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As anyone in or around the IT industry over the past five years can attest, the way businesses use, leverage and receive their technology has changed significantly. The cloud and mobile apps have taken over and innovation cycles continue to speed up. Transformation in the channel has become a constant.
That’s why CompTIA continues to change as well. The association that brought vendor-neutral certifications to the industry and developed collaborative, member-lead peer communities to grow channel-specific resources and opportunities is strongly focused on the future.
CompTIA’s new Business Application Advisory Council (BAAC) is another example of that forward-thinking philosophy. Its members come from a wide range of organizations that create, deliver and consume technology, and their mission is critical for the channel’s future and the IT industry as a whole. They are tasked with examining and creating initiatives around the complex and rapidly evolving tech business arena. From specialized business consultants and solution providers to cloud/software companies, agents and online retailers, the BAAC will look closely at the rapidly expanding IT sales environment.
The scope and urgency of that mission became quite clear during the latest CompTIA Annual Member Meeting in Chicago. BAAC leaders took part in an open Q&A panel during the joint council session held on the first day of the event, outlining some of the challenges and opportunities ahead for both the traditional IT and alternate tech channels.
Tech Focus Remains the Same
One key takeaway from the group’s discussion is that customers come first; now more than ever. “The tech industry is transforming and cloud models are changing everything,” said Marc Monday, vice president at Concur, who co-chairs the BAAC. “We now have hybrid, multiple clouds and platforms; lots of different places where date and applications reside. More than ever, our customers are confused and need guidance.” He went on to emphasize the opportunity this presents to tech partners who can remove the complexity and make their clients' disparate systems and processes work well together. The end-goal is to make their businesses more efficient and agile.
The value of close customer connections can’t be emphasized enough. BAAC members emphasized the risks channel partners take when they fail to engage with B2B specialists in other fields and local community groups. Those professionals might just be your current or future competition; with many of those having little or no IT experience as solution providers. Lawyers, accountants and other specialists have been developing their own cloud solutions and apps for years, and many more are becoming industry consultants who recommend key IT systems, vendors and providers.
That’s why channel firms must get specialized, especially in metropolitan areas where professional associations and competition are strong. “We have always followed verticalization,” said Mark Haskelson of the Compliancy Group. “The issue is that educating partners on that model, marketing it and implementing it takes time.”
Tech Opportunities Shift
BAAC vice-chair John Scola of SAP highlighted a few of the issues tech companies experience making these types of transformations. “The economics for a channel partner in the cloud are tremendously different than with on-premise solutions," he said. "They go from huge lump sum payments to smaller amounts, but the cost of customer acquisition remains the same. You absolutely have to bring in tons of leads, manage them better and bring in sales at the perfect time later on to keep costs low and close more deals. That’s a big change for a lot of our partners.”
Panelists also discussed ways SaaS vendors could improve their channel engagement. SaaSMAX CEO Dina Moskowitz suggested that suppliers consider expanding their support and marketing options to meet the broader needs of their rapidly changing partner communities. “We’re actually seeing more growth from born-in-the-cloud companies and line-of-business consultants. A big challenge for those companies is getting more specialized to be the right solution for those in the channel. When you can figure it out and verticalize, there’s a lot of opportunity since those solutions can be taken nationally or even internationally.”
Business technology is a lot more complicated than it used to be and channel firms who want to remain relevant to their customers need to partner better, offer more specialized support and help their clients make better sense of it all. The BAAC is well positioned to help providers, vendors and other companies make that transition much easier.