Cloud partners need to build up their awesomeness: Ingram

Renée Bergeron, senior vice president of global cloud channel at Ingram Micro

Renée Bergeron, senior vice president of global cloud channel at Ingram Micro

BOCA RATON, FLA — This week’s Ingram Micro Cloud Summit here is the biggest gathering of the distributor’s elite cloud-focused partners ever, but there’s some sobering news for those in attendance. In short, they may be elite, but many of them are still pretty basic in their cloud practices.

Keynoting the event Tuesday morning, Renée Bergeron, senior vice president of global cloud channels for Ingram, outlined what eh calls the distributor’s “Cloud Awesomeness Roadmap” — a four-stage journey of complexity for cloud-focused solution providers, from those just taking their first steps, to those who have already re-architected their business around cloud. 

And across the four categories of cloud partner maturity Bergeron presented, she said nine in ten are on the lower end of the chart, with only one in 100 in the top tier of complexity.

Bergeron said that in a survey of some 45,000 partners of its cloud business worldwide, a majority — 60 per cent — are on the lowest rung of the ladder, the “build” stage of the business. Bergeron characterized this as partners who are selling between one and three cloud-based solutions, but are still trying to figure out both the ROI and the best road forward for their cloud business. Partners at the build phase, she said, sell cloud solutions largely opportunistically, and take longer (usually north of 30 days) to implement because they’re automating very little.

The next phase of growth — breadth — sees partners sell a wider range of cloud solutions, automate more of their systems and processes, and engage in basic digital marketing to find customers. But perhaps the biggest differentiator for this group, Bergeron said, is that they start to get serious about cross-selling their broader array of cloud offerings amongst their existing customer base.

This cross-selling, Bergeron said, speeds up sales cycles, reduces costs to sell, and generally makes the cloud business much more scalable. But it’s not happening very much yet. Bergeron reported than less than 10 per cent of the customers being served apps or services through the distributor’s cloud platform are being served more than one service.

“This blows my mind. You’ve done the hard work, you’ve acquired the customer, probably through a hero cloud service, like Office 365. But you don’t foll ow through with the second, third and fourth subscription, which is an easy attach to Office 365, which your customers need, and which would significantly improve your cloud business profitability,” she told partners. “We should all be master of cross-selling.”

Cross-selling, she said, dramatically reduces churn by increasing stickiness, and Bergeron suggested that 30 per cent of cloud revenues should be through “expansion” with existing customers. She suggested that partners get serious about these cross-sales, creating goals and incentives for sales teams, and closely watching this key performance indicator. 

Along with cross-selling, Bergeron said partners at this scale start getting platform-based, either taking advantage of Ingram’s Cloud Marketplace to help roll more apps to more customers, or investing in building their own — generally again using Ingram’s marketplace offerings. In all, about 30 per cent of all cloud partners have made it to this second stage.

About nine per cent of partners have reached Bergeron’s third stage and become depth partners, characterized by selling 10 or more solutions. “But the different is the complexity,” Bergeron said, as partners at this stage are starting to get into IaaS and vertical-specific offerings. 

“IaaS is the largest untapped opportunity for partners today,” Bergeron said, noting that more than half of overall cloud sales worldwide flow through indirect channels. But for IaaS, that figure is more like 15 per cent.

“It’s early days, and most workloads here are still living on-premise, but we are tat that inflection point we’ve been talking about,” she said, promoting the distributor’s discovery and assessment services to help partners move customers from their current environments to something more modern and cloudy.

Partners at this stage also start to get much more integrated with their digital marketing campaigns to find new customers, and to build upon existing customers.

Finally, we reach the top tier of Bergeron’s roadmap, the rarified air breathed by the literally one per cent that have thus far made it to the “scale” stage of the game, which Bergeron said is “focused on providing a digital experience to customers,” with self-service, more integrated digital marketing including content marketing and video storytelling. Bucking the trend of getting bigger and doing more direct connections to vendors, partners at this stage tend to move more heavily towards platforms.

“They’d rather focus their efforts and investments in acquiring new customers or expanding existing ones. They put all their efforts into customer-facing activities, it’s all about what will drive scale for their business,” Bergeron said.

Cloud Summit is touted as a “the best of the best” cloud partner type of community, so Bergeron acknowledged her assessment that the vast majority in attendance are still in the lower levels of cloud maturity and complexity could be stressful. She urged attendees to be worried — in a productive way.

“Be worried about where you are on this roadmap. Use this fear, this anxiety, and focus your energy on a new level of cloud awesomeness,” she counseled.