Resellers and MSPs should consider buying or partnering with firms in the emerging ‘shadow channel' to ensure they remain relevant.
That is according to futurist and blogger Jay McBain, whose latest post outlines the competitive threat the traditional channel faces from five new breeds of player who sell exclusively to Lines of Business (LoB) executives.
McBain - who has previously worked for vendors including IBM, Lenovo and Autotask - defines the shadow channel as a diverse group of companies "who engage, influence, recommend and even resell technology" to LoBs.
This includes SaaS ecosystem consultants who work with the likes of Salesforce and Workday, ISVs, born-in-the cloud IT and telecoms firms, and even industry-based professional services firm, for instance accounting firms that resell accounting software.
These players are wielding increasing power, McBain argued, pointing to stats showing that Salesforce's ecosystem of 1,000 partners alone now drives over $20bn in revenue.
Citing Gartner figures suggesting the percentage of customer technology decisions led by LoB will grow from 72 per cent today to 90 per cent, McBain (pictured) said traditional resellers will get "stuck" if they don't co-opt this new emerging channel, which he has previously likened to the "Wild West".
"The people that are successful today at selling to the LoB are these SaaS consultants, ecosystem consultants, integration partners - they're called different things but they're connected specifically to a SaaS player like Salesforce, Marketo, Workday, Netsuite etc," he said.
"Unless [traditional partners] expand into LoB and expand into those ecosystems, they're going to get stuck because those traditional decision-making models are going away. We are at the start right now of a ten-year hypergrowth period for these players."
According to IDC figures McBain highlighted, Salesforce's 1,000 partners are netting $4.14 in services revenue for every $1 of licenses sold. This means they are growing rapidly, are highly profitable and are also prime targets for acquisition, as IBM and Wipro's respective acquisitions of Salesforce consultancies BlueWolf and Appirio prove, he added.
But McBain said there are several approaches resellers, MSPs and SIs can take to ensure they are not locked out, the easiest option being to partner.
"There are a lot of success stories of traditional resellers partnering with the likes of these 1,000 Salesforce partners, or the Marketo, Workday and Netsuite partners," McBain said. "They need to figure out the ecosystems and figure out their own geographies. I even look at my own geography here and talk to local resellers, and they are missing the opportunity because right now there is more demand than there is supply for people that can come in and stitch together cloud systems."
M&A is a second option, McBain added.
"You acquire a three, four, five-person firm who are all certified in SaaS. They all get a nice pay off and continue to work for $1,000 a day. If it's not partnering, then it's M&A, and I've seen those two things work really well," he said.
A more ambitious strategy is to build the capability organically, McBain said.
"We've also seen some pivots, almost like when resellers pivoted and started up managed services and built that on the side and today it may still be 20, 30, 40 per cent of their business," he said.
"What they can do is hire and train internally, and build up a practice. You can choose the LoBs you are doing well in that seem to be hot and then go find a couple of big ecosystem players in that. It could be human resources, and Workday is your solution, and then you stitch that together with an ERP solution for healthcare; that might be your deal. You've then built an expertise that could be leveraged by Workday for every other medical opportunity they have in the same scenario."
McBain added: "The final way is building some actual real-time intellectual capital. We have seen some companies actually build a software layer, and it may be very specific by industry or geography. All of a sudden they are a partner and a vendor because they are selling software on the side and converting their business away from just reselling and supporting and servicing and now kind of look like a vendor themselves."
Although McBain is hopeful traditional resellers can make the crossover, he said three types of player currently have a stranglehold over this emerging SaaS ecosystem. These are traditional services houses like IBM, consultancies such as Deloitte and mid-sized specialists with several hundred staff, such as BlueWolf and Appirio.
Based on Salesforce's AppExchange website, here are the 20 firms with the most certified staff for Salesforce:
1) Accenture 3,321
2) Cognizant 1,318
3) Deloitte 1,137
4) Bluewolf (an IBM company) 1,107
5) Tata Consutlancy Services 969
6) Capgemini 781
7) Infosys 644
8) PwC 520
9) Tech Mahindra 499
10) Wipro 483
11) Appirio 458
12) NTT Group 369
13) HCL 314
14) Acument Solutions 291
15) Persistent Systems 250
16) Magnet 360 249
17) Slalom Consulting 198
18) EnablePath 167
19) Fujitsu 133
20) The Energy Group 120
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