Questions below are answered by David Stephens, Senior Cloud Infrastructure Solutions Executive at Ingram Micro on 2/28/18
Q: What is the goal of the cloud workshop?
A: The goal of the workshop is to create a successful plan through collaboration with the partner, for selling and servicing IaaS that is specific, documented and accountable.
Q: Who is this cloud workshop directed towards?
A: The primary audience for the workshop is partner leadership who are responsible for the health of an IaaS practice.
Q: Why does Ingram Micro do these workshops?
A: Ingram created these workshops because we saw a gap in the market. Our Channel Report with 2112 Group discovered that over 70% of channel partners do not have plans for selling Cloud Solutions. Partners who built a plan with Ingram Micro in 2018 grew their IaaS business 487% in 2017. Partner testimonials have encouraged us to continue and develop with this methodology.
Q: What has Ingram learned from doing these cloud workshops?
A: These workshops have evolved through the years. Each workshop introduces new concepts and business ideas to Ingram Micro and to the partner. One of the early learning points discovered during these workshops was that partners wanted to understand the options for building solutions. We added significant content to help partners to understand many 3rd party products that can be included in projects to increase revenue and solve customer problems.
Q: Has Ingram had to change its approach?
A: We have tried to modify each plan to accommodate the partner. Every plan is unique, primarily because each partner is unique. The only major changes in the workshop are the addition of content and rearrangement of topics.
Q: What is the desired outcome?
A: The objective is to leave the event with a specific, documented plan that can be checked internally and externally. We expect to hold ongoing discussions with the partner to ensure that progress is being made with their teams.
Q: Post cloud workshop, what are the next steps?
A: Post workshop activities are very customized based on the discovery in the workshop. At minimum, it is expected that a call is held quarterly to ensure that goals are met and plans are moving forward.
Q: What is important for VAR success?
A: In order to ensure success, we have insisted that the project be initiated with Executive sponsorship. We've seen individuals try to build this program in a rogue effort. Those efforts usually fail due to changing executive priorities. We also expect a partner to identify individuals that are dedicated to the IaaS practice. There should be dedicated sales and technical people on the team. These people must work to gain the accreditations/certifications that are required by vendors to work within their vendor programs. Key tasks include progressing through Vendor Partner Programs and employee accreditation and certification. Sales goals for IaaS/IaaS Solutions should be identified and incentivized. Creating Solutions and providing Professional and/or Managed Services are key to long term financial success.
Q: What makes up the value proposition?
A: Ingram provides significant value to our IaaS Partners. In addition to dozens of dedicated people WW, Ingram also provides tools (Marketplace, CloudCheckr), operations process, margin growth, market development funding, assistance with PoCs, solution building with 3rd party tools, vendor account consolidation to create revenue, referral programs, business planning, training, and professional services.
Q: How important is strategy?
A: Throughout the last 5 years as we have worked with partners around IaaS, many partners have tried to build a practice based on an opportunistic approach. These partners were reactive, rather than proactive in building their practice. What we found is that these partners had limited growth YTY. Because the demand for IaaS has increased in the past through years, they often saw growth, but they also continued to lose business to other partners or vendors (direct). By working with our team, creating a plan and executing that plan, partners have begun to grow their customer base, skills and revenues. As mentioned earlier, the partners who built and executed a plan with us last year, grew 487% YTY for IaaS (Southern US). Standard IaaS growth for non-participating partners was 201% for the South Territory. Almost half of the partners introduced new product lines in 2017 and all partners had positive revenue and margin growth for the year.
Q: When you talk about commitment what do you mean?
A: As mentioned earlier, it begins with executive sponsorship. We expect a partner to be engaged in the respective vendor partner programs. That will include vendor certification/accreditation. Additionally, greater success will be found by achieving specific competencies, defined by the vendors. Partners should commit specific people to this program who become subject matter experts in the solutions from the vendor and solutions that the partner creates based on IaaS. It is best if a larger partner also include project management to ensure that key goals are documented and objectives are being met.
Q: Messaging, how is that best positioned to gain the most relevancy?
A: There are many messages that must be created. Internally, all areas of the business are affected by this new line of business. Sales, Technical, Marketing, Operations and Support areas must all include plans based on the goals for IaaS. Externally, an IaaS Practice should attract new customers and appeal to your existing customers. We encourage partners to create a full marketing plan that is specific and consistent, including traditional marketing and social media.
Q: What are the challenges from the partner side?
A: Building this line of business will take a lot of effort. We have had a few partners start the process and realize that it is too much for them based on their higher priority commitments. Partners have also needed to reallocate people within their organization so that can provide a dedicated effort toward the practice. Both Sales and Technical individuals must take time to achieve accreditations and participate in ongoing education.
Q: Those partners who have been successful, why and how?
A: Successful partners tend to have a specific plan that they execute against. Customer demand is obviously a necessity, but we have found that most companies are pursuing cloud initiatives and they would like a single source for building and supporting multi-cloud environments. Dedicated teams (sales and technical) are essential for success. Partners will also grow as they pursue status within vendor partner programs through educational programs and by pursuing certifications and competencies.
Q: Can you give us specific examples of why were they successful or not ?
A: I had a partner who built a me too type IaaS practice. They visited one of their customers and told them that they sold IaaS (AWS specifically). The customer asked for details, to which the partner responded only about solutions from the vendor. The customer did not see any value from the partner and saw no reason to use that partner instead of going direct to the vendor or another partner. We encourage our partners to build a strong portfolio of solutions that illustrate the breadth of knowledge and abilities of the partner. Showing the customers that the partner has invested in skills growth and solution building encourages customer confidence with the partnerâ€™s ability to provide quality services that meet the customer's needs.
Q: Why do some partners struggle? / What are the biggest challenges?
A: Competing priorities is the strongest difficulty. Partners have existing business that they want to continue to invest and grow with. Adding such a large, new line of business is a daunting challenge for many partners. Many executives have said that they did not realize how much would be necessary to be able to create a successful IaaS Practice.
Q: Why are AWS and MS Azure different?
A: AWS has more options available and typically lower prices than Azure. Azure is more appealing to small business because most businesses have already standardized on some MS applications. Both provide basic Compute, Storage and Networking. But they differ in variety of types and additional solutions that can be used to build partner solutions. Both vendors have competed in the same vertical and horizontal markets for the last couple of years. Azure has made great gains in the past 3 years to provide comparable features to AWS.
Q: What is a realistic plan of attack?
A: Start with creating a plan that defines the people who will be responsible for success. Build solutions around the IaaS stack that are appealing to your customers and include vendor products with which your team is already familiar. Create goals for your teams. Define specific strategies on how you plan to meet those goals. Collaborate regularly to ensure that tasks are being completed and progress is being made. Participate in vendor partner programs. Educate your teams. Identify specific customers that you plan to approach with an IaaS solution. Identify the specific business case and approximate $MRR. Execute a specific marketing plan to communicate with existing customers and attract new customers. Build customer success stories to use as marketing assets and to celebrate success with your teams. Create sales compensation plans to incite aggressive sellers. Build a baseline of the business and track results on a regular basis.