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6 Strategies Cloud Partners Can Leverage to Differentiate Their Offerings

Christina Wang

November 5, 2015

4 minute read

Cloud Partner Differentiators

Microsoft has cultivated an enormous partner ecosystem. But the shift to the cloud is forcing more than 600,000 Microsoft partners to reevaluate their business approaches. A growing portion of Microsoft partners have increasingly set their eyes on the cloud as part of Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Providers program (CSP).

For organizations “going-Google,” more than 10,000 cloud-focused Google partners are assisting their shift to the cloud.

What does this mean? The cloud partner ecosystem is crowded.

Partners must distinguish themselves by offering value others don’t. Customers are more educated than ever. According to a 2015 Google study, “90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases.” Potential clients are more empowered than ever to shop around for a partner that benefits them most.

We’ve defined the partner ecosystem as we see it, and in doing so, a cutting-edge breed of partner has emerged: Pioneers.

“Pioneers: Most complete in offering and value added–these partners are leading the shift to the cloud. Typically, they are implementation and migration experts that also resell licenses for multiple cloud platforms.” – Demystifying the Cloud Partner Ecosystem: How to Choose a Cloud Partner That Works For You

Pioneers are breaking the mold, selling licenses to create recurring revenue streams and offering services to provide value far beyond implementation or migration. As cloud application usage increases, uncertainty remains prevalent. These pioneering partners will become invaluable to the organizations they serve, separating themselves from their competition in the process.

But what exactly are Pioneers doing to distinguish themselves?

Throughout Trends in Cloud IT, we tapped into the minds of more than 1,500 IT professionals, including those working with partners. We’ve analyzed the responses and discovered several significant ways pioneering partners differentiate their offerings.

Below are the top six tactics pioneering partners are putting in practice:

1. Become a Distinguished Cloud Expert

Transitioning to the cloud can be scary. If IT admins lose data, it’s their job that’s on the line. IT professionals were adamant in their survey responses that partners need previous deployment or migration experience. This boils down to trust; IT professionals need to feel comfortable that their future is in good hands.

Partners can’t pull experience out of thin air, but they can highlight the expertise they do have. For example:

  • Create dedicated deployment teams with experienced specialists
  • Cultivate client champions that can speak to successful deployments and migrations
  • Build in-depth migration or deployment plans customized with cloud applications and migration tools that fit client needs (Skykick, BitTitan, FastTrack for Office 365, and GAMME are a few great companies and tools for cloud migrations)
  • Establish niche-specific thought leadership through speaking engagements, guest columns, or educational webinars

2. Provide Advisory Services Before Migrations and Deployments

As clients plan their shift to the cloud, partners have the opportunity to become true cloud brokers.

“The broker’s role may simply be to save the purchaser time by researching services from different vendors and providing the customer with information about how to use cloud computing to support business goals. In such a scenario, the broker works with the customer to understand work processes, provisioning needs, budgeting and data management requirements.” – TechTarget, SearchCloudProvider

The days and months before a cloud transition are critical. Make sure clients understand the long-term effect of moving to the cloud. Increasing cloud application usage will inevitably lead to more complex integrations, meaning the decisions made in the early stages of a cloud transition–both good and bad–will stay with an organization for a long time. Organizations may use just one cloud application today, but in a few years they could use dozens or even hundreds.

3. Bring Ongoing Value Throughout the Client Lifecycle

One of the most common complaints from IT professionals was the lack of value partners provided after the initial move.

By providing ongoing value, partners benefit the client and themselves. When a client needs a complex integration, security audit, training for a new cloud application, or other services, they should know where to turn. Pioneering partners are creating sustainable long-term partnerships with their clients, generating revenue throughout the life of their relationship, rather than sitting idle and giving their client every opportunity to churn.

4. Deliver Unrivaled Support With a Dedicated Team

Whether it’s troubleshooting basic issues, addressing pressing security needs, or quickly provisioning new accounts, a dedicated support team is a valuable asset for an IT administrator. IT issues create critical problems for business productivity and security and can’t be ignored. IT professionals want a direct line to support, instead of submitting support tickets and potentially waiting for hours.

Partners that lack the resources to provide an above-average level of support can outsource it to a managed service provider (MSP). Companies–and partners–hire MSPs to deliver IT services outside their expertise or bandwidth.

5. Offer Bundled Services to Add Value and Create Billing Simplicity

Organizations want billing simplicity.

Pioneering partners bundle relevant cloud applications and services together to create a single bill for their clients. But what can partners bundle in that bill to add value? Here are a few ideas:

  • Ongoing support, 24×7 support
  • Essential cloud applications
  • IT Training
  • Security audits
  • End-user resources

6. Carve Out a Niche with Vertical-Specific Experience and Offerings

The cloud is something that affects all business, regardless of industry. As a result, partners come in many shapes and sizes, filling voids and specializing in certain products or industries. This presents a huge opportunity for partners to hone in on a vertical and excel.

For instance, finance organizations have a unique set of needs. Tailor bundles to these organizations by including services and tools that are valuable. Regular security audits, employee security training, and discounted licenses for financial cloud applications like NetSuite and Zuora can be provided by a cloud partner.

Preparing for a Successful Cloud Future

The partner ecosystem is changing significantly as cloud-based technology continues its rapid rise. Partners, especially in the Microsoft ecosystem, are rewriting their strategies to set themselves up for a successful future.

There are many ways a partner can differentiate their offering, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but the tactics above are based off recommendations and experiences from real cloud IT professionals–and it’s the pioneering partners taking the advice to heart.

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