Intelisys Shares 3-Part Cloud Strategy at Channel Connect

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Intelisys laid out its three-part cloud services strategy for 150 supplier executives at Channel Connect 2012, the master agency’s partner meeting in San Francisco earlier this month.Intelisys' Andrew Pryfogle speaking at Channel Connect 2012

Intelisys’ chief cloud strategist, Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president and general manager of cloud services and complex bids, shared its road map with Channel Partners following the event. The plan, built on the foundation Pryfogle started with the Cloud Services Coalition, which was acquired by Intelisys in May 2012, includes three parts:

1. Assemble a “world-class” portfolio of cloud providers that are vetted for not only technological and operational excellence but business and financial viability as well. Pryfogle said there are a number of cloud providers that are “not ready for prime time” because their companies are not well funded or their services poorly executed.  The Intelisys Cloud Services portfolio includes companies such as Evolve IP, inContact, Jive, Matrix, ServerCentral, ShoreTel Sky, SimpleSignal and Thinking Phone Networks, which were recognized as Platinum Suppliers at Channel Connect.

2.  Provide partners with cloud services education through the Cloud Services University, which was announced this summer and so far has trained 450 sales partners, including 100 who attended a pre-event workshop at Channel Connect. Pryfogle said the emphasis with CSU is how to start the cloud sales conversation and to get past the fear, uncertainty and doubt.

3. Deliver high-touch sales support to partners by “selling for” before “selling with” before “selling through.” Pryfogle said this graduated approach enables partners to learn as they go and not have to be cloud experts on day one. Additionally, he said cloud sales overlay support presently is provided to partners without a commission hit that’s common with core services because the company is confident its agents are eager to be self-sufficient in cloud services.

Admittedly, Intelisys’ three-pronged plan on its face is not complex, but its execution most certainly is, requiring not only long-term commitment but investment. Part one, for example, requires a deep bench of expertise and study to merely identify the best-of-breed providers, not to mention the time and effort to validate their offers, processes and financials as well as negotiate favorable agent agreements — a major stumbling block for new-to-cloud agents to overcome on their own. Similarly, the other parts rely on experience and expertise that remain rare and in demand in the marketplace. The company’s acquisition of CSC is a high-profile example of that investment to gain cloud resources.

“Rather than rush to sign up a bunch of cloud providers, [Intelisys President Jay Bradley] and team had the vision to engage with the Cloud Services Coalition first, knowing that they had already vetted the true players in cloud computing and cloud communications,” said Scott Kinka, CTO for cloud provider Evolve IP,  who attended the Channel Connect briefing. “It enabled Intelisys to get to market quickly in support of their sales partners, but to do so without the typical bruises associated with signing up unproven suppliers or banking on new product lines from carriers.”

In addition to vetted suppliers, Intelisys has a team of about 10 people — a mix of integrators, pre-sales engineers and project managers — that are supporting the cloud effort. About half of these cloud experts came from the CSC acquisition and the others were culled from the Intelisys ranks, Pryfogle said, noting that the master agency is planning to grow the team as demand increases over time.

“Intelisys has clearly made a substantial long-term investment into this space for their partners, which is why they are always viewed as a industry leader,” said J.R. Cook, vice president of alternate channels for EarthLink Business, one of the Intelisys suppliers present at the Channel Connect briefing. “What makes this unique from some is that they are not waiting on their carrier partners to make the investment on supporting the evolution to the cloud; they are making the investment. This allows their partners to focus on what they do best, building relationships and hunting for more opportunities, knowing that Intelisys has the resources to qualify the opportunities and design the right solution for their customers.”

Gary Keswick, founder and president for CM Group, an Intelisys subagent since 2001, told Channel Partners embracing the cloud is a bit like “drinking from the fire hose.” His No. 1 challenge in selling cloud has been understanding cloud in general, the differences between cloud providers specifically and how they fit with his clients’ cloud strategies.  He said Intelisys’ Cloud Sales Workshops have helped in this regard. “Each session is specific to a silo within the context of cloud services, so it becomes a deep-dive learning opportunity and includes several providers in the ICS  portfolio that share their specific services or sweet spot and how they differ in comparison to other similar cloud providers,” he said.

In addition, Keswick said accessing Intelisys’ pre-screened provider pool is a  “time saver” for his agency, and, while there have been some “bumps in the process,” he is pleased with Intelisys’ sales assistance. “We have had success with providers in the portfolio and are actively working  opportunities that cross over several of the cloud silos,” he said.

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