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Marching Orders 2014: Take Control in Key Accounts

As part of our 2014 "Marching Orders" feature, Ross Brown, senior principal with The Spur Group, gives his take on what partners need to do to succeed in the new year.

In the coming year, two trends will combine to create a perfect storm for partners. First, there's the increasing focus on virtualizing everything (storage, network, compute, memory, sessions and so on). Second is the increasing need for integration and federation between on-premises virtualized workloads and cloud services.

The ubiquity of virtualization is a bonanza for partners because of two compelling and unstoppable forces: 

Virtualization-driven flexibility brings significant value to customers.

As with server virtualization, the shifting of account control from the hardware vendor salesforces to the software and services channel that delivers the virtualization solution.

With the server virtualization wave of 2006-2010, we saw a massive shift in power. We started with direct vendor sales teams owning the server sale as a platform lock-in. We ended with the decimation of the value of server homogeneity and the rise of the virtualization integrator.

In 2014, this wave is coming to hit the storage and networking markets with as much force and will shake up the existing hierarchy of vendor-sell/partner-deliver to partner-sell-and-define/vendor-supply.

Compounding and accelerating all this is the new need to federate on-premises applications with cloud services, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). So virtual workloads can migrate from on-premises to cloud and back.

Another driver is application communication models that let cloud events drive on-premises applications -- for example, a new sale in an on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) system triggering the close of a record in Salesforce.com. This area is somewhat nascent now, but there's real opportunity here for vertical applications.

Both of these shift the balance of power back to the competent Microsoft partners who focus on getting from a product-based approach to a practice-based approach to value creation. Partners with repeatable IP, formal methodologies and an integration-centric model will grow faster than the market, take share from hardware-centric channels and gain account positions that are defensible into the rest of the decade.

Posted on January 03, 2014


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