‘Delivering the Higher Cloud’ was the topic of the 2014 Cloud Partners Conference, hosted by Informa Exhibitions, LLC and what has become the smaller, but more cloud-focused semi-annual trade show vs. the larger telecom focused Channel Partners Conference held in Las Vegas each Winter. In Delivering the Higher Cloud, the content and sessions were geared toward enabling partners to elevate themselves and their business to achieve the promise of Cloud Computing. Not surprisingly, the number of suppliers continues to escalate as they compete for these Channel Partners’ mindshare, realizing that mastering the engagement model can result in incredible efficiencies in the sales go to market of any Services Provider. In total, more than 2,500 telecom and Cloud providers like NaviSite/Time Warner Cable Business Class, and others focused exclusively in the telephony/hosted telephony space, and sales organizations attended the four-day show.
Keynotes from HP’s Sue Barsamian and IBM’s Laurie Saft highlighted the increased presence of traditional OEM manufacturers in the evolving Channel Partner (Agency) community. In an interesting session on Wednesday, Some of the largest Master Agents in AVANT Communications and WTG shared the stage with more ‘traditional’ distributors like Arrow, Tech Data, and Ingram Micro to discuss the future of distribution as it relates to the Cloud Market. This particular forum provided a very meaningful example of how disrupted the entire distribution chain is relative to the cloud market, with distributors, sellers, and cloud providers all working towards mastering the formula for effectively maximizing reach and maintaining value, margins, and the customer experience. Ian Kieninger, CEO of AVANT Communications, noted his company as a ‘born in the cloud distributor’ – a reference to their ability to move with flexibility and speed into this new space of cloud distribution. Intelisys, one of the largest Master Agents, ran a series of panels for their ‘Cloud University’ aimed at the continual education of their agent base on the emerging cloud technologies and best practices on how to partner with Service Providers in delivering these solutions.
So…what did we take away from this? Well, a few things:
- The cloud market is wide open. The buying channels are all morphing and evolving. Definitions, buying options, and information is everywhere and anywhere, and often without the consistency and precedent of legacy technologies. This makes the trusted advisor and channel partner community even more important.
- The Technology itself is not the value. Only the savviest of customers are shopping specifically for a set of specs with a defined migration plan already in hand….the rest of the community will need a clear roadmap that speaks to risk mitigation of migrations/moves, security, performance, and some kind of ROI that proves they can save money in the move to the cloud. The ability to map customer business problems to a solution is as critical as ever in cloud sales – the cloud technology alone is not enough to win.
- Partners ARE having the conversations with their customers! This is great! Early engagement with your customers is key in the cloud sales process. Demos and POCs are often available from Service Providers (NaviSite will readily provide POCs for cloud and DaaS services) - and the ‘try and buy’ options are a soft way to experience cloud without heavy commitments.
- Use Cases are critical to advance adoption. Similar to #2 – a great description of the cloud technology is not enough – the channel needs to hear how a business (or vertical industry) solves its business problem through adopting cloud services – and not just the one paragraph version with 4 bullet points and problem solved…a glossy overview is fine, but only if followed by the details.
At NaviSite – we will continue to invest in our channel partners with education, tools, and our people’s time and energy. We are not confused…we know the channel will take us places we cannot get in our own, and our investment in our sellers is core to our future success. Our hats off to the Cloud Partners conference team for a great event, and for hosting it in the truly unique city of New Orleans. See you all in Vegas in March of ’15.
Image: Channel leaders discuss the future of distribution in the cloud