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May 15, 20120 Comments
By Michael Sotnick

Here’s one thing I am sure of: There’s never been a better time to be in the channel. That said, there’s never been a worse time to be in the channel, either. Why is this true? Dramatic changes in the computing paradigm are creating unprecedented, new business opportunities, especially for channel partners with both the motivation and foresight to embrace new service delivery models. Now more than ever, savvy partners can take a leadership role in guiding their customers through complex initiatives like Unified Communications (UC), BYOD, Big Data and the cloud. And moreover, for those channel organizations that maintain the status quo regarding the on-premises business model, it may be their last mistake.

Amid major industry shifts, partners need to be bold or go home. There’s no question that innovators will be early adopters of new customer engagement models that accelerate the delivery of solutions and services encompassing cloud and SaaS-based offerings. Their reward will be new, sustainable revenue streams and reinforced customer relationships. For those that are slow to move, I don’t need to tell you what will happen to the laggards — they’ll become the poster children for channel disintermediation.

As Khali Henderson wrote in her April post, “The Myth of the Channel-Less Cloud,” migrating to the cloud is no easy task, so there’s plenty of room for VARs and IT integrators to participate in the process with a variety of compelling solutions and services. Of course, to lead this endeavor requires progressive thinking, specialized skill sets, and new ways to solve customer problems and drive the time-to-value continuum from all technology investments.

For some channel partners, capitalizing on these major industry shifts requires rebuilding their business and financial models. Others are making gradual shifts to introduce service provider models as a means for staying on top of shifting customer requirements. Still others are joining forces with managed service providers to support mixed services delivery. And yet another option calls for increased partner-to-partner collaboration that blends front-end solutions with emerging services.

In all cases, partners need to continually retrench from a sales standpoint to ensure they’re helping customers solve their toughest problems, whether it’s migrating to the cloud, mastering a worldwide UC deployment or empowering a mobile workforce. The payoff is the opportunity to help customers expedite the adoption and management of potentially game-changing technologies that will empower users and strengthen their competitive edge.

This takes vision, commitment and a real desire to go well beyond business as usual. Taking the plunge into uncharted waters forces a move out of your comfort zone to offer new and often adjacent technologies and solutions. Here are some examples:

  • Deerwood Technologies, a Minnesota-based integrator, offers managed services, technology deployment and consulting/planning, all in response to a changing communications field. Jason Przymus, vice president of business development at Deerwood Technologies, said the proliferation of mobile devices and dynamic user workspaces has fueled signficant business growth.
  • Likewise, Herb Hogue, vice president of data-center and professional services for En Pointe Technologies, a Los Angeles-based IT solutions and services provider, said his company’s ability to double business each year for the past three years was driven by delivering custom software solutions, as well as professional services, and private, public, and hybrid cloud platforms.
  • To support its evolution as a diverisified solutions provider, TechXtend, a software, systems and services reseller in Shrewbury, N.J., realigned its business focus on virtualization and cloud computing, storage and data management, mobile device management, and business intelligence and information management.

All partners can take a lesson from organizations such as these. They have reinvested in their businesses and shifted their operational models to add more value and respond faster to customer requirements – the true litmus test for success in any channel-driven enterprise.

And like them, you should realize that the time is now. The winning combination likely will comprise a blend of “build,” “buy” and “partner” strategies to speed delivery of on-demand technologies. In fact, a recent online survey conducted by Forrester Research indicates that many partners already are hybrid organizations. According to the Forrester/Outsourced Channel Executives Q3 2010 Global Channel Partners Cloud Business Models’ Online Survey only 15 percent of partners surveyed actually self-identified as MSPs, while 52 percent of those same partners reported that they have a managed services business today.

If you’re still reading – you get it. Maintain the courage and conviction to embrace new service delivery models and then seize the opportunity to take it still further by capitalizing on the untapped potential of the industry’s hottest trends – cloud, BYOD, UC, Desktop-as-a-Service and user workspace management.

The pacesetters staking their claims to new solutions and business models will be proof positive that there has never been a better time to be in the channel.

Michael Sotnick is vice president of worldwide channels and alliances at Quest Software, which focuses on cloud, access management, performance monitoring and other areas within IT.