By Jefferey Ponts
As co-founder of a master agency and the president of the Technology Channel Association (TCA) my position gives me the privilege to speak to a lot of telecom agents, VARs, MSPs, and systems integrators. I ask the kind of questions that allow me to understand and support channel partners in their quest to stay relevant and grow their businesses.
The cloud is the most disruptive delivery methodology of business technology services I’ve seen in my career. It is morphing our industry and individual businesses quickly, and can be measured in months not years.
My big and a bit rude question to you — is your head in the sand? I ask that because approximately 50 percent of my conversations over the past six months prove this theory. When I ask channel partners what their customers channel strategy is, many of them state their customers are not asking questions about the cloud. Is this an indictment of the customer’s lack of knowledge or the fact that the channel partner is not prepared to ask the right business solution questions? If the customer does not see the channel partner as relevant and ready to help them grow, they will not ask the questions and the channel partner will be replaced.
We know that 75-80 percent of all IT spends are influenced by a VAR/MSP/SI. We have also been told by the leading consultants who have spent significant amounts on analyzing data that up to 50 percent of you will not survive the transition. If you get excited about these statistics your odds of not just surviving, but thriving are good.
The traditional telecom agent can now sell bundled cloud IT services that previously were not available to them. The bar of entry is moving toward the service level, not the technical. The good cloud infrastructure companies are hiring armies of sales engineers to support the telecom agent whose strengths have typically been on the sales side of the equation.
In transforming to the cloud you need to ask yourself the tough questions:
- How will I prepare my company to go from good to great with new technology delivery platforms?
- How will I vet cloud service providers?
- Do I hire expertise or partner with a software development house that specializes in integration? Systems integration is different than software integration.
- Do the legacy products I sell have open API architecture, or do I need to jettison current product lines for new?
- What investment will it take to modernize my business?
- Can I develop my current staff or do I need hire new staff with relevant experience?
This is a daunting process for most of us that started our businesses many years ago. When was the last time you wrote a business plan? When was the last time you tracked the results of that plan? Some of us can be proud of the answers to these questions, but many of us just went into panic mode.
The good news is that the resources are easy to find. Your current carriers, vendors and master agents have invested significantly on training and tools that are seldom attended or used — get engaged. Channel Partners has a significant content library. The TCA has continued its business development series, with this month’s webinar being focused on customer retention.
There are consultants that can help you evaluate the value of your current business. Find one that can help you analyze what the value would be with a cloud model, and without. I think you already know the answer. TCA is poised to support your growth. If you are not a member, join. It’s free and may be the best decision you make in 2014.
Jeffery Ponts, president of TCA, is COO/executive vice president of Datatel Solutions, a master agency and cloud integrator he co-founded in early 2003. He has more than 20 years of telecom experience covering LEC, CLEC, and integration/software with the vast majority of his experience in channel sales and operational management. He is a previous member of the Channel Partners Advisory Board and currently co-chair of the Telecom Advisory Council for CompTIA.
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