As new technologies and business models flood the market, the channel is struggling to keep pace.
With an increased need to drive profitable growth — while increasing customer engagement and retention rates — partners remain challenged to eliminate time-consuming internal processes that escalate costs and drain resources.
Such change requires a shift in focus however, and a reassessment of in-house processes and systems.
Because as cloud adoption increases, recurring revenue models rise in tandem, creating system complexities capable of stalling future growth.
Yet old habits die hard in the Australian channel, with partners advocating automation externally, as arduous internal processes slowly churn in the background.
“That’s what partners advertise to customers,” Atlas Plato CTO, Richard Mitton, acknowledged. “When delivering managed services, partners outline everything they are doing for the customer but underneath there is a lot of scrambling around.
“That’s when you’re trying to ensure nothing is expiring and that everything is in working order. The channel is a trust game because the customer trusts that they will be properly serviced and looked after.
“And while that is true, there’s a lot of hard work in the background and running on treadmills to keep the engine running.”
Akin to the swimming swan analogy, the channel is projecting a picture of professionalism and reliability to the customer, but paddling like crazy just beneath the surface.
Exemplary on the one hand, chaotic on the other.
In short, the channel remains challenged by an inability to capitalise on driving profitable business growth, while increasing customer engagement and retention rates.
In a market made up of varied transaction sizes, proactively managing renewals ahead of expiry dates is often back-breaking work, as the laborious battle to boost revenue while ensuring customer compliance lingers on.
With partners now slaves to spreadsheets, the result is a channel submerged in paperwork and drowned by data.
“There’s so much complexity associated with vendor systems that partners are expected to comply with,” Katana1 managing director, Nick Russell, added. “It’s great to operate in a vacuum and build your own tools but this approach creates complexity and challenges further down the line.
“Vendors expect partners to plug into their own systems yet most partners deal with multiple vendors, hence why scrambling in the background is commonplace.
“But the problem goes deeper because we’ve had vendors call our customers when a renewal is coming up to ask whether our customer would like to renew with us. So, if you don’t have visibility over your services, someone can come in and beat you to the punch.
“Visibility is crucial to get ahead of the situation because on occasions, you might not even realise that a maintenance or renewal was approaching.”
As end-users actively pursue digital transformation strategies, underpinned by a desire to reduce costs and boost efficiencies, the channel is waiting in the wings to offer strategic advice and guidance.
Assuming the role of trusted advisor, the consultative sell is in vogue with customers open to change and crucially, happy to pay for it.
As outlined via EDGE Research - spanning partners, vendors and customers in Australia - digital transformation strategies are underway and gathering momentum, with 45 per cent of partners “ready and selling” across the country.
Somewhere in the process however, the channel still managed to miss a beat.
Because as pilot initiatives evolve into mainstream digital deployments, and customers reap the rewards of a refreshed technological approach, solution providers are left with the legacy of burdensome back-end systems.
With customers aligning to partners who have embarked on internal digital transformation strategies, such an approach hinders the channel’s ability to offer tried and tested recommendations, while also hampering the delivery of integrated sales and solutions.
Because in the digital age, partners still remain grounded by manual methods.
“It’s very much a manual process for our business,” Matrix CNI managing director, Deni Saupin, said. “But if we forget something, we might not find out until four years later when the contract expires.
“And if you add personnel changes into the mix then that creates a lot of problems for partners. We don’t receive much help or support from the vendors but that’s not a valid option anyways as those systems are typically not very accurate.
“We are a small company and due to a lack of resources, we are very manual in our processes.”
Driven by the primary benefits of cost reduction and improved productivity, partners can also improve customer relations through replacing repetitive processes with software-supported activity.
“Manual processing is a huge problem in the integration space,” CCNA commercial director, Eoin Coghlan, added. “We are outlining customer solutions and roadmaps, and how they might be impacted by new vs. legacy technologies, and manual systems makes this task more difficult.
“But also from a sales point of view, partners must identify the products coming in under renewal, alongside assessing when vendor end of life policies kick-in.