Interview: Insight EMEA president charting cloud course

Insight is aiming to place itself at the vanguard of the movement towards a cloud and services world with Wolfgang Ebermann its EMEA president optimistic of success

Over the past eighteen months there has been a lot of talk about the cloud, managed services and the shift in the channel towards a different financial model based on offering pay-as-you-go options to customers.

A lot of the focus has been on trying to work out what it all means for the channel community and just as some have been caught in the headlights and struggled to devise a strategy others have embarked on a period of transformation that is designed to place them in the vanguard leading the change.

Over the past few weeks some of those channel players that are confident of their future strategies have started to outline just what the rest of this year and beyond holds. Having got used to the idea that the world is different those that want to be market leaders are now starting to flex their muscles.

Insight is aiming to be one of those that leads from the front and last week outlined plans to set up a services unit and bring onboard some expertise to run that operation. In the statements that accompanied the launch of the unit the firm was quite clear about wanting to be a major player in the cloud and services space.

Catching up with Insight EMEA president Wolfgang Ebermann provided a chance to get more detail about the strategy, which he hopes is not just about providing customers with the best services but also gives it the chance to unlock the true potential of its own staff.

"We see an industry that is changing and Insight can significantly contribute to that and lead," he adds "We have seen the vendors step up to the plate [and deliver cloud-based options] and we have to see the channel step up to the plate."

It is still early days and one of the challenges that Ebermann identifies is the perception that the customer has of the channel. There is still a temptation from some users to see it as a technology conversation when it could be about business strategy.

He believes that perceptions are starting to change and the way that the channel delivered services and then interacted with customers was supporting a change in relationship. Insight is already combining more advisory services, licensing is one example, with its hardware and software sales and will expand the options it can offer customers.

Ebermann is opting for what he describes as a 'two door approach'. On the one hand the customer wants to save money but they also need to innovate and are looking for a source of advice that will help them do both.

"Firstly we have to help with providing our advisory support and help the customer reduce the cost of running IT. Cloud innovation is a big enabler. Secondly, we need to reconnect the key IT solutions that will keep driving the business impact. It always comes back to improving productivity and business performance and we want to provide IT solutions that enable customers to drive the business," he says.

The need for a trusted advisor is even more critical given that he feels that some customers are uncertain about cloud and not sure what they should do. That indecision can also be complicated by the attitude taken by the IT department, which can view cloud as a threat.

The outside world gets a view of just where Insight is heading when it comes out with the services unit announcement but Ebermann says there has been a lot of work going on since he took up his post at the start of the year.

"There is a transformation of the company to the next level. The good thing is that the company has already transformed a couple of times. It started selling hardware components, then became a manufacturer of, then software and hardware and then services. So it has been on a constant journey of transformation," he says.

"We are going to continue playing to our classic strengths. In a car that would be driving on cylinder number one. We plan the second cylinder while we run the car on number one," he adds that some of that planning has seen it bring in new people with the right skills into the company who can then share their knowledge with the existing workforce, "that way you will get that embedded in the organisation".

Ebermann's talk of two doors and two cylinders shows just how clearly those pushing for cloud and services leadership are having to combine that with their existing strengths. The future is not about forgetting the past but adding to it with additional expertise.

As he says about changing perceptions of what the channel can do, the signs from its customer satisfaction surveys shows things are already moving, users sense something is happening and their ideas of what it means to be a trusted advisor are transforming and the channel can lead that process.

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