Friday, September 14, 2012
Going with the flow isn’t a strategy, and it certainly isn’t a route that business owners should take. But the path of least resistance is often thrust upon solution providers, especially when their clients and prospects are the ones making the decisions. Satisfying clients while doing what’s in their own best interests is a delicate balancing act. With cloud services, that’s a common dilemma.
Without a carefully crafted, well-validated strategy, solution providers may find themselves pulled into offering cloud solutions and forced to improvise their policies and service portfolios. Unfortunately, that scenario plays out often, with clients forcing providers to move into new technologies and services more rapidly than they’re accustomed to. While most VARs and MSPs can overcome having little time to perform due diligence and careful planning, it’s not a situation they relish or wish to repeat regularly.
For solution providers who have been hesitant to adopt or at least address the latest technologies, time isn’t on your side. With escalating compliance and security concerns in the business community, as well as rapid advancements in IT, successful VARs and MSPs are revising their strategic plans more frequently than ever, addressing the critical challenges and opportunities these changes represent.
“There are still many solution providers sitting on the sidelines or who have not made clear decisions about how their businesses are going to participate in the cloud,” said John Rice
, chair of the CompTIA Cloud/SaaS Community and senior director of the Partner Community at Intermedia
. “A lot of VARs and MSPs are dealing with it in a reactionary way, responding to client demand when it occurs, but with no clear business strategy or real commitment.” A number of channel experts agree, suggesting that solution providers develop a business plan detailing the company’s approach to cloud services, whether they choose to participate or not.
Regardless of a provider’s philosophy on virtual solutions, its clients will either ask about SaaS options and/or be approached by other IT companies that offer them. Whether that competition comes from phone and Internet providers or other VARs and MSPs doesn’t really matter; customer interest will surely grow and those not offering these services must have a plan to deal with the demand.
Will you send good clients elsewhere for cloud solutions, partner with others to provide them or create your own portfolio to address their varied needs? Deciding not to develop a cloud business strategy at this point in time is risky, especially when there are people and programs available to help at minimal or no cost. So where should a solution provider begin?
“Regardless of the approach, business owners need to build out all the elements to support a successful cloud strategy; from sales, support and service to their go-to market approach,” Rice said. “A cloud strategy is no different than deciding to become a managed service provider; it requires fundamental changes in the business model.” That transformation will likely affect the sales, marketing and logistics elements of the organization, as well as the financial aspects of the company as it shifts to or relies more on a recurring revenue model. That’s why partnering with a cloud services vendor or distribution partner can be helpful, offsetting some of the infrastructure and startup costs that can tax a new provider’s operations.
Those are just a few issues addressed by the CompTIA Cloud/SaaS Community, which has developed a number of practice-building tools and educational programs to help new and existing IT businesses thrive in this new competitive environment. The group encourages a proactive approach, and offers research and evaluation resources to properly prepare companies that are just getting started in these technologies, as well as those who just want to up their game.
The community and its many experienced members can help you formulate a cloud strategy that avoids stormy skies. Drop staff leader Katherine Hunt
an email to inquire about joining the discussion or to learn more about the group’s valuable resources.Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.