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Moving the Channel Forward

September 9, 2013 No Comments

Featured article by Kelly Ricker, SVP, Events and Education, CompTIA

The IT channel has seen unprecedented disruption over the past few years. Surging enterprise demand for cloud solutions, mobility and business intelligence has left channel firms with a blunt choice: evolve with your clients’ desires or risk obsolescence.

While individual IT professionals have taken a proactive stance to hone their skillsets through certification and ongoing education, there have historically been fewer learning opportunities to support entire channel firms as they navigate through new product and service offerings and evolving pricing and business models.

Take cloud services, for example. In CompTIA’s latest research on the cloud market, solution providers ranked developing expertise across both the technical and sales arms within their organizations as the top challenge to launching cloud offerings. Just under half of respondents cited determining the best business model around cloud as another obstacle.

With these roadblocks in mind, CompTIA recently debuted an expanded curriculum of education and training options, tailored specifically for the channel. These “Sales Playbooks” are comprehensive modules that include workshops, templates and training materials to help channel firms of any size through the process of adding new services to their portfolio and identifying the best revenue-generating opportunities.

These and similar education initiatives are poised to become an integral part of channel growth moving forward. Beyond getting a better foothold on how to introduce cloud and other IT megatrends into their businesses, channel firms will likely need support as they expand their cloud, mobility, unified communications or analytics practices.

Taking a closer look at the cloud, CompTIA research outlines four distinct business models that channel firms deploy:

Build – Where firms procure vendor hardware and software to help clients build public, private or hybrid clouds, in addition to product consultation.

Provide/Provision – Under this model, firms resell and provision Infrastructure as a Service offerings for cloud computing and storage (e.g., from Amazon Web Services.)

Enable/Integrate – In which firms help clients integrate cloud solutions with existing IT systems, or build custom solutions for particular industries and functions.

Manage/Support – Where firms offer long-term, ongoing support of clients’ cloud solutions (e.g., troubleshooting, scaling, etc.)

Close to half of all channel firms have cloud “build” models as part of their core offerings today, with another third planning to add these services over the next year. Half of channel firms also report working in the provide/provision space, with a third believing that this model shows the highest growth potential of all over the next two years.

Even with this slew of options and available combinations, only 26 percent of channel firms sell services across all four of these models. Regardless, 82 percent of firms expect cloud revenue to trend upward over the next 12 months – indicating that there is still plenty of work and preparation to be done.

The goal of CompTIA’s new channel education programs is to ensure that organizations large and small meet these projections, by providing them with a roadmap and resources to success, even for establishing more granular services.

The first two CompTIA Sales Playbooks, released in late July, focus specifically around cloud computing – one on cloud-based storage solutions, the other on cloud-based backup and recovery. In essence, channel firm managers should be able to easily reference these Playbook materials as they simultaneously perform market research around a new service, develop marketing collateral and train their sales teams.

As the IT industry undergoes continuous growth spurts, channel firms will not be spared from the challenges – or opportunities – that come with expansion. But just as IT professionals seek out education to advance their own careers, IT channel firms deserve to have the same learning options available to guarantee business success for years to come.

Kelly Ricker is responsible for setting CompTIA’s IT channel education and event strategies and overseeing the department responsible for producing CompTIA’s channel education products and live events.



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