“A lot of the customers that we're talking to are struggling even with the basic concepts of data privacy and data security needs. All these things people say that in the old days, they signed up on a system and the data was in the system and that was pretty much it.
“From a digital and data concept point-of-view, if you look at the [Royal Commission] banking inquiry as a lot of breaches, misconceptions and irregularities, you can trace back, in many instances, to specific systems and people that didn't do their jobs right.”
“There is a lot of misunderstanding out there,” he added. “And unfortunately, the rate and the pace of change doesn't give [businesses] time to pause and reflect upon it.”
However, as Chuong Mai-Viet, the managing director of Bluesource, argued, there is a role for the channel and the IT industry as a whole to be more vocal about the issues of data security and privacy. Indeed, he would even go so far as to say partners should take a firmer stance against clients who think “they know best”.
“I do it to my customers all the time,” he told the table. "[I tell them] 'you're wrong. You do need two-factor authentication and you do need to change our password for these reasons,' and if the customer keeps saying no to you, you almost have to say, ‘you know what, you can be someone else's problem’.”
Telling a different story
Naturally, no channel partner wants to be behind any curve and be, as Mansfield outs it, a “catalyst for change”. But in the face of these challenges in place, the channel may need to shift its selling and customer interaction mindsets, especially those coming from a legacy software background. But first of all, that requires some soul-searching for partners and, in all likelihood, some significant internal transformation.
Vivek Trivedi, MD at Exigo Tech, relayed how his company has also had to go on the same journey as its customers. “It has been quite an interesting last couple of years for us, going from experiencing the transformation journey with our clients, which has taught us a lot. So, we also have changed through this transformation process and then recognising our experience in the industry so we can be of value to them.”
Recognising the need to change also requires a deeper sense of accountability and responsibility for many of the client challenges today, believes Noel Allnutt, director of Solista.
“As sales people and business owners, we get told to tell a story and we can go and tell that story all day long and naturally we get good at telling that story.
“But there's just not enough where the word 'dilemma' comes from: that the dilemma is who are we selling to? And who's buying this? And then post-that, whose actually delivering that within the business?”
“We're accountable for the mess of the IT and failed projects and the future are we, and the sales people motivated by selling bodies and people and not an outcome,” he added. “How much do we own the resolved purses?”
“There still hasn't been that shift of organisations from IT keeping the lights on to technology teams doing transformation projects. That can serve as an opportunity for partners like ourselves to plug that gap and help them articulate the value.”
Outcome-based selling has been a regular buzzword of channel literature for the past number of years, but for Chuong, the shifting demographics within the end-user base means this is more critical than ever. For him, that represents a major change within the historic relationship of value-added resellers and their customers.
“[Businesses] are hiring twenty and thirty-year-olds who are very tech-savvy, know this way around a world. Most of the issue they'll sort out themselves. When they need you, they really need you and they don't want someone to say, 'Log a ticket, I'll see you in two days'. They just want it fixed and when they are getting charged out at $300 an hour?”
“I think we're almost at a stage where we've got two tiers of customers. We've got the customers in the new world -- the disruptors of the world -- and also old school IT.
“Supporting a vendor like Atlassian is very different from someone like HP. The guys at Atlassian, they're all developers and they want you to do the boring stuff that they don't want to do. But the complex stuff? They'll do it themselves, whereas the HPs of the world, fixing my complex stuff.
“So, I think as a reseller, if you're in that old school model, you almost have to go: ‘I'm just going to keep my old business doing what it does,' managing the clients that it used to manage and you almost have to speed up the new business doing something totally different and that's where the world is going.”
Some of that mindset also needs to come from the vendors themselves. Partners can be catalysts for their customers’ change, but the vendors also need to take ownership of that, stressed Harapin.
“We changed our MSP tool and one of the key criteria was: ‘How quickly have you changed over the last five years compared to who you're competing with?” he said. “Is that something that you're seeing customers ask? How quickly are you moving? Is this product that I buy today still going to be the same product two years or where are you going?
“And then it’s about saying to customers: ‘We're here to help you manage your business fundamentally differently'. And then all of a sudden, they totally shift when they get it. Being ready for that and prepared for it as an organisation is really the key.
“It's about being set-up as a really customer-centric sales and support team where end-user success starts from the moment before you even sign the contract. Then it’s about being open so you both can enhance the value that they get out of existing investments and protected and ready for the future.”