“For the partner to become a trusted advisor today, they must understand the entire landscape and develop specific skills.”
Echoing Savvides’ observations, McPhillips said partner value can be found through being “sticky”, adopting an approach built around servicing customer needs in new ways through adding increased value layers on top of security technologies.
“When you’re in the cloud services game, it’s easy for a customer to switch to another provider so you need to become sticky,” McPhillips explained.
In looking back at previous practices, Bowens said resellers used to traditionally “build up” over the duration of a year to try and trigger a renewal, with a shift to monthly billing and managed services now changing the customer engagement landscape.
“The shift means partners are less complacent and instead track progress on a more regular basis from a consumption perspective,” he said.
From an InfroTrust perspective, Meah said 80 per cent of the company is built around delivering managed service in the market.
“We’re less than three years old but we’ve set the business up to operate this way and naturally, challenges occur along the way,” Meah acknowledged. “Billing issues can bog you down as a business but we continue to deliver ongoing value throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
“This approach has provided a foundation to build on our trusted advisor role within the market because if you look after the customer, the renewals will take care of themselves.”
But as partners process countless streams of advice and insight — while finding new ways to add value through cloud security — the two-way nature of the channel also requires a shift in approach from a vendor standpoint.
Alongside better access to training resources, the latest products and marketing support, partners are now also categorising vendors in new ways, based on simplicity and predictability.
“A solid vendor in the cloud security space is a vendor that understands that it’s not easy for the channel,” Altit said. “It’s just not easy to get across the technology while dealing with a new billing model.”
In assuming that a partner is delivering a high-quality service to the customer, and to revisit a common point of contention around loyalty, what happens when the shift towards a monthly payment occurs?
“Customers can choose easily,” Lyon added. “There must be a recognition of the relationship over time and for a partner, education and support is imperative. The worst case scenario as a reseller is setting up business that your competitor is going to take three months later.”
With issues around deal registration and customer ownership continuing to plague the wider channel, partners are no longer just seeking technological innovation from vendors, rather precise and predictable methods to go to market.
“We’re battling away to win business and chase new accounts but we have to have an understanding of what a good deal looks like for everyone at the table,” Bowens said.
“When taking customers to the cloud, there’s a leap of faith which means all parties must agree in advance how to approach a particular deal for the benefit of the wider channel.”
In essence, channel collaboration is built on the creation of “clear rules of engagement” between all parties, avoiding potentially negative experiences from the offset.
“Partners will invest heavily in vendors if they believe they are being looked after,” Abdilla added. “But it all boils down to commitment and trust, which works both ways in the channel.”
For McPhillips, “simplicity” is a key facet of any vendor program.
“In general, many vendors have struggled with this in the past,” he acknowledged. “Nobody benefits when partners are unsure about deal registration or not confident around margins. Knowing exactly what your margin will be is an incredibly important piece of information to have before entering a selling environment.
“Our new partner program addresses these issues but it also introduces a lot of common sense thinking to the market.”
As a market leading vendor, McPhillips said partners that engage Symantec early during an opportunity, will be provided with a “clear blue water” advantage over other players in the market.
“This is extremely important,” he stressed. “It’s about killing the drive by, we don’t want it and neither do our partners. If we all engage early and agree on the fundamentals, then we can go and win the deal upfront together.
“If you don’t have a partnership then you’re just another brick in the wall. Partners are right, engagement must be both ways and through our channel-first policy, our resellers will have that level of partnership to rely on in the future.”
As the industry grapples with new ways to both implement and sell security technologies, the rise of cloud has placed new value on the role of distribution.
The importance of distribution in the cloud is heightening, with resellers challenged by changing models and a lack of technical expertise.
“There’s more enablement, there’s more webinars and there’s more roadshows,” Dicker Data general manager of software Pennie Stevens said. “And there’s a greater need for it because resellers still require ongoing assistance in a changing market.
“Technologies are constantly changing and as a distributor it’s our role to educate along the way. We’re an extension of the vendor which is crucial in maintaining a relevant relationship with our resellers.”
As an extension of the vendor, distributors are now tasked with providing value-added services to ensure partner cost of sale and speed is more efficient, removing the need for traditional methods of the past.
“It’s crucial that we have the right levels of enablement in place, alongside clearly defined programs for our resellers,” Arrow ECS A/NZ general manager of sales Daniel Dannielli added.
“But challenges remain in the industry around bringing multiple technology components together that were initially segmented to just the data centre, security or networking. Now they must be overlapped to provide a single outcome.”
In a cloud context, distributors are showing strength in aggregating technology, with marketplaces continually developing and evolving in the channel.
But despite a wealth of vendor products on show, and a deepened expertise across a range of technologies, the true value of distribution lies in trust.
“As a distributor, we have to be a trusted advisor to our resellers,” Ingram Micro national sales manager of cloud solutions Craig Bovaird added.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to introduce new vendors or technologies that we may not necessarily have because our best interests should be with the reseller and the customer.
“We can’t service every need and to be that trusted advisor, we have to also be able to walk away. It’s crucial we remain agnostic and have the best interests of the partner at heart.”
This roundtable was sponsored by Symantec. Photos by Maria Stefina.