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Business customers + channel partners = digital business opportunity

Channel partners are in demand by business customers as they formulate and implement their digital business and cloud strategies. That’s because partners offer expertise above and beyond what many businesses have in house and also because these organizations need comprehensive advice and trusted advisors to help them along their IT journey.

Two industry analysts recently conveyed this message: Darren Bibby, vice president, channels and alliances research at IDC and Anurag Agrawal, CEO and analyst at Techaisle.

In a recent blog post on the Microsoft Partner Network, Bibby noted that according to a recent survey of IT solutions purchasers, done in conjunction with Microsoft, the IT partner channel is vital to the future of the industry. Eighty-six percent of business customers said that they purchase their IT solutions through channel partners, in addition to the many customers who also buy directly from vendors.

Bibby outlined five reasons why customers prefer partners rather than buying directly from a software publisher:

  • To meet someone in person instead of conducting a phone meeting — particularly at the beginning of the purchase process.
  • For a trusted advisor relationship and expertise around technology and specific business processes or vertical industries
  • For help in choosing the right vendor and technology

Not only did Bibby note that IT spending is in transition – last year customers spent 55% of their IT budget on cloud and managed services versus 45% traditional IT – the research firm also predicted a couple of years ago that 70% of CIOs will shift to a cloud-first strategy by 2016 before moving to another model.

Furthermore, 72% of survey respondents in the IDC State of IT Spending report said they were willing to pay a premium for good customer service compared with 20% of respondents who were more interested in a lower cost versus good customer service.

At the same time, Techaisle reported that 90% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. are either using or plan to use outside professional firms for cloud assessment and/or implementation.

According to Agrawal, 42% of midmarket firms turned to consultants for cloud implementation whereas 31% of small businesses turn to outside tech professionals for cloud assessments and strategy. Thirty-five percent of SMBs continued the relationship with the IT partner that helped them formulate their cloud strategy.

The research firm also noted that 39% of SMBs are planning to outsource cloud migration services within the next year.

Agrawal commented that the takeaway message for partners here is that they should move beyond resale of cloud solutions, such as Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service, to include a broader value add in order to reap the revenue SMB companies are poised to spend on outsourced IT.

He noted that in the midmarket, companies turn to partners for strategic IT solutions: cloud migration services; the implementation of cloud packages such as enterprise resource planning  and customer relationship management; and mobility/mobile app development. Small businesses seek partners for cloud infrastructure rollout and support, cloud migration and SaaS services, mobility/mobile app development, and custom software development.

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