Channel Call

Charting Cloud Channels

As you heard at the Partner Conference, Microsoft's partner program is headed toward the cloud. Here's your first steps to not being left behind.

The buzz at last month's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference was all about cloud computing. It seems that we are at a pivotal point in the evolution of information technology and in particular with cloud computing. Microsoft is leveraging this model and so should its partners, lest you be left in the dust by your competitors. From my vantage point, a partner can leverage the cloud three different ways: creating a cloud channel, being part of a cloud channel ecosystem or doing both. Let's take a look at all three options.

Creating a Cloud Channel
Microsoft partners will undoubtedly be able to leverage the cloud in a much easier way -- now that Microsoft is taking a stronger stance. In talking with numerous resellers/systems integrators and ISVs, I often hear about cool products or widgets that they've developed as a result of consulting engagements.

Many of these products are marketable but the problem for the partner is that they struggle with bringing the product to market. Traditionally, they can either sell the product via a direct sales force, which is costly and risky, or they could develop a channel, which is less expensive and also neutralizes the risks. In either case, there are many things that must take place in order to effectively roll out your strategy.

Traditionally, the software was deployed "on-premises" and, consequently, the customer needed to have certain pieces of infrastructure (think software/hardware) in place to deploy the solution.

With the cloud, we remove all of these barriers. Not only can the partner develop solutions more effectively, but they can more easily sell to the customer because traditional hurdles like infrastructure compatibility or new infrastructure needs are now removed. Additionally, the cost of the solution is more appealing because it can be delivered on a true subscription model -- spreading the costs out over time or taking the costs out of a different "cost bucket."

Most intriguing is that the partner can now easily develop a channel to support the product, because barriers of deployment are minimized, training is easier, customization is faster and the recurring financial model is more compelling to resellers than the traditional on-premises deployment.

The trick to creating this environment is crafting an attractive program -- but once you have overcome the technical challenges of delivering your cool application, the program is the least of your worries. Think of the tremendous upside now. You could have hundreds, even thousands, of partners selling your solution to hundreds or thousands of customers -- in places and industries you would have thought untouchable before.

Participating in a Cloud Channel
Participating in a cloud channel is a no-brainer. Reasons abound, but in essence you immediately can create a recurring revenue stream for your company, eliminate infrastructure costs for your customers, and lower operational costs for you and your customer. If you're not examining solutions that leverage the cloud, you better get going. There are many keys to picking the right solution for your company: the market or industry you serve, how well the solution leverages your core intellectual assets and so on.

Did you notice that I took out "compatibility to your current set of technology offerings"? The reason is that it no longer matters! For the first time in history, you can now pick a solution to represent/market/sell where doing the technology "fit" is a moot point. If you are a top-notch selling organization you are golden. All you need to do is focus on selling, which brings me to my final point...

Hybrid Approach: Create and Participate
The optimum approach is to both create a channel that can sell your widget or solution and participate in a channel that offers cloud-based solutions.

About the Author

Keith Lubner is managing partner of Channel Consulting Corp., a N.J.-based global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies.