Why knowledge is top currency in the transformed channel
Distribution has come a long way in the cloud.
In the not-so-old days, the key value proposition for most distributors really did revolve around dropping boxes, though few liked to admit as much, along with providing a fulfilment channel. With the rise of cloud computing, the evolution has been interesting to say the least: some of the fundamentals are more or less the same, but just about all of the boxes have disappeared.
What this means from a practical point of view is that the absence of physical product (outside, of course, from end-user devices like laptops and tablets) is that distribution and reselling is patently about knowledge, experience and skill. There are literally no longer any cartons and crates to hide behind.
It was probably 18 months ago that Umbrellar participated in an exercise with Microsoft to see how distribution in the cloud should best be done. The result was that success essentially depends on a consultative approach.
Justifying a margin now comes down to how well you can understand a customer’s business, the range of solutions available, the ones applicable, and how they should be configured and provisioned.
This is the enablement that resellers need from their distributor and, in turn, this is what resellers must provide to end-users.
We’re also seeing the emergence of a new wave of resellers. Enterprise application specialists, who would have had no business supplying server, network and storage solutions in the on-premise era, now have a major opportunity to do just that, but with cloud hosted solutions. It’s a big additional line of business and it is appealing to the end user, too, with the entire solution coming from a single vendor.
Of course, these ‘new’ resellers have the same training and support requirements from their distributor as any other: they need the necessary upskilling, positioning, training and knowledge necessary for effective selling and, in due course, for the maintenance and support they will provide to their customers.
What it all means for learning
Across this radically changing channel environment, change is a constant. It’s also rapid. The industry is moving quickly, which means training is no longer a ‘classroom session once a quarter’. If you take ‘cloud’ as a to—level bucket, into which fits every competency, from the Internet of Things to Artificial Intelligence.
As resellers delivering these competencies, you depend on the availability of trusted learning material which enables entering into meaningful conversations with clients. It’s essential, too, that we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, with consistency across the channel, from vendor, to distributor, to reseller and finally the end user.
That’s why I’m thrilled with Microsoft Learn. Umbrellar is a ‘Microsoft only’ shop, and I’ve personally used a lot of the training resources provided by the vendor over the years. While it’s been very good, it was due for an overhaul and Microsoft Learn has done it beautifully. In fact, this is learning which matches what we’re doing: it is by the cloud, for the cloud. And the integration of clever social media and gamification techniques which make learning almost addictive, is just what we need.
We’ve used the material for enablement training in some of our major telco clients and I can report that it is of exceptionally high value. This is clear in, for example, the Azure Fundamentals, which gets people up to speed on the business value of Azure (rather than the technical detail).
Microsoft Learn has become part of our internal learning paths, so it is mandated for the leadership team and across the business as a KPI. It’s also part of our customer onboarding journey. New resellers can expect a higher tier of support and a wider margin if the training is taken. After all, the idea of taking on a reseller is that they should be selling Microsoft and to sell it, you need to understand it.
Here’s where differentiation happens
The bottom line is that the channel has changed a lot. Differentiation is difficult, with everyone enjoying access to the same quality products and services. The situation is the same whether you’re a distributor or a reseller. Where you can differentiate is by investing time and effort into training and learning. It’s an old adage and without doubt a cliché, but in the cloud world more than ever, knowledge is so very obviously power.
Check out Microsoft’s Partner Hub to start your training journey today.
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Get the Cloud, Done Right. Umbrellar Powered by Pax8 is New Zealand's prime Professional and Managed Cloud Services specialist. Recently acquired by Pax8, we're transitioning into something "harder, better, faster, stronger" (thank you, Daft Punk!). Watch this space!