The four cloud skills that are key for the channel’s future

What you need to learn to ensure a smooth transition to a cloud model

The cloud has been the catalyst for much of the change in the way the channel makes money from hardware and software. Analyst firm Gartner predicts the public cloud services market alone will increase by 21% to $186.4 billion by the end of this year, with cloud infrastructure services (infrastructure as a service, or IaaS) seeing the fastest growth.

In order to survive this latest technological change, the channel will have to pick up a few cloud skills to ensure a smooth transition. For many, this means providing a value-add service to customers as well as professional consulting.

The channel already has many of the skills required to make the most of the cloud. They know how to work with customers to find out what they need from a technology and to understand how their businesses are evolving. Many channel partners are already incredibly skilled at learning about new solutions very quickly.

A solid understanding

Understanding the difference between the public, private and hybrid cloud is one key skill that partners must be clear on, and be able to convey clearly to their clients. Getting to know the supporting technologies that will help customers to get the most from their cloud will position a partner well above the competition.

With some clients, moving everything to the cloud is not necessarily the best option for them. Workloads can be moved app by app, which will demonstrate some of the advantages without requiring a full commitment. Don't virtualise if you don't need to, as this could run the risk of encountering performance issues.

60% of decision makers look for advice before making a big business decision, so establishing yourself as a trusted advisor by being proactive in offering support should clients be exploring cloud services.

Data-handling competencies

The ability to manage data in the cloud, orchestrate that data and help customers to protect that data is also needed by channel professionals. This way, partners can bring more value to their customers by becoming not only a trusted adviser, but a true business partner in an increasingly complex cloud landscape.

Clients will want to be confident that you can handle their data securely and reliably, especially as security is one of the key concerns around cloud adoption. Establishing an efficient cloud security architecture through a variety of controls is key to limiting risks in the cloud.

A different marketing mindset

Selling cloud is different from traditional reselling, so digital marketing is critical, as is establishing a new type of consultative relationship that provides guidance and advice on how to leverage different types of cloud technology and services.

This may well require an internal mindset shift from selling products to offering cloud-based services, and the subscription model that comes with it - a transition that has been shaky for many partners.

It will also require a certain amount of education to build out and market a cloud model, and one way to get ahead is to bundle in services like backup, antivirus and recovery. This will help set your offering apart from the market, and give an edge over major industry players.

Well-defined niches

To find prospects when they are still in the technology consideration stage, partners should have defined niches, where their expertise is most pronounced. The end user wants to know why considering cloud technologies through the channel is the best option for them, and partners are using new sales and marketing engines to tell that story while differentiating their services.

The channel must be able to engage with customers on their journey to the cloud - adoption rates will vary and some customers will migrate slowly over time, whilst others may jump right in. A full appreciation of the technical and business aspects which can drive great advantages will be highly valuable, as is the necessity for partners needing to understand their customers inside and out.

In the short term, channel partners that strengthen skills and nurture a good understanding of the cloud will protect revenue and margins. In the long run, an increased depth of knowledge will allow them to stay in business.

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