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Cloud experience works if partners sell what they use

Channel partners who use cloud-based apps and services in-house to run their operations say they can leverage that background when approaching external customers.

Cloud providers are putting their money where their mouth is.

As cloud computing evolves and competition among cloud providers intensifies, many managed service providers (MSPs), cloud service providers, and other channel partners providing cloud offerings have deployed cloud-based apps and services for their day-to-day operations and are using their own cloud experience to boost their sales and marketing strategy. This approach is proving to be a powerful tool that strengthens their cloud expertise, fine tunes their business practices and improves their sales pitches as they sell what they use in the cloud.

"Businesses and customer expectations are moving faster than ever," Corinne Sklar, global chief marketing officer at Bluewolf Group LLC, a New York-based global consulting agency and Salesforce partner, said. One way to help understand what will work for a customer is to use the products and services before selling it to a client.

According to Sklar, as the cloud landscape continues to shift, cloud providers need to recognize that while cloud technology is flexible that doesn't necessarily mean that a customer's business can readily adapt to new cloud capabilities. Organizations need to evaluate how they will continually match the pace of innovation.

"Because we use Salesforce internally, we often will demo our own Bluewolf instances to clients to show real examples of cloud-based best practices that are applicable and transferrable to their own business needs," Sklar said.

Noting that everything Bluewolf runs internally and sells externally is cloud based, Sklar said the agility of cloud-based technologies allows her company to provide transparency throughout the Bluewolf organization, including traceable collaboration across global teams, visibility into employee engagement and development, and the ability to share company-wide or management-specific information quickly.

"Our own Salesforce usage is a first-hand case study that accurately relays best practices to clients when we provide guidance for any cloud implementation," Sklar said.

Cultivating cloud best practices

Another cloud provider that sells what it uses is Syntel Inc., based in Troy, Michigan, a company that offers digital transformation, information technology and knowledge process services to global clients. The company provides services that include cloud and data center modernization and management, cloud app migration, legacy-to-cloud migration and consulting, platform as a service (PaaS) modernization, and cloud automation.

Much of our experience deploying cloud apps for clients is based, in some part, on our experience setting up cloud-based solutions for Syntel's internal operations.
Ashok Balasubramanianhead of Syntel's Services Transformation Group

With more than 24,000 associates, Syntel finds it is critical that its employees stay connected no matter where their work takes them, Ashok Balasubramanian, head of Syntel's Services Transformation Group, said.

"For this reason, all of our enterprise applications and collaboration platforms are based on a private cloud model," Balasubramanian said.

In fact, Syntel uses cloud platforms extensively for its business operations. The company's messaging, finance, human resource, customer relationship management, employee engagement and technical support portals are all cloud-based, as are many of the back-end utilities and dashboards that Syntel employs to deliver and track the services they provide to clients.

As a systems integrator with considerable experience using cloud platforms for its own business operations, Syntel has learned many lessons on the best ways to implement apps and services for its customers because of the company's own use of cloud apps and services, Balasubramanian said.

"Much of our experience deploying cloud apps for clients is based, in some part, on our experience setting up cloud-based solutions for Syntel's internal operations," Balasubramanian said.

He also noted that Syntel’s internal cloud journey has helped the company understand the complexities involved in implementing a cloud-based model for a large enterprise -- knowledge that Syntel's IT experts have applied to hundreds of other cloud projects that they’ve implemented for their clients.

"Although we do not sell cloud apps, migrating certain areas of our own operations to technologies like OpenStack, Azure, AWS [Amazon Web Services] and other cloud platforms has given Syntel a strong frame of reference for future implementations," Balasubramanian said. "More importantly, it has helped us develop standard operating procedures, best practices, utilities and accelerators that play an important role in guiding our clients through their own journeys to the cloud."

Taking the use-what-you-sell strategy one step further, Syntel has built what it calls "cloud experience centers" at several of its facilities to help clients better understand its approach to the cloud. These centers serve as a concentrated knowledge base for the company's cloud practice, where it develops and tests cloud-based intellectual property that enables automation and other capabilities.

"We feel that a visit to our cloud experience center provides our clients with a more tangible demonstration of the benefits of such a model, as well as an opportunity to interact directly and enable Syntel to model their use cases much faster," Balasubramanian said.

Like Syntel, Cirrity LLC, a channel-only cloud services provider that sells cloud solutions through resellers and MSPs, also invites potential customers to its facility to see how the company uses cloud computing internally.

Among the advantages of this approach is that Cirrity can demonstrate to potential customers the value of the cloud products they use internally.

"Prospective cloud customers typically visit our facilities to validate that our security and compliance posture are consistent with their requirements for HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], PCI DSS [Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard] 3.0 and AICPA SOC 2 Type 2," Dan Timko, Cirrity's president and CTO, said.

The Atlanta-based company uses several cloud services for its business operations including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) and desktop as a service (DaaS) from Cisco, as well as backup as a service (BaaS) from Veeam Cloud Connect.

"Our operations and sales teams use DaaS to access applications running on our IaaS servers, and we use BaaS and DRaaS to provide backups and replication between our two data centers," Timko said. "We sell all four of the cloud-based solutions that we use internally to our clients."

Being a consumer of cloud services helps Cirrity to promote these services to its clients. Because of this, the company encourages its reseller partners to move some or all of their operations to the Cirrity cloud to enhance their ability to endorse the services.

"Our credibility is enhanced when we stand behind our products by asserting that we run our business on the same products that our resellers are proposing to their clients," Timko said.

New hires gain cloud experience

There's another reason that the use-what-you-sell approach works for cloud solution providers. According to Syntel's Balasubramanian, cloud is a "very hot" technology, and today's IT graduates are excited about doing hands-on work to bolster their cloud technology expertise.

"For Syntel, one way to ensure that we continue to recruit and develop the best and brightest talent is to offer them the opportunity to work on cloud-based apps and systems," Balasubramanian said. "Using cloud in our own operations gives us the ability to train and expose our associates to cloud principles and best practices, maintain a pipeline of cloud-ready talent, and generally improve the overall skill level of our workforce."

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