communications solution may involve several cloud-based tools that are integrated into workflow and mobile devices while creating metadata that can be analyzed. All implemented with modern security, of course." ➌ DON'T BE AFRAID TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL "To succeed today, you must be able to talk with purchase decision-makers about productivity tools, security, continuity, collaboration, mobility and much more," says Ken Bisnoff, co-founder and senior vice president, strategic opportunities at TelePacific. "You can't skate by with a surface familiarity with buzzwords and trending topics — you need expert knowledge." Keeping current on how digital services are marketed and sold could make the difference between building a successful practice and falling behind. "It wouldn't hurt to add social media skills — the kind our teenage kids effort- lessly use — to communicate, promote and network effectively," says Bisnoff. PGi channel chief Ralph Hawkins says successful partners are accustomed to being experts in the solutions they offer their clients. That needs to continue, even when it involves moving out of their technology comfort zones. They also need to open their minds to startups and step out of their supplier comfort zones to meet customer needs. "Partners must make a much more concerted effort to keep themselves informed about the software offerings — apps or full-fledged applications — coming from non-traditional compa- nies," says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO at CompTIA. Thibodeaux stresses that democratization and consumerization of IT and cloud-based storage have not only affected hardware, both mobile and desktop. These trends are also dramatically affecting what constitutes a "meaningful player" in software. Channel partners will need to scan the Apple and Google App stores regularly, poll customers' mobile devices for the apps they are using and stay on top of trends by visiting sites like www.getapp. com or www.appsmart.com, for starters. "If you really want to see what's coming down the pipe, make sure TechCrunch is on your feeds list," he says. Finally, learning begins at home, says Jonathan Hartman, vice president of sales at PlanetOne Communications. "With the abundance of consumer- oriented technologies, there has never been a better time to leverage technology at the application level," says Hartman. "Partners can connect mobile devices to their desktops at work, to their home, and even to their personal health data, equipping a channel partner to be more conversational with clients. Embracing digital services on a personal level will help partners communicate key advantages to their customers." Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA, goes a step further. "By developing your own intellectual property, you will move your business forward more independently, create What Isn't? What's a digital service? Search, cloud storage, payment processing, communications (Skype, WhatsApp), social media, entertainment streaming (Netflix, Pandora), web hosting and domain services, photo hosting (SmugMug, Flickr), marketing services (email), education (distance learning), gambling and online gaming, travel booking and application hosting. Just to name a few. CompTIA CEO TODD THIBODEAUX 8 CHANNEL PARTNERS FALL 2016

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