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Want to Accelerate Your Cloud Business? Ask Your Distributor

Cloud

Matt Karst

**Editor’s Note: Distributor Report is a recurring column featuring thought leadership from IT and cloud distributors. We’re looking for insights into evolving business models in this new era of distribution, product and technical service offerings, education and training, marketing/branding, credit and a myriad of other services.**

By Matt Karst

Cloud has been a dominating theme for the channel for the last several years — and for good reason. IDC estimates that 70 percent of CIOs embraced a cloud-first strategy in 2016. Even more striking, 95 percent of channel partners surveyed in a new, exclusive Westcon-Comstor 2017 Voice of the Customer survey indicated that at least some of their customers are already exploring cloud.

Clearly there’s opportunity, but what customers want and how they want it continues to change. Increasingly, end users desire full cloud solutions that can reduce costs and make them more agile — and not point products.  The rub, however, is that most solution providers say they don’t have the confidence to deliver full cloud solutions to customers, according to our survey.

The survey elicited 522 respondents, including MSPs, solution providers, systems integrators, telco agents and other channel partners. Only 9 percent believe they are cloud-ready and don’t need help selling cloud. The overwhelming majority, however, recognized gaps in their skillset and that they need help to stay competitive.{ad}

Increasingly, distributors are the go-to partners for cloud enablement and delivery support, according to the study. Almost 80 percent of channel partners said they already buy cloud services through one or more distributors. Why? Because leveraging the right distributor’s services can accelerate your cloud business around backup and recovery, IaaS, SaaS and managed services — as well as provide access to a proven portfolio of cloud solutions from vendors focused on growing their cloud business through partners.

Building a Cloud Business

Many leading distributors have invested millions of dollars in developing innovative cloud tools, marketplaces, programs and complete bundled cloud solutions for channel partners to take to market.

The Voice of the Customer study identified three key solution bundles being sold through the channel, and typically available through distribution: disaster recovery/backup (which includes IaaS and security), office productivity (including email, calendar and security), and unified communications (UCaaS, devices and configuration services). Each bundle appeals to both IT buyers and lines of business (LOB), and across a wide spectrum of vertical markets.

Nearly 60 percent of channel partners are now selling cloud bundles, according to the survey. However, true success is perhaps best measured by a solution provider’s ability to address the specific business or industry needs of their customers. For example, partners capable of selling cloud-based patient recordkeeping or medical billing applications stand to expect more business from health-care clients than those selling horizontal solutions.

How Distributors Can Help

Overall, distributors can serve as your best friend helping you to build your cloud solutions and grow the business. The survey details four steps for solution providers to accelerate their cloud success:

  • Get to Know Your Customers — Nobody knows what your customers’ business challenges are more than your customers. They just don’t know how to solve them. Learning about your customer’s processes, pain points and problems can help you help them become more efficient, productive, and ultimately, more successful. Leverage distributor resources in technology and verticals to gain a better understanding of your clients.
  • Evaluate Your Own Capabilities — Knowing what you can and cannot do could be a critical component of a solution provider’s success. Identify gaps in your coverage to help you create a long-term road map to transform your business. Again, look to distributors for help. Chances are they have programs to help you ramp up business around those shortcomings while you develop those capabilities in-house.
  • Partner to Succeed — Examine the cloud programs and tools offered by distributors, such as enablement programs, bundled solutions, support capabilities, etc. How rapidly can they scale your cloud capabilities? How much analytics and insight can they provide? How automated and integrated are their processes with other parts of the business? Their answers – and your needs – will go a long way toward choosing the right partner.
  • Develop Your Own Solutions — Now that you know your customer, your own strengths and weaknesses, and whom you want to partner with, it’s all about execution. Scale your business by prioritizing investments in the three key bundled solutions mentioned above and by the support of your distributors as you gain the foundation and experience you need to grow the business.

End users’ cloud demand is only going to increase. IDC forecasts that digital transformation will be the heart of Global 2000 enterprise strategies by the end of 2017, and that IT spending on third-platform technologies, solutions and services will increase to more than 50 percent this year and to more than 60 percent by 2020.

Distributors such as Westcon-Comstor and others have the infrastructure, resources and expertise to help you become the cloud provider that your customers are looking for. And, your success is our success.

Matt Karst is senior director, Cloud Practice, at Westcon-Comstor.


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