Although the market doesn’t stand still for very long one thing is now changing more rapidly than others for the channel – budget allocation. Up to now customer budgets have generally been split across hardware, software and services. But, now that the performance of critical applications and therefore their underlying infrastructures is becoming a hot topic, where does the budget for Infrastructure Performance Management (IPM) sit? End users are no longer content with availability as a metric – they want to know how their applications are performing and they want guaranteed SLAs from their IT departments to ensure the suitable delivery of apps and data. Most resellers will have by now come across a new job title or role among end user organisations: the infrastructure manager. These professionals have overall responsibility for the performance of those applications that the business relies most heavily on – and with that responsibility goes the budget allocation.
This evolution in who holds the purse strings is having a profound effect on resellers, as they need to look inside their own businesses to make sure that they are aligned with this change: are they partnering with the right vendors for example? Are they approaching sales from the right angle? Is there a match between what end users want and how they wish to work and what vendors are offering? Are manufacturers mirroring this evolution or are they expecting the channel to force a square peg in a round hole? And, with this is in mind, what questions should resellers ask themselves to ensure continued success?
1) Does this vendor complement my existing product and service offering?
This can be tough. Signing up as many technologies as possible is counter-productive. Merely adding a vendor that potentially competes with existing offerings often does not yield additional revenues and may stress existing relationships. Lots of technologies have overlaps and managing that is vital for a reseller. Also, moving too far away from the existing offering can often mean expensive retooling or adding personnel with new skill sets. A reseller should concentrate on a market segment and become expert and a trusted independent advisor in that.
Taking a longer-term view and considering aspects such as access to training programmes to support both your team and your customers for example, is also important: a vendor with professional development resources may offer in-person and/or online live instructor-led training, or on-demand eLearning options and these will allow both resellers and end users to better understand how the new technology or architecture fits inside existing environments and how it should be deployed to minimize disruption to the business while maximising its potential.
If there is a certification programme, all the better, as in terms of expertise it raises not only the perception of the vendor’s brand in the eyes of the customer, but also that of the partner and hence benefits them both.
2) Are they the leader in their segment?
Resellers and their customers are looking for vendors that have a track record and who are likely to be around for a while, especially when they are considering innovative products and/or services that are new to them; they want to see proof that the new developments work, they want to see roadmaps, and of course strong senior executives, in other words all the elements that indicate that a vendor is serious about remaining in the lead. Ensuring that the vendor’s proposition has a real competitive advantage that can be clearly aligned with genuine customer needs and result in optimum performance is worth scrutinizing. Has the product or service been accredited or verified? Has the solution already been deployed in large enterprises or is it effective in the SMB space too?
3) Are there superior margins to be made? On both product and services?
From channel discounting to programme benefits to ease of doing business, in the end the channel is looking for profit. Therefore resellers should look for vendors that understand channel economics and have built their Go-To-Market strategies with partners in mind.
A vendor that is looking to scale its resources will truly value the reach its channel partners can offer. A solid partner-vendor strategy is one that will clearly demonstrate recognition of the needs of the channel and encourage a close relationship between field reps and partners.
With the cloud, virtualisation and the need for rapid increases in storage capacity irreversibly transforming the datacentre, resellers have to have their ears to the ground. The initiation and rise of the infrastructure performance manager across a number of vertical markets is testament to such a change. The acknowledgment of this role by an increasing number of end users is a harbinger and undoubtedly indicates where the market is moving - and the smart reseller, recognising the market opportunity, will follow. The good news is that IPM is generally an incremental revenue stream; the move to focussing on performance should not diminish potential revenue from existing vendors but add to it; the ability to guarantee application performance can only strengthen the reseller/end user relationship.
Customers will in the end stick with resellers and vendors who can move with the times and who understand the changing nature of their infrastructures. If the channel is supported in the right way by vendors, this in turn will inspire ongoing loyalty all down the chain. This is critical to ongoing lead generation, adaptability and long-term continued customer satisfaction through a rapidly evolving ICT landscape.
Eric Jorgensen, is VP sales EMEA, Virtual Instruments