As the world of IT solutions continues to evolve, one important point of consideration for partners is understanding how they deliver their products, what’s changing about it and how to position themselves with customers as a result.
Increasingly, products are being delivered as services. Services require a very different way of looking at the business model and demand a different structure over the long term.
There has been much written about crossing the chasm to a world where the majority of your revenue is recurring. Depending on how partners structure what they sell, it may or may not require capitalization of the hardware and software.
Regardless of whether a solution provider decides to offer its own data center services or resell someone else’s, it should be thinking about its place in the sales and service channel hierarchy.
The most successful partners of the future will be those that aspire to become a Strategic Service Provider, who sit atop the pyramid. What do we mean by SSP?
As we evolve more toward consuming computing as a service, the needs of end-user organizations don’t change. For customers it’s still about getting to a business outcome, whether that comes via on-premise infrastructure, cloud services or a hybrid doesn’t matter.
But what does matter is partners have a unique opportunity to pull together the right combination of services and deliver a strategic service-based solution from which the customer can grow its business.
It’s a fact that in today’s environment it is possible to run a business 100 percent on cloud-based infrastructure and have no servers or all the other infrastructure generally associated with a network in the building.
Here at The Channel Company we have done just that and, frankly, we could not have done so without a Strategic Service Provider. In our case it was GreenPages/Logics One of Kittery, Maine, but there are many partners that have or are building these capabilities.
In our case the project was also time-sensitive because there was a leveraged management buyout of the company from the former owner two years ago and we had to build out our own infrastructure and separate within six months.
The directive to the SSP was first to meet the deadline. But we also instructed them that we preferred an all-cloud solution but would consider on-premise or hybrid. We said we had no allegiance to any supplier. We essentially said, ‘You have a blank canvas, so have at it.’
But the job meant our SSP was tasked with finding the right Communication Service Provider to provide bandwidth, as well as a backup provider. It was their job to recommend the proper Application Service Providers to deliver productivity and other applications. Let’s not forget the need to bring a Platform Service Provider to provide the servers and backup that our infrastructure would run on. And, of course, the list went on because we were a midsize business that needed it all, including a phone system all the way to basic infrastructure, security, backup, office productivity apps, etc.
When it was all rolled out, tested and implemented what we bought was a solution-as-a-service that allows us to easily scale up and down with a cost-effective infrastructure that does not need to be depreciated.
In the end Strategic Service Providers sell a solution-as-a-service that in my mind is stickier than an on-premise solution. They provide third-party guidance and support that can’t be bought elsewhere and which makes them more important to the customer.
They provide a product that keeps them engaged with the customer and allows for continued interaction and strategic discussion about the business outcomes needed.
It’s a better model than I’ve seen in my 30 years following high-tech and the channel, and while it’s not pervasive, it is obtainable for those solution providers that are thinking longer term.