The channel has always stood for service and support, guiding customers through a technological maze to help them get the most out of their IT investments.
The alternative is to simply drop-ship a shrink-wrapped product that the user can then deploy on their own without using extra help.
It's obvious where the higher margins are and most resellers have gravitated towards a more services orientated business in the last couple of years.
Where there appear to be some on-going problems is around the cloud. Not in terms of application delivery but in the quality of assistance that is being provided in getting customers to the point where they can use hosted services.
That part of the cloud experience really is the channel's responsibility with the vendor's concentrating on the application and the robustness of their own hosted platforms rather than the efforts of the customer to get into a position to use them.
Sadly the latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) shows that customers are still not getting the levels of support they are looking from channel partners when it comes to help migrating to the cloud.
CIF blames a combination of immature channel players who are yet to really grow into being cloud providers as well a need from customers to make more careful assessments of potential partners.
Some of the problems that customers were left dealing with occurred as a result of poor integration with existing legacy systems as well as a failure by the partner to thoroughly assess the ability of the user's network to deliver a stable experience.
Piers Linney, co-CEO of Outsourcery, reacted to the CIF findings and warned that taking the decision to start using hosted services was not a simple step.
“Moving to the cloud is often more complex than just flicking a switch to get an off-the-shelf-service. Depending on the cloud service being adopted, data will have to be transferred and staff migrated to new ways of working. It can be a complex process," he said.
“IT leaders looking for a provider should first assess their existing in-house skills and experience to understand how reliant they will be on the supplier to ensure a smooth transition. Equally, cloud suppliers need to be more sensitive to their customers’ requirements and tailor their service to the level of support needed for successful cloud adoption," he added.
Channel partners also need to provide reverse cloud migration support
Factors such as cost, unforeseen security issues and integration challenges are driving customers to uncloud, or uncouple from the cloud.
Overall the CIF findings were positive with 90% of customers expressing a positive satisfaction rating and 70% of IT buyers expecting to increase their use of cloud in the year ahead.
However with migration to the cloud being such an important part of the process both positioning the customer for future deployment of a wide number of services as well as cementing the reseller as a trusted advisor the message does seem to be that more work needs to be done.
“The most critical factor is for IT leaders to really get under the bonnet of their potential cloud provider, make sure that the have a strong and highly integrated stack of partners and a proven track record of delivery for other customers with needs similar to their own," added Linney.
The CIF findings also come on top of a recent report from LogicNow that seems to suggest there is a worrying disconnect between service providers and customers.
The gap between customer expectations and partner service plans is a wide one, according to the LogicNow ‘Global IT Service Providers Harmony Report’.
The research suggested that most IT buyers started out a discussion with a service provider with the intention of getting help with a specific, business critical need. But the research found that the channel saw the chance to push wider services and tended to follow their own agenda.
Speaking last month, on the launch of the report Dr Alistair Forbes, general manager at LogNow, said that service providers needed to be patient about rushing into talk to a customer about a range of investment options, rather than dealing with the specific concern brought to their attention.
“Pushing strategic consultancy too early in the relationship gives an impression of under-valuing the immediate concern weighing heaviest on the customer’s mind. IT departments engage with Service Providers because they have a particular problem that needs solving. This must be addressed first to earn the opportunity of a strategic engagement later on," he said.