As new technologies flood Singapore, and the wider ASEAN markets, the need for channel partners to keep pace heightens.
Such a change impacts the entire ecosystem, spanning value-added resellers, system integrators and managed service providers, alongside consultancy firms, born-in-cloud partners and start-ups.
While all differ in capabilities and customer outcomes, collectively, they remain driven by one over-arching desire - to be profitable.
A clear, and somewhat obvious, statement perhaps. But today, changing customer demands are providing opportunities and challenges for partners in equal measure, with a desire to cut through the hype to focus on key areas of future growth.
“For 2018, there is a key focus on security, and the user, not to just look at core infrastructure i.e. servers, it’s economy of scale,” observed Jamie Deveaux, senior regional sales manager APAC, SolarWinds MSP. “There are a lot more devices laptops, mobiles and tablets across the user base and that puts a face to the services rendered.”
As a result, Deveaux - when speaking at the launch of Channel Asia in Singapore - cited application management, cloud services and security as the three leading technologies in the market today, with the combined offering providing “comprehensive management” for customers.
“Through our partner base globally, we’re seeing demand for security and more professional services around security,” Deveaux added.
“Partners need to look at it both from a new customer acquisition model and what they need to position first.
“They also need to look at their beachhead into the environment, look at their existing customers, what is at risk, what could churn, how can they can expand services in those customers and how to add more comprehensive management for stickiness.”
For Deveaux, a successful partner today sells on value, regular lead generation, sales and marketing activities, through always looking forward to what is “next” on the horizon.
“We have enhanced our MSP Institute for our partners, our consultancy is provided on a daily basis and is available for anyone who signs with SolarWinds MSP,” Deveaux explained.
“It allows our partners to create key material to run their business in 2018 and beyond, and the resources to help them navigate their journey to a more profitable business.”
Under the banner of Profitability, this exclusive Channel Asia panel outlined ways in which partners can become more profitable in 2018 and beyond, offering insights into the key growth markets and spending habits of end-users.
“To be successful, partners must become a security specialist,” Sophos managing director of ASEAN and Korea, Sumit Bansal, added. “This requires deep knowledge of security trends, as well as product solution expertise.
“The channel must also take advantage of vendor partner programs to generate leads, market awareness and enablement."
According to Bansal, cross-sell and up-sell opportunities also exist within the ecosystem, allowing partners to maximise footprint in a customer as a result.
“Partners can also take advantage of next-generation security solutions with deep artificial intelligence capabilities that are more predictive,” Bansal explained. “This creates higher detection and lowers false positives.
“Furthermore, opportunities exist to collaborate with vendors to stitch together a bespoke solution for the customer.”
Delving deeper, Sylvain Lejeune - vice president of sales APAC at WatchGuard - believes partner profitability can be built around three main attributes.
Specifically, this includes differentiation and continuous innovation, in addition to the implementation of new revenue models, moving from capex on-premise systems to an as-a-service/consumption based model.
“WatchGuard, through its WatchGuard One partner program, helps channel partners and resellers embrace the transition from delivering and supporting hardware to becoming trusted advisors and managed security service partners whose revenue model is recurring, profitable, predictable and based on long-term win-win outcomes,” Lejeune added.
Technology aside, James Bergl - sales director APAC at Datto - believes the channel should move away from age-old terminology, removing the term reseller in favour of a more modern description.
“Resellers and system integrators should stop calling themselves resellers,” Bergl advised. “They should call themselves technology service providers and focus on selling bundles solutions, rather than products, such as a managed security package that bundles disaster recovery, firewall and end point protection.
“This allows the service provider to move the conversation away from a commodity sale to a solution sell.”
In echoing the comments of the panel, Bergl said security should be the “backbone foundation” of every aspect of a service provider’s offerings, in response to increased cyber attacks infiltrating the market.
“There are so many threats out there and the cyber crime industry is rapidly growing because they know how important data is to an organisation,” Bergl explained.
“Rather than selling a back-up product or anti-virus product as an annual fee, partners can sell a monthly managed security solution and deliver monthly service and support to check that its working and ensure that it's updated.
“Then partners can demonstrate the work they’ve done with monthly reports.”
Bergl said customers will pay a “premium fee” if value can be demonstrated and justified, with a monthly service report a credible way of highlighting such value.
“It's also difficult to price-match when you add your service on top as that is unique to your business,” Bergl added.
Reverting back to technology, Bergl ranked data security, cloud and connectivity as the key areas of opportunity for channel partners in 2018, delivered through a managed services offering.
“We look for partners that are today, or would like to be in the future, managed service providers or technology service providers,” Bergl said. “Partners that do more than just sell a box and add a margin.”
In assessing the channel ecosystem, Bergl said Datto aligns with partners capable of adding value in customer engagements, selling solutions for higher margins rather than products for lower.
“Datto can help in so many ways,” Bergl added. “We have marketing and sales white labeled content, sales tools and calculators that demonstrate the cost of downtime to an organisation.
“We give all of our partners access to a marketing automation platform to help them generate leads. We also extend our technical and sales resources to our partners to help to win business.”
This exclusive Channel Asia event was sponsored by Datto, SolarWinds MSP, Sophos and WatchGuard.