Cloud computing is forcing the IT channel to transform culturally and how it interacts with customers, according to technology players.
That was the message from cloud leaders at a panel discussion hosted by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) in London this month. Participants indicated that IT is now truly delivered as-a-Service, and this is placing a strain on skills, recruitment, revenue recognition, remuneration and culture.
"One of the biggest challenges is adjusting to a new kind of relationship with customers," said Alex Hilton, CEO of the Cloud Industry Forum.
"As opposed to a single transaction, cloud computing's as-a-Service model requires a level of continuity in the relationship to maintain customer satisfaction. At the very least, it necessitates a level of servicing… and this means providers need to adjust the structure of their business and their teams accordingly, which has been challenging as some don't make the grade."
There are other areas, too, where the channel is failing to make the transition, said Hilton.
"There are some resellers who are simply attempting to copy and paste cloud computing capabilities on top of their previous models. This has resulted in some channel organisations providing cloud services with a commodity mindset and, therefore, coming to market with an undifferentiated service," the exec said.
Hilton said resellers will require a different approach, "one that takes into account the reality that cloud computing is a fundamentally different way for the channel to serve end users and make money".
He also conceded that training and internal skillsets have been difficult for both customers and channel.
"Some larger businesses had the mindset that any cloud project that takes less than a year to implement cannot be a ‘real' project. The more agile providers have proven this not to be the case," he said.
Apay Obang-Oyway, director of cloud for Northern Europe at Ingram Micro, thinks resellers are still failing to specialise, particularly in vertical markets.
"Verticalisation and delivery around vertical cloud propositions will absolutely be essential to surviving in the changing supply chain model. As they mature in their cloud journey themselves, end users want a trusted advisor in the cloud, not a jack-of-all-trades," he said.
Hilton agrees that savvy resellers will fast-track their specialisation skills.
"Different sectors have distinct requirements from cloud computing, and adoption rates can vary dramatically between industries, making specialisation along the lines of sectors a competitive point of differentiation," he said.
"This also applies to areas of cloud specialisation. As cloud computing becomes embedded as the norm, so will it make sense for some resellers to compete on specific areas of cloud expertise rather than looking to be a jack-of-all-cloud-trades."
CompTIA's IT Industry Outlook 2017 report released earlier this year, finds only 37 per cent of channel firms thought cloud would have an extremely positive effect on their business.
However, the IT trade association merely attributes this to "growing pains".
The report states: "As the channel has gained experience working with cloud over the past several years, they have begun seeing cloud's problem areas and their own weak spots. This may be leading them to revisit expectations around ROI, cost and business model."
Obang-Oyway believes the channel needs to focus much more on business outcomes throughout the whole supply chain in the move to a platform economy.
He also said the channel must think about the future intelligence of cloud.
"All of the upcoming technologies - artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing progress, the Internet of Things, chatbots, robots et cera - will only grow, develop and innovate with cloud driving them. The channel absolutely needs to understand their role in the next generation of key technologies and to identify and realise the opportunities available to them," he said.
"There are some businesses that are quite comfortable with where they are and others who know they want to accelerate with cloud. But only those who recognise how important it is to play a role in the future intelligence of cloud will truly survive."
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