Despite mounting evidence that underlines the value that the IT reseller channel will be able to, and need to provide to, end-users with cloud computing, questions and doubts still persist about the role of the IT reseller at industry events, in analysts papers, and in the IT channel media.
Mounting evidence, documented case studies, and reseller success stories, show that end-users are in desperate need of expertise and support from the IT reseller community for cloud computing technologies.
However, I personally continue to hear the usual questions: "If end-users can simply buy whatever they need in the cloud directly, with a few clicks over the web, why would they need a VAR?" "With large vendors and telcos taking cloud offerings to the mass market directly, won't the VARs lose their relevance and be displaced?"
VARs and managed service providers support their customers by delivering complete solutions including: service desk, remote monitoring and management, remote mail, security, or back-up applications, network support, on-site services when necessary, and the role of the "Trusted Advisor."
This trusted advisory role, or what has been referred to the solution provider acting as the "Virtual CIO," starts with a handshake, continues with eyeball-to-eyeball relationship building, over lunches and Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), and endures with the VAR being the "one throat to choke" when the **IT hits the proverbial fan.
End-user businesses are able to concentrate on their core competencies while relying on their IT resellers, their Virtual CIOs, to craft a technology strategy and IT environment roadmap which integrates into business processes, delivers a competitive advantage, enables agility and innovation, increases efficiencies, automation, and productivity, and reduces operating costs.
Let me state it again for the record: that role played by the VAR/MSP community will not go away with the rise in cloud computing technologies and the IT-as-a-Service models.
In fact, the role will not only persist but it will increase in scope and relevance. VARs and managed service providers now have an opportunity to be both the customer's Virtual CIO and their Virtual CEO. By CEO, I mean the "Cloud Experience Owner."
Are you ready to be your customer's Virtual CEO?
Being a Virtual CEO: Cloud Experience Owner on behalf of the end-users means taking ownership of the cloud computing solutions being leveraged by the business, ensuring SLAs are met, addressing security, privacy, and compliance concerns, and managing vendor relationships.
It involves removing the sense of worry, anxiety, or fear from your end-user client and giving them a sense of comfort and showing them how easy it is to take advantage of new capabilities which would give them a competitive advantage.
It involves focusing not only on the technology, but rather on the integration and application of technology into the business and business processes. Going forward, the Virtual CEO will provide an equal amount of technology consulting services as business management consulting services to their end-user clients.
Most importantly, being the Virtual CEO: Cloud Experience Owner means finding the right balance of between technology and user experience. Your role will be to strike the appropriate balance between this unlimited amount cloud technology, virtual compute capacity, thousands of applications, and a very pleasant, consistent, and simple user experience.
That is your role: finding this balance. You want to harness cloud computing technologies to deliver competitive advantages, to re-engineer business processes, to implement new business models, to save costs and provide budget predictability, and to acquire customers for your end-user companies.
However, you need ensure that your clients' employees, from the most junior associates to the executive team are receiving a positive and consistent user experience. They should not know if they are using a server from their back-office or one sitting in a datacentre in another part of the continent. They shouldn't know if they are using a security application downloaded on their machine or one hosted by the software provider in another part of the globe. In fact, they less they think about the cloud, the better.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, as the reseller channel transforms internal business operations and external go-to-market strategies in order to successfully take advantage of cloud computing and IT-as-a-Service opportunities, consider how your role with your clients evolves to include this Virtual CEO: Cloud Experience Owner approach.
Leverage the relationships you have with your clients and take advantage of trust they have in your company. Position yourself as an expert, actualise the benefits of cloud computing for them and strike the right balance between technology and user experience in their business. As you do so, you will strengthen your relationships and create clients for life.
Jason Beal is executive director, Advanced Solutions Division, Europe at Ingram Micro
This was first published in February 2012