As the world of IT solutions continues to evolve, one important point of consideration for partners and their suppliers is understanding how they deliver products, what’s changing about it and how to position themselves with customers.
Increasingly, solutions 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 for not only the partner, but for the vendor/supplier as well.
The most successful partners of the future will be those that become strategic service providers (SSPs). An SSP sits atop the pyramid of suppliers be they service or product suppliers. The SSP in turn cobbles together a business-outcome solution in a new way that forms a cloud service.
Vendors need to think about issues unique to this model and reconstruct partner programs that give them an advantage in influencing the SSP to include their product and service into the cloud-delivered solution. As we evolve more toward consuming computing as a service, the needs of the end-user organizations don’t change. For them, it’s still about getting to a business outcome. Whether that comes via on premise infrastructure, cloud services or a hybrid model matters only in the sense of the total cost of ownership and the ability to scale it up or down.
But what is changing 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. The vendor brand is highly likely to get lost in this model so partner relationships will become more important to suppliers as it takes hold.
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 of the other infrastructure generally associated with a network in the building. As such, the sales pitch is different and less focused on the hardware and software brands that made up the solution in the past.
That’s not to say supplier brands won’t be seen or considered by the end user, but SSPs will have even more influence on that selection than in the past.
Suppliers need to take that into consideration and change partner programs accordingly to gain advantage. Financing is a bigger issue and suppliers with deeper pockets than the channel partners they work with can structure programs to work to their advantage here. Partners need cash flow and vendors want their products baked into SSP solutions. So why not finance SSP sales at rates that incent partners to include more of the vendor’s product?
There are other ways to push partners in your direction as well. Through-partner marketing programs are gaining importance because SSPs need more customers in a recurring revenue model to satisfy cash needs than in an on premise sales model.
The sales and delivery model shift is accelerating and vendors really should be examining their partner programs now and adjusting accordingly.
In the end, SSPs 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 which 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.