The Cloud Is Here To Stay And Channel Partners Know It, Do You?

    Change is upon us. The evolution has begun. The train is leaving the station. Whatever cliché you want to use know this: MSPs and agents are ahead of the curve, in my opinion, and VARs and SIs need to get on board if they want to survive.

    The conversations have changed and people are looking to move to the cloud. They are having that CAPX vs. OPEX conversation and customers are shifting their decisions from the large up front capital expenditure and want to be able to pay for that service and have it managed for them instead of buying the infrastructure and having to manage it themselves.

    The tide has shifted towards cloud services, and I think Virgo Publishing has shifted the focus of their Channel Partners network accordingly.   This year was the Channel Partners Conference & Expo’s largest turnout, with almost 4,300 (60% net new to the show).   With this shift and the convergence of voice, data and applications, we’ve seen an increase in the number of traditional VARs attending the Channel Partners show, however my observation is the agents still have a distinct advantage due to their experience. It is obvious that the agent world is already well-positioned to pick up these cloud services and run with them because a recurring revenue model already sustains their business. A vast majority of those folks that visited our booth at the Channel Partners Conference in Las Vegas last week are already selling cloud, and we want to be in the thick of it with them.

    This is why we felt ShoreTel should be a part of the Channel Partners show. It was gathering point for all the major players in the Master Agent world, and it allowed us to make sure their sub-agents realized ShoreTel is a leader of Unified Communications in the cloud. The show was full of traditional VARs, SIs and MSPs as well. It was with great pride we were able to start talking about the upcoming debut of our 400 series IP phones for the ShoreTel Sky platform. For those that aren’t familiar, ShoreTel Sky is a fully hosted, fully managed Cloud VoIP solution, developed internally and fully maintained by ShoreTel with zero reliance on a third party software developer. What that means is we own our solution, end-to-end, from the phone all the way to the soft switch and our private, managed network.

    While at the show, it was very important to get face-to-face time with our partners. We even brought along our VP of Network and Systems Engineering, because we all know partners love to be able to fire questions at the technical person responsible for it all. “What’s new?”  “What’s being done to maintain stability and reliability so we can keep this train rolling?”

    Masters such as Avant, BCM, Intelisys, MicroCorp and WTG (to name just a few) are all doing a great job of helping their subs stay aware of the top offerings for their customers, and Cloud VoIP is no exception. Our ability to deliver as a supplier is a direct reflection on our partners, and we do not take that lightly. We’ll continue to keep our partners informed so their subs, and their customers, can make informed decisions.

    Channel Partners are also hearing more and more from industry experts that if you’re not marketing-led, you’re dead. This was once again reinforced throughout the show. I know there were a few consultants (CSB Excellence and 4 Profit ring a bell?) present at the show that are primed to help partners understand the importance of increasing their emphasis on the marketing side of the sales process in order to feed their funnel, especially around those recurring revenue based cloud services that are out there.  It’s that demand generation mentality, that users want what they want, when they want it, and they’re doing their own research (sometimes more than 50% of it) before they even pick up the phone to contact Partners.   What are you doing as a partner to be sure you are found?

    All in all, it was a great show with a lot going on. It was a great place to get seen in the Channel Partner world, and a great chance to engage face-to-face with more Partners than one can typically handle in a 2 to 3 day span. I'm already looking forward to New Orleans. See you all at the Cloud Partners show!

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