But there’s also a responsibility on vendors to be able to educate the channel on the various factors of a whole solution set.
“If you’re talking about disaster recovery, you’ve got to talk to the customer about software security, the infrastructure, back-up, power, the whole lot,” APC by Schneider Electric Pacific operations, channels and alliances general manager Muralee Kanagaratnam said.
“And that’s a lot for one partner to be across all of it. As a vendor it’s our responsibility to educate the channel and there are elements where you need to be able to support that conversation.”
However, Moses questioned the integrity of vendors that claim to fully support a customer outcome, yet still push product releases on a regular occurrence.
“If we stop and think about when we say the most important thing is the customer and a customer outcome, that means the vendor has to say, ‘my product is really good here but not here so you should use another vendor for that’,” Moses said.
“I’ve never seen a single vendor do that. So, how realistic is it to say that because will a vendor ever be focused entirely on a customer outcome?”
According to Sice, success comes when vendors put partner and customer needs first, building sticky relationships with the channel and the end-user as a result.
“There are a lot of vendors that think about units, revenues and margins, but the ones that take that one step forward and actually take a strategic approach to planning business outcomes together with the partner, get closer,” Sice added.
“The vendors that actually do things on the back end with their partners and work out what markets they will or won’t play in and identify the key issues that are relevant will succeed.”
Even though technology and tools are becoming more efficient, partners must continue to be ahead of the game in managing the expectations of the customer.
“The convergence of really good back-up, virtualisation and cloud and speeds and feeds have made it easier for us,” Nexus IT managing director Sean Murphy said.
“A lot of the challenges we’re talking about is how do you package that? How do you own responsibility for that?
“How do you deliver that as a service to a customer and make them understand value around that? Because it’s not a trivial thing and getting that message across and helping people understand that is kind of key.”
BEarena managing director Darren Ashley said partners are now also being engaged by large consortium organisations, such as KPMG and Deloitte, to deliver IT strategies.
“These guys are delivering IT strategies and they don’t necessarily have the specialisations in some of these areas and then the customers are engaging with partners, but those guys are in there doing all the application, mapping all the interdependencies,” he said. “Business continuity is only as strong as the weakest link.”
According to Ashley, partners should choose areas of specialisation and become experts in that particular field with a group of specialist vendors.
“The more specialist you are, you’ll see a greater degree of success because it’s not possible to be all things to all people,” he explained. “You want to be the best in your field at doing that.
“Rather than sort of try and put all our eggs in one basket, we need to try and show leadership with our customers by believing in the specialist solutions that we’re selling.”
Johns stressed the importance of a partner’s approach to customers, saying that technology is a key to the business, but partners should be leading conversations with business resilience instead of just technology.
“Partners need to say to the CEO, ‘what are the parts of your business that you absolutely need to keep running to make money?’ And if those services are unavailable, ‘how much money are you losing per hour per day?’” he said.
“And then that become a much easier conversation than just telling them to spend a little bit of money each month to provide some resilience to the environment.”
Greatrex said that businesses are partnering with companies because they are known brands and partners should be working towards building up their own brands so as to secure bigger deals in the industry.
“People will pay ridiculous premiums to go with Deloitte or Accenture, and yet we’re the guys who go and fix it,” he said. “Now we don’t have the brand that those guys do and that’s the issue.
“If you get your brand out there, customers tend to follow other customers, especially in specific verticals. They talk to each other and then, all of a sudden, you get a call from someone who’s equally large as the customer you’ve just closed wanting to talk to you.”
Progressing through business continuity
Going forward, Murphy predicted that there will be “some little nuances” in the way the ecosystem works.
“As the cloud vendors, the guys putting stuff into the cloud and then the automation within the cloud, grow in the industry, there will be really great changes in terms of the way that we pay for it and the way the customers pay for it,” he said.
“It will improve so much that we’re going to see some big changes in the medium market where you can legitimately have an on-premise cloud in the network that works and is affordable to pay for. And this is going to be very, very attractive.”
According to Kanagaratnam, the channel needs to stay ahead of the curve and disrupt, or be disrupted.
“We can be great and we can be the specialist of choice, but there’s always going to be someone new coming along,” he said. “We’ve always got to look in the rearview mirror and know what’s happening.
“At the end of the day, your technology, services and solutions need to stand up, because that’s what you’re putting for your customers.”
Spillane added that with the rise of DNA computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI), there is going to be a lot more automation, resulting in the need for businesses to come up with strong business continuity plans.
“It’s all about getting the right stakeholders and the right buy in,” he added. “Have the right people within the client’s environment involved. Find out what their requirements are and actually talk them through it.
“You can sell whatever you want, but it’s about making sure they’re actually not just handing over a purchase order but buying into the story of having the right outcomes for their business,” he added.
This roundtable was sponsored by APC by Schneider Electric and Zerto. Photos by Maria Stefina.