During last week’s Ingram Micro VTN Invitational, the audience of solution providers had the opportunity to listen to advice from some very bright folks: Paul Dippell, CEO of Service Leadership; Tiffani Bova, Gartner researcher; and Robert Faletra, CRN editor. The group answered questions about what is expected in the channel next year, as well as offering advice on what solution providers need to do in advance of those channel trends. The bottom line: Your customers may be looking for another way to buy technology in 2013, and you may miss op because you aren’t ahead of the curve.
Of particular interest to me was the conversation among the three over the skills sets needed by solution providers. Bova stressed advice she’s been offering for much of this year: The channel sales conversation is no longer a technology conversation; it is a business process sell, so solution providers must have a team that can talk about business. I thoroughly agree with that statement; in fact, let me offer some insight from another channel event I attended last week, the N-able Technologies Global Summit.
During that event, I sat down with a handful of international customers, and was shocked at the level of business acumen possessed by them. These guys weren’t talking technology at all; in fact, they told me they never talk about vendors or brands or technology components with their customers. They talk about the problems a business faces – be it bandwidth or storage needs or mobile device management – and solve it. I would argue that U.S. partners could learn from that example.
The second skill that the Ingram Micro VTN panel discussed was the ability to develop and manage applications. Dippell offered his opinion that as customers turn more cloud centric, that will drive a complexity in their environments that offers managed services an expanded opportunity to meet their customers’ reliance on apps. The question remains, how many of you are ready to manage applications in the cloud – providing your customers with reliable, seamless integrations and then layer custom applications over that initial service? Time to think on that.
Lastly, Faletra argued that at the root of next year’s success is the ability of solution providers to simply have a plan for how to take their services to market. It is essential, he told the audience, that you decide how you are going to bring your product to market – are you sticking with the hardware and software focus, are you moving your clients to the cloud, are you focusing on aggregating a private cloud solution? Once you decide that, the skills you need will become apparent.