IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Supporting SMB Customers in the Cloud

What do you do when the cloud isn’t your specialty? Here are your options. By Dave Hauser

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) aren’t adopting and gaining the benefits of the cloud because they don’t have the time and resources to implement these new technologies and applications—or to get their employees trained to use them. That’s according to The Appification of Small Business, a research e-book by Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit Inc., creator of the popular QuickBooks software. Here’s what’s going on:

  • 19 percent of SMBs surveyed state that different solutions don’t work well together
  • 17 percent say applications and software aren’t designed specifically for their businesses
  • 14 percent say applications and software are too time consuming and difficult to use
  • 6 percent say it doesn’t help them advance the goals they’ve set

If you’re part of the cloud ecosystem—making, distributing, and/or selling cloud technologies to SMBs—the odds are that helping those SMBs get up and running on your cloud “stuff” and actually experiencing the benefits of it may not be your core business. But here’s the conundrum: It’s unclear whose job it is! Let’s explore the possibilities.

Is the independent software vendor (ISV) the best candidate to help? Not likely. While the ISV has a lot to lose in the cloud game—it’s the company’s brand name on the line and revenue depends on seat activation—it isn’t able to deliver activation and technical support at scale.

Is it the channel’s role? That’s a much likelier answer, with some reservations. The channel, with players like VARs, MSPs, ISPs, telcos, cable operators, and system integrators, are “both feet into cloud,” expanding their portfolios with cloud offerings designed to build the installed base, increase average revenue per user (ARPU), and generate greater customer lifetime value. To bring that to life, however, requires securing activation, ensuring adoption, and delivering ongoing support—disciplines most have not mastered, and frankly don’t have the competencies to do so.

Core Competencies Lacking
Much like the ISV, most channel partners’ core competencies do not include supporting the activation, adoption, and ongoing usage of cloud technologies for the businesses they serve. Though migration, other IT projects, and/or monitoring and management services might be at the heart of their background, these organizations aren’t built to scale, and don’t have proficiencies to aid the customer in getting up and running, consistently using, and advancing their use of cloud technologies, let alone provide prepurchase consultation or ongoing support.

So what’s the cloud ecosystem to do? There’s a new category in the ecosystem: cloud enablers. Some of these companies provide tools for things like migration; others are built from the ground up to provide the technical services that get businesses up, running, and realizing value from their cloud technology purchases—from sales, migration, and installation to ongoing support.

Cloud enablers possess the expertise, processes, tools and technology, and purpose-built services to help end users fully embrace and benefit from their cloud journey. By partnering with a specialized cloud enabler, ISVs and their channel partners can rest easier knowing that SMBs are activating what’s been purchased, and have access to experts whenever they need them.

Cloud enablers help you achieve:

  • Higher adoption rates
  • Greater customer engagement
  • Lower churn
  • Greater customer profitability
  • More upsell opportunities
  • Acquisition of more customers, selling more with better margins!

In the IDC e-book Successful Cloud Partners 2.0: What IT Solution Providers Need to Know to Build Profitable Cloud Practices, sponsored by Microsoft, the analyst firm said it best: “Successful cloud partners are attaching services to their deals … adding business consulting services, or training and adoption services, as they sell more and more to line-of-business buyers.”

DAVID HAUSER is director of channel development and alliances at PlumChoice Inc., bringing 15 years of sales, marketing, and channel leadership experience to the company and the market. Prior to PlumChoice, Hauser held leadership positions at IDC, DirectoryM, NameMedia, and Carbonite Inc.

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