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Partner role shifts: Selling enterprise cloud and managed services

As enterprises increasingly demand cloud services, solution providers are seeking ways to become resellers of cloud and managed services.

As more enterprises demand cloud and mobility solutions, partners are feeling the pressure to become cloud services resellers and managed service providers (MSPs).

To help with this transition, partners can work with service providers like ADTRAN. In this Q & A, Bob Locklear, director of business development at ADTRAN, explains how the role of partners is changing when it comes to offering cloud and mobility solutions to customers. He also discusses how ADTRAN is helping partners successfully offer these solutions and how the cloud changes the way that smaller partners do business.

How is ADTRAN addressing the changing needs of partners when it comes to the enterprise cloud?

Bob Locklear: A lot of our traditional resellers are turning into MSPs, and they are looking at the market and seeing things go to hosted and cloud. What they see is the possibility of selling less hardware. They are interested in getting more into hosted or managed solutions. At ADTRAN, we are focused more on not only the products but the process, management and ability to assist and enable our resellers to become providers of managed services. With this, resellers are providing more installation support, multi-tenant management, etc.

ADTRAN is also doing a lot of work in management systems to allow small or medium-sized resellers to manage products proactively. Some things we will offer as a hosted solution and other things we will enable them to use as hosted solutions or premise solutions, because right now it's a mix. The whole world hasn't flipped over to cloud. Customers might want one thing but then decide to go back. We are trying to concentrate on flexibility and management, and enabling partners to go after those trends.

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Is there pressure for partners to become managed services resellers?

Locklear: Pressure is coming from their customers and trends in the market. Wireless, data, BYOD, security … everything is becoming too complex for customers. Resellers and integrators have to become more of a total and managed solution provider.

With cloud, the fact that resellers can lose small businesses because they can now just go online and get a phone system is a threat. So resellers have to react and adjust and say 'I can do that for you too.'

Some MSPs and resellers are going as far as becoming carriers and will provide an SLA. Small resellers or MSPs can go to businesses, charge a fee, but can guarantee management. A managed service model for small businesses means they can have predictable expenses and they like that better than surprises.

What do enterprise cloud and mobility mean for the way small resellers run their businesses?

Locklear: Cloud and mobility flatten the landscape. If you start your own business, you can have Salesforce to manage your CRM, contacts and sales process. You now have the tool that Fortune 500 companies use. Large companies no longer have the advantage of having better systems than small companies. They no longer have the capital outlay or other factors that would be a barrier to a small business.

With enterprise mobility, you have everything at your fingertips. For a small business, they can tie that all back into their website and systems. A two- or four-person operation [in this scenario] almost outguns a big one because they are quicker and faster. It's a good thing, but they have to adapt. They can't do things the way they've always done them because the resellers they compete against are changing too. That's why we are seeing them embrace the reselling of cloud applications and hosted solutions.

Big resellers still can benefit from mobility and cloud like smaller resellers, but they have to make sure they aren't staying in their old focused ways. The world is changing, and the larger the organization, the harder it resists change. The key is not being resistant to change. Larger resellers have to say, 'What do we need to do to keep up with everyone out there? We may have 5,000 people, but we can't act like it or we're going to get run over.' That's part of this cloud, mobile broadband world. You can't not move fast anymore.

How can partners help customers adjust to the enterprise cloud and mobility trend?

Locklear: Partners can be the middle ground to explain these important changes to companies. [Customers] have to understand that they aren't going to have a homogeneous environment. Resellers have to integrate diversity into the solution.

At ADTRAN, there are three different levels of resellers, and we provide training on solutions online and in person. The training focuses on products and solutions but also enablement.

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