As a cloud customer I’ve been analyzing what my business needs from its channel partners. It used to be so simple — we had offices in Denver and London, each with servers, and we had a number of staff most of whom traveled. Our conversations with our channel partners were simple — we have information we need to access, we have X number of devices we need to connect and we have to make sure this information is accessible from anywhere in the world 24/7/365. We needed a plumber — someone that could connect everything and make sure it worked.
As the business owner, I never had a conversation with our channel partners about my business; indeed I rarely met with them — after all, it was a bit like I was speaking English and they were speaking French. So our techies worked with their techies and tried to translate what was going on into a business language I could understand.
Then we moved to the cloud with Rackspace. Our servers were no longer needed, our internal technical staff was no longer required, and I was left to deal with our channel partners who could neither speak my language nor provide me with what I needed.
So what was the problem? Fundamentally, I no longer needed any plumbing — a couple of pipes, yes, but sophisticated plumbing, no. My existing partners wanted to host our business, but I was not going to put our most precious asset — our data — in the hands of a company with only a dozen people; I wanted Fort Knox. So, we turned to Rackspace.
I also wanted a different conversation. I wanted to talk with a channel partner who would understand my business, my business goals and how I made money. I’m not in the bits and bytes market any longer; I’m looking for business advice, someone who can provide me with suggestions on how to help my business grow.
I looked long and hard and had many conversations that went nowhere. I even had many conversations where I was told the cloud and indeed what I had done in moving to the cloud was wrong or would never work. But it was working, and I don’t think I was wrong.
I knew I found a channel partner who was going to work when he opened the conversation by saying, "So what does Baptie & Co. do and how do you make money?" I was shocked! I answered, he understood my answers and at the end of an hour we hadn’t mentioned technology or products once. We discussed my business goals as well as the "good, bad and ugly" of our business processes and what we needed to do to increase profitability and staff productivity. I'd finally found my partner.
As a result of this new partnership, we’ve been able to implement new systems and improve our efficiency in key business areas. Rackspace still handles the hosting, but we have a longer-term program to gradually introduce new cloud offerings. We also have regular meetings to help define how technology can help meet the strategic goals for the company. Our "golden rule" is that we can talk about business, productivity, profitability and ROI, but not about technology — it’s what makes these business outcomes happen.
Rod Baptie is managing director for Baptie & Co., an information services company organizing business-to-business conferences and communities for the IT and telecom industries, including Channel Focus, Marketing Focus, Net Focus and Cloud Services Community.
Hear more from Rod Baptie in the Cloud Services Community Discussion track at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Feb. 27-March 1, in Las Vegas.