How can the Asian channel capitalise on cloud?

How can the Asian channel capitalise on cloud?

Channel Asia Roundtable outlines partner opportunities

L-R: Andy Waroma (Cloud Comrade); Vijayan Haridas (Insight); Mark Johnston (Channel Asia); Melvin Lim (Datto); Sofiane Behraoui (SoftwareONE); Daniel Shaw (LogMeIn); Marion Ryan (SAP); Roger Siow (Syner-G Technologies); Daire O'Mochain (NTT Data); James Henderson (Channel AsIa) and Manu Khetan (Rolling Arrays Consulting)

L-R: Andy Waroma (Cloud Comrade); Vijayan Haridas (Insight); Mark Johnston (Channel Asia); Melvin Lim (Datto); Sofiane Behraoui (SoftwareONE); Daniel Shaw (LogMeIn); Marion Ryan (SAP); Roger Siow (Syner-G Technologies); Daire O'Mochain (NTT Data); James Henderson (Channel AsIa) and Manu Khetan (Rolling Arrays Consulting)

Credit: Channel Asia

In other cases, Haridas said the provider has engaged with HR around the deployment of a cloud-based solution, in a bid to improve business processes.

“They first asked whether it was possible to shift to the cloud, and then they wanted clarification on the security aspect of the solution,” Haridas added.

Adding to the conversation, Shaw of LogMeIn said conversations around risk in the context of the cloud is dwindling away, as customers realise the cost benefits and added protection such an approach offers.

“There’s less and less risk associated,” Shaw said. “The cost is so low and the implementation is generally easy so those challenges are going away.

“The perceived cost on a monthly or annual basis is low, alongside the increased levels of protection which is providing peace of mind for customers.”

Delving deeper, businesses are forecast to spend US$1.67 trillion on technology - spanning hardware, software, and services - in 2018.

According to IDC, roughly half of that spending (50.5 per cent) will come from the IT budget while the other half (49.5 per cent) will come from the budgets of technology buyers outside of IT.

Manu Khetan (Rolling Arrays Consulting)Credit: Channel Asia
Manu Khetan (Rolling Arrays Consulting)

The former includes IT-funded purchases as well as joint projects funded by IT, while the latter includes business-funded purchases as well as joint projects funded by LOB buyers and "shadow IT" projects funded by the LOB without IT involvement.

“The discussions we’re having with customers are different today,” observed Manu Khetan, founder and CEO at Rolling Arrays. “We’re no longer selling features and technical products, we’re outlining business outcomes and meeting the needs of the customer.

“We’re seen as a trusted advisor to our customers and that’s a role we take seriously.

“Our customers want to know the value we can provide and why we are different to the competition, which means we have to continually evolve our offerings to remain relevant.”

In assessing both local and global trends, LOB technology spending has been growing at a faster rate than IT spending for several years, with cloud a key component of such a shift.

“But it’s not always the same conversation outside of the enterprise,” cautioned Roger Siow, CEO at Syner-G Technologies. “We deal with a lot of smaller businesses and it is commonplace for us to usually deal with the owner or production manager running IT.

“They usually have one person in charge of everything and that’s a very different type of customer to a CIO in a large enterprise organisation.

“In the past, we started off with box selling but as the market has evolved, we’re now moving more into managed services and an OPEX, rather than CAPEX, approach.”

Roger Siow (Syner-G Technologies)Credit: Channel Asia
Roger Siow (Syner-G Technologies)

Purchasing cloud technologies at the smaller end of the market is becoming easier, according to Siow, driven largely by the lowering of costs and the ability to consume on-demand.

“Small businesses don’t want to pay up-front for expensive servers or invest in training up staff to manage them,” Siow added. “The cost of cloud is coming down and to put things in perspective, we first started selling G-Suite eight years ago and the sales cycle was long.

“In fact, it took our first customer six months to be convinced to purchase one licence but today, people are calling daily to move solutions and workloads to the cloud.

“This is also a popular approach from the start-up community because young entrepreneurs are really receptive to the cloud.”

In addition to investing US$178 billion in applications, the leading categories for LOB spending in 2018 will be business consulting services (US$104 billion), key horizontal business process outsourcing (BPO) (US$97 billion), and project-oriented services (US$90 billion).

The IT department will see its 2018 technology spending led by outsourcing (US$151 billion), project-oriented services (US$118 billion), and network equipment (US$91 billion).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cloud will continue to represent an important investment area with LOB spending on infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for example, growing at a 33.2 per cent while IT spending on IaaS will increase 30.7 per cent.

“The cloud conversation changes depending on the size of the business you’re dealing with,” said Daire O'Mochain, regional manager of SAP cloud solutions at NTT Data. “From a buyer perspective, the idea that you call someone up and the deal is done there and then is not the case.

Daire O'Mochain (NTT Data) and Marion Ryan (SAP)Credit: Channel Asia
Daire O'Mochain (NTT Data) and Marion Ryan (SAP)

“In large enterprise organisations, decision makers might tell you that they’re the decision maker, but in fact, they are far from being the decision maker.

“It’s down to the salesperson within a technology provider to qualify the opportunity properly because one department might tell you one thing, and the other might tell you something entirely different.”

While O'Mochain acknowledged that LOB leaders may carry control of the purse strings, irrespective of company size or scale, he believes the cloud conversation centres around one fundamental topic.

“Long-term value to the customer,” O'Mochain said. “This is absolutely crucial to ongoing success in the cloud.

“This requires a level of maturity in your own sales team to identify potential customers but to also deliver for the duration, rather than the short-term.”

But despite the direction of travel being clear - in terms of cloud creating new types of customers - the channel can ill afford to rest on traditional laurels as customers demand fresh thinking, emerging technologies and revamped consumption methods.

“As specialists, you must ensure that your sales team understands what they are selling and how to sell it,” said Sofiane Behraoui, sales director at SoftwareONE.

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