A couple of years ago a phenomenon emerged – known as the New Way of Working – complete with its own acronym (NWOW). For IT professionals and partners, this has not only presented some unique challenges, but also many new opportunities for those prepared to step up.
Forward-thinking enterprises are now continually moving toward a new way of working. They are driven by the principles of freedom and time, un-tethering workers from location and the clock. The focus has shifted to achieving results rather than physical presence. The most obvious incarnation of this from both a technological and business transformation stand point, of course, is cloud computing and everything it encompasses.
While cloud computing has given enterprises of all shapes and sizes the ability to embrace these new ways of working, it has also meant the channel needs to adopt an entirely new way of doing things if they want to remain profitable and relevant.
- Embracing the speed of change – With the increase in cloud adoption, we are seeing an increased rate of technological change. As new challenges around scalability, accessibility and security need to be overcome, we are seeing a rapid increase in innovation and the advent of new solutions. The rate of change is so fast that traditional methods of learning the new skills required to plan and execute successful projects are no longer enough. Partners need to find ways of enhancing the level of knowledge and expertise of their consultants. They then need to find ways to transfer that knowledge into field skills, quickly and with low risk.
- Overcoming commoditization of the market place – Cloud computing has become increasingly commoditized. Smart partners need to look for ways to extract additional value from their human and capital resources and build value into their engagements with customers. Educated consumers lead to the risk of a partner being relegated to the role of product supplier, eroding their value and opening up competition that is price driven. Channel professionals need to be at the forefront of conversations with their customers – driving the strategic framework and positioning themselves as the trusted advisor.
- Co-opetition is the new norm – One of the biggest changes coming through the channel is around the mindset of competition. In a market increasingly driven by knowledge, knowledge sharing has become paramount. Business leaders are looking for full-service solutions from their providers. This presents challenges for many partners with skills gaps that range from sales and marketing engagement through to complex and specialist solutions integration. For SME partners in particular, the cost and time required to acquire these skills and then retain them can be significant. Competitive collaboration, sharing of IP, and expertise and best practices can open up new markets and diversify income streams. In a time of ever-changing market forces, this provides the resilience business leaders are looking for.
- Addressing the “Shadow IT” buyers – Adoption of cloud has also led to a change in the traditional buying processes of many enterprises as the “self-service” mentality and the technology to facilitate it becomes more prevalent. According to Gartner, 72% of technology decisions are either influenced and/or made by line of business executives, and it is expected this number will rise to 90% by 2020. Partners selling solely to the IT department may already find themselves left behind. These business buyers – or “Shadow IT” – are now being serviced and influenced by a much broader and diverse group of companies, such as SaaS partners, ISVs, “born in the cloud” firms and disruptive start-ups. Traditional channel partners need to decide whether they acquire these skills or partner for them.
Get It Right the First Time
It’s clear from the challenges in today’s market that partners need to adapt, and do it quickly. This transformation is frequently a painful process. The traditional methods of acquiring skills, whether they be sales or technical, are no longer enough. Furthermore, the traditional method of transferring those skills to the field is also not enough. To stay competitive, partners need to get it right the first time, every time – whether it’s integrating new technologies into their kit-bag; having higher-level conversations with non-IT buyers and influencers; collaborating with those traditionally seen as the competition in order to leverage best practices; or adopting practices from the some of the newer, non-traditional partners that are entering the market.
Success Means Looking Toward Open Partnering
There is a constant theme underlying these challenges – no partner is an island. Partners who isolate themselves risk becoming irrelevant in today’s market. Open partnering is critical to the success of working in new ways. As IT professionals, we need to stop and think: are we doing what we are doing simply because it’s what we have always done?
…Or, is there a new and better way?