Channel partners are going to have to change the way they work with customers and view technology if they are going to thrive in an increasingly cloud-centric world, according to an official with communications technology vendor Mitel.
The roles of VARs, SIs and MSPs are changing, making it much less about selling an appliance than working with customers to get a better understanding of their businesses and needs and finding solutions that can address those needs, Terry McCabe. Mitel CTO, said. It's about both on-premises and the cloud and creating ways of bridging the two, he said.
"The cloud is going to be part of this world," McCabe said. "You have to have people who not only are comfortable with the speeds and feeds, but with learning about the pain points in [their customers'] businesses."
Mitel executives are in the middle of a summer-long tour meeting partners. A key discussion point during these meetings has been how the ways customers consume technology are changing and how channel partners must adapt to find opportunities and stay relevant in this evolving environment, McCabe pointed out.
With the rise of cloud computing, technology is becoming more of a utility - something that is consumed as needed with payment being based on what is used. One of the benefits of the cloud is the ability for end users to reduce their overall technology costs, but McCabe said the channel needs to steer itself away from viewing this evolution in the industry as a bottom line issue.
Partners will be able to "add value when they understand the business problems of their customers", he said.
"It's less about driving down the cost for a utility service," McCabe said.
The opportunities are going to be less in selling hardware and point products and more in emerging areas such as internet of things (IoT) connectivity, big data and analytics, as well as helping customers migrate some of their business to the cloud and ensuring seamless operations between what they put in the cloud and what remains on-premises, according to McCabe. The goal is to have an ongoing and pervasive relationship with the end user as they adapt to and embrace the cloud, he said.
Bridging on-premises and the cloud is a key capability in Mitel's MiCloud suite of business communications offerings and a driver behind Mitel's $430 million bid to buy rival ShoreTel, which has a common platform for both its on-premises and cloud-based unified communications offerings.
When announcing the deal late last month, Mitel officials noted that not only will it mean that combined company will have about 3,200 channel partners, but that recurring revenue will account for 39 percent of all revenue - a nod to Mitel's growing cloud ambitions.
The channel will need to be similarly flexible. McCabe said a common question during the company's tour has been around staffing and training, with partners wondering if they will need to bring on new people with different skills than current employees have and how much staff retraining they will have to do.
In most cases, they'll have to do both, he said. An example is with software development; the focus is becoming less on coding and more about developing workflow tools and the capability to integrate APIs of different services.
Partners also will have to grow their practices to address emerging technologies like IoT, McCabe noted, pointing to Arrow Electronics' efforts to develop its own IoT ecosystem with it expanding its initiative into the Europe, Middle East and Africa region last week.
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