Creating a Converged Data Center Practice

By John Growdon

The convergence of data center technologies over the past several years is having a significant impact on the way that data center practices are organized and managed in the partner community.

Traditional practices are typically organized and operated around siloed technologies servers, storage, network, virtualization and applications. These siloed practices are supported by account managers and sales engineers that are highly specialized in each of the technology categories. They are effectively vertically integrated organizations that are compensated to maximize revenues and profits for their given technology silo. 

However, as convergence of technologies has taken hold, the lines between the different elements of the data center are rapidly blurring. This blurring of the lines is causing partners to fundamentally reconstruct their data center practices in a fashion that allows them to deliver the benefits of convergence to their customers. In short, the front end of the organization is being rebuilt in a horizontal fashion that has expertise across the technology silos and is compensated to sell using a solutions approach. The backend/delivery portion of the organization, however, often maintains its vertical nature to deliver the solution.

Transitioning your data center practice from a traditional siloed practice to a converged data center practice can be accomplished through a series of role changes, training investments and compensation adjustments. The end goal is to create a horizontal sales and pre-sales engineering layer across the of the existing vertical practices. This should be done in a fashion that does not incrementally add a layer of organization and cost to your data center practice. The converged front end should be created by realigning existing resources into new roles that support the horizontal front end and solution selling. By using this method, you will not incur additional selling expense in your data center practice. The critical roles for the converged front end are as follows:

1. Data Center Practice Lead. You will need to identify a manager that is responsible and compensated for driving converged solutions and services into your customer base.  They are compensated for driving all data center technologies to the customer and have compensation accelerators for driving multiple technologies, solutions and your professional services to these customers.    

2. Unified Data Center Account Manager. The next critical role of the converged front end is the unified data center account manager. These account managers have been generally trained across the multiple siloed technologies. They are trained specifically in articulating the value add of the converged solutions that you offer based on your particular ecosystem relationships. A key ability that the unified account manager must possesses is the ability to bring together and organize a conversation across disparate groups that manage the vertical technologies within your customers. They need to break down the barriers between the groups so that they can realize the benefits of the converged technologies. Fortunately, with the constrained IT budgets across all industries, the disparate groups are looking for ways to reduce costs and are much more open to this conversation. As with the Data Center Practice Lead, the unified data center account manager should be compensated with sales accelerators in the same fashion multiple technologies, solutions and professional services. It is nearly impossible to simply hire a unified data center account manager. This is due to the fact that the exact skills that you will require will be driven by your vendor ecosystem relationships, your customer needs as well as your solution offers. Therefore, you should nominate your best account managers for the silos and invest in training them up to the appropriate level.

3. Data Center Architect. The cornerstone of the converged front end is found in the role of the data center architect. This is a pre-sales engineering role and must be filled with an individual that has the ability to identify customer pain points in their data center and then design solutions that leverage the strengths of the converged technology to solve them. These individuals will specialize in solutions based on your ecosystem relationships and your customer needs. Because of this, the best way to create data center architects is to take senior level pre-sales engineering resources from within your existing organization and train them across the siloed technology buckets. This is a critical investment that you must make. Depending on your customer needs, one data center architect can support from two to eight unified data center account managers. Given their capabilities, the data center architects should be positioned as a billable pre-sales professional services resource that is used to assess your customers data centers.

Reorganizing your traditional siloed data center practice into a unified data center practice with a converged front end is not a simple task nor an inexpensive one. However, by doing so, you will create differentiation from traditional partners that are optimizing for siloed selling. You will show up in front of your customers with an account manager and a data center architect that are rewarded for identifying customer problems and proposing solutions to solve them. Your competition will show up with three or more salespeople that are compensated for maximizing their portion of the siloed technology. Your customers will notice the difference immediately. And, the deeper understanding your unified account manager and data center architect have of your customers’ real issues will move the conversation from the price of products to value that your solutions deliver.

John Growdon is the senior director of data center/virtualization sales at

Cisco Systems Inc

. and its worldwide channels organization. He leads the data center channel’s go-to-market strategy and programs, including recruitment and enablement of several hundred highly specialized partners with a Data Center Architectural Practice. Growdon has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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