The SkyKick team loves to go on the road to meet partners and be a part of the amazing cloud management ecosystem that we're all a part of.
April was a busy month for us as we continued our attendance at SMB Live events around the United States, while attending a range of other events including Microsoft CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) events.
Perhaps the largest single event of the month was the 2016 Ingram Cloud Summit, held in Phoenix, and featuring 1,000 plus partners from around the world, assembled to hear the latest from Ingram and a range of industry stakeholders on how to evolve their cloud businesses.
This post summarizes some the Cloud Summit event from the SkyKick perspective. First the key takeaway for partners from the event, that we heard reinforced over and over.
If you jump on the cloud train and successfully transition your IT services company to be a robust cloud services provider it will absolutely be worth it, but partners must transform faster and more fundamentally than most realise.
A significant amount of the mental real estate of the Ingram Cloud Summit was devoted to first reinforcing a point that most partners already know on some level -- that the cloud opportunity is vast -- and secondly to helping partners learn on the fly a range of the ways that they can transform to take advantage.
Key Event Message 1:- Jump on the Cloud Transition train.
In the first of a new eBook series from Microsoft on the booming cloud opportunity (click here to get it) there is no shortage of data on how juicy the cloud opportunity is for managed service providers, VARs, systems integrators and more. IDC's forecast that public cloud services revenue will reach US$141.2B by 2019 at a 19.4% compounded annual growth rate is one of the recent standout stats that is also cited in this ebook.
The view reinforced by Ingram at its summit only confirmed the opportunity that we at SkyKick have also been seeing from our lens across the ecosystem in the past few years. IT services companies can build truly robust businesses around migrating, backing up and ultimately managing their SMB customers in the cloud, as demand for cloud solutions and consequently dollars will continue to pour into the space.
What was particularly noteworthy at the event however, was how much time and content was devoted to providing partners with a deep set of content on mastering some key aspects of transformation that require focus.
- Business Model: Building and packaging cloud offerings, including smart use of bundling, tools and technology, and the key operational capabilities partners must ensure are in place.
- Selling Cloud Services: How to sell an evolved range of cloud offerings more effectively.
- Marketing your Cloud Practice: The transformation IT services companies must make to differentiate their cloud businesses, and master modern, digital-era marketing.
Session examples from actual agenda: (Examples of the types of breakout sessions available throughout the two days)
Key Event Message 2: The 3 Cloud Transformation Imperatives
Keynotes and main ballroom sessions at the event were consistent in sharing a story of transformation at various levels of depth. Ingram execs like Renee Bergeron, WW cloud computing VP and Chairman Alain Monie and Jason Bystrak were consistently on message in encouraging partners to not just go after the cloud opportunity, but to do so faster and more aggressively. Of course with a few plugs on the benefits of the Ingram marketplace and overall ecosystem.
Transform Faster and with more Intention:
According to Jason Bystrak, "one of the biggest mistakes hannel partners are making is being too opportunistic and not intentional enough" in pursuing cloud transformation. He urged partners to particularly focus on sales and marketing, nailing sales compensation models and having intentional plans with respect to the tactical investments they needed to make to build better cloud practices.
Alain Monie, Ingram's Chairman detailed how the company started investing in cloud 7 years ago, and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition to pursuing their own vision of what being the distributor of the future looks like, he challenged IT Partners to jump on the train or not, with acceptance of all that was necessary to make the jump a success.
Non-industry speakers like Buzz Aldrin also reinforced the innovation and transformation message, with the highlight talk of the entire event arguably being Thomas Dolby (picture from session here | wikipedia here).
You've got to love those talks that just sneak up on you. Most in the audience (myself included) didn't know who he was precisely, but we got to know him as he took us on a journey of his innovations in music production, and the process of creating his most famous song, She Blinded me with Science.
Like most great speakers, he weaved a story across his entire talk that was personal, and in fact literally a performance (complete with great imagery, and a real-time mash up / mini-performance to show how individual elements were combined to create that song. Above all, his talk contained a central message. Don't be afraid to innovate and transform. As shown in the picture, it was g ood enough for a standing ovation!
Moreover, connecting this transformation theme to
Sales & Marketing Transformation:
Renee Bergeron spent significant time discussing the need for IT services companies to become modern, digital-era marketers, and to embrace the opportunities in social media, digital and beyond.
This echoes a common theme on our event travels this winter and Spring. From Microsoft's SMB Live events, to SMB Nation, to the Ingram Cloud Summit, partners are consistently facing up to the reality that they need to figure out sales and marketing in a way that is frankly uncomfortable, yet increasingly necessary. Partners are being encouraged to think more and more about things like search engine optimization (SEO), inbound marketing principles like buyer personas and content marketing and much more.
Key Event Message 3: Partners are eager for what's next, want help.
Literally every event that we do, we feed off the great energy we get from talking to partners. During the event's expo, there was as usual great conversation with partners on everything from business challenges and opportunities, to of course how they could take advantage of our cloud management platform. (Click here to learn about the Cloud Backup opportunity with SkyKick)
Partners of course ranged in their level of cloud experience and the amount of time that they've been heavily invested in cloud. More experienced partners had familiarity with cloud management solutions and technology, but were most interested in ways to extend their cloud offerings / bundles, and were most concerned with the next evolution of their cloud packages, or becoming official Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs).
Less experienced partners were most interested in the key ways that they could leverage technology and automation tools to build their cloud practices, as well as building an understanding of the key business areas they'd need to focus on, as shared earlier.
Above all, our conversations with partners and ecosystem players at the event continues to show that the cloud management industry is evolving at a rapid pace with all the players of various sizes and experience levels grappling with their own challenges.
The SkyKick perspective on the outlook for IT partners is broadly similar to the central themes of the event. The opportunity is unquestioned, it's now about finding the right path toward the prize, while navigating through the key obstacles that will inevitably block the path.
Our partners tell us that they are most concerned with:
- Nailing the transition to managed services bundles that feature cloud offerings (particularly pricing and go-to-market packaging)
- Successfully selling and marketing these offerings
- Developing the processes and capabilities (including people/training) that will underpin their cloud practices.
In upcoming blog posts we'll share some specific insights into how SkyKick Partners from all around the world are tackling these obstacles.
Now the industry as a whole looks toward upcoming events including Microsoft's 2016 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto, where we'll no doubt see Microsoft continue on its path to refine the CSP program announced 2 years ago, along with new announcements from around the ecosystem that partners will want to hear, including a couple big ones from us at SkyKick!
See you soon.