The IT market tendencies and perspectives for 2018 in the United States, the most advanced marketplace in the world, will dictate the business rules for all the other countries for the next years in subjects such as IoT, AI, learning machine, SD-WAN cybersecurity.
Infor Channel Magazine talked with leaders of the most influential IT worldwide companies there to understand how the cloud, Communication Plataform as a Service, Management Service Provider, and WAN will support the large number of connected devices and how the channel can profit understanding the customer business as much as the technology and security matters in 2018 and the following years.
Lisa Simpson, vice president of channel sales and distribution of Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
Infor Channel – What is the main challenge of technology reseller for 2018, facing the current scenario of digital convergence and cyber attacks?
Lisa Simpson – The main challenge of a technology reseller in 2018 is to make the transition from being a reseller of IT technology and maintenance contracts to being a trusted advisor to end customers on technology matters. This requires them to have a strong understanding of technology and security matters but also an understanding of the end customer business. This enables the technology reseller to make recommendations on how digital transformation can enable the end customer to increase business, to propose verticalized technology solutions that address the specific requirements of the end customer, and to recommend the security products and practices that should be put in place to mitigate cyber attacks.
IC – What are the major changes that must occur in the IT market by 2020 that are already impacting business right now?
LS – Here are key IT topics that are impacting business now:
- Cloud based subscription offerings for network and communication infrastructure services including cloud based managed network services, network as a service offering, cloud based unified communication offerings, and communication platform as a service offerings (CPasS). Increasingly these service offerings will be integrated into the business workflow products. Revenue from service based offerings is typically based on usage. This means the IT technology reseller must adopt a sales strategy with frequent interact with their customers to drive adoption and usage of the service within the end customer population.
- Communication platform as a service (CPaaS) offerings that integrate into industry specific business workflow tools and also integrate with the telephony systems deployed within the customer network.
- Supporting the large number of connected devices that are deployed in an enterprise networks and the data generated by these devices – Key elements that must be addressed are profiling and identification of the devices, secure on boarding of the device, using network virtualization to manage and enforce policies on the network traffic from these devices, and analysis of the data generated by the devices and subsequent integration into the business workflow.
- Use of analytics and automation to manage the network and IT applications. Analysis of information regarding network traffic and application performance enables network management tools to identify network events that could be impacting user experience with a given application and also recommend mitigation actions. Through software defined networking techniques management tools can automatically configure the network to ensure the best performance of an application when it is deployed in the data center.
- Security of the IT infrastructure continues to a key element that impacts business. An important change that must occur in this area is to extend the security testing currently done by equipment manufacturers with an assessment and testing of the hardware and software used in the network products by a trusted third party that is experienced in cybersecurity. This brings and extra level of assurance that the IT infrastructure does not contain unkown backdoors, unpatched vulnerabilities, etc.
- A continued increase in the network bandwidth in the wired and wireless infrastructure including multi-gig connectivity to end systems and WLAN APs, use of 100 GigE in network backbones, deployment of 802.11ac today and 802.11ax in the future.
IC – What influences the solution developer when choosing a distributor? What characterizes the current Value Added Distributor (VAD) for your company?
LS – A value-added distributor has to add demonstrable value for the end customer, reseller and to the vendor. This value can include but not limited to technological savvy, like campus safety, or financial services, or training and development, but also marketing services. Distributors today are not just box movers, they have to provide additional services to warrant their involvement in the order chain.
IC – What is the main value that IT distributors can add to solution companies in the cloud computing business, networking, IoT, and security?
LS – As Resellers transition to be the trusted advisor to end customers on technology matters, the IT distributor also needs to transition to add value and support Resellers in this new role. The value of IT distributors includes the traditional roles of supporting the resellers: Financial services, training and development, and marketing services. Now, they also need to act as mentors for the Resellers making this transition. One way to up the game is for the IT Distributor to build pre-bundled solutions specialized for specific verticals, or bundling multiple vendor products to meet specific customer needs. As the new role for Resellers requires a strong understanding of the technology, of security issues, and of the customer’s business, the IT distributor can provide this level of knowledge to their Reseller population, helping to make them successful while expanding their business.
IC – What do you suggest for qualifying a channel sales team to effectively convert business demands and new IT priorities into bids?
LS – Channel sales has to be conversant in solutions to meet the growing needs of these IT Priorities. The language of the customer has to be well understood by the channel team and has to be incorporated into responses. They need to build expertise in emerging areas where they can take multiple vendors and create solutions to meet customer needs.
IC – In your opinion, how should the distributor team be to take care of a value line to sell solution and not volume of items? What qualifications and which job positions would you include in this team?
LS – The distributor must also understand the language and needs of the customer and provide solutions to meet those including but not limited to bundling vendors’ products as a solution for an IT need. This is the value add they can bring to their resellers. It would behoove the distributor to add expertise in vertical specializations that meet the new IT priorities.
IC – With the increasing demand for cloud solutions, how do you see the role of the distributor in the chain, considering that several financial, training, and channel development needs will be maintained, even if the ‘product delivery’ model is replaced by a much more service-oriented model?
LS – Cloud solution models change the traditional roles and responsibilities – as the Reseller is freed from some of the product installation, maintenance and operational issues, they can focus on Customer accompaniment, on understanding the Customer business and adding value with customer adapted solutions. The distributor’s role should evolve to support, train, enable the Resellers in this new role, but also enable a shift in the Distributors focus to add value in the service-oriented model. This value may be in taking an active role in the configuration, operation and maintenance of solution for the Reseller’s customers. This relieves some of the burden on the Resellers to stay expert on the technology, by delegating the technically complex tasks to the Distributor. The distributor in turn has the opportunity to grow their margin by providing these services, and with proximity to the Solution vendor, can drive solution evolution with expertise from field experience.