The cloud has changed the way that technology service partners work with their customers, in that it is now far more of an advisory and management role than an implementation one.
While many organisations are still reticent about adopting a cloud strategy, often this is owing to a simple lack of understanding as to what constitutes ‘cloud’, or what it can do for the business. Troy Gerber, Modern Workplace lead at Mint Group, points out that it’s ironic that many of these companies already use solutions like Dropbox, so the key is getting them to understand that they are already using the cloud, and they should thus be planning a proper strategy around this.
“One must remember, though, that while benefits like cost savings are recognised by these players, they need is to be informed that the cloud is about much more than this. It also encourages innovation, by opening the business up to doing things it might not have thought of before, like leveraging micro-services, facial recognition and AI,” he says.
He adds that another challenge with the cloud is that even when a CEO or CIO has decided the organisation must undertake a cloud journey, the nitty-gritty of the implementation is pushed down to employees lower down in the business, who are expected to act on it.
“The trouble here is that the way this journey is articulated downwards is not always clear or comprehensive, and if the employees don’t understand why they are doing it, the business will obtain less value from the implementation, owing to lack of buy-in from staff. This is where a good systems integrator comes into the picture, as they will be able to articulate the reasons behind it and ultimately demystify the cloud offering, as well as thoroughly explaining the benefits it offers.”
“This helps to highlight how the technology services partner role has evolved – it is no longer so much about provisioning architecture for the client, rather, it has become much more advisory in nature.”
This new role also encompasses security, he continues, which again requires new thought processes around this subject. The cloud is recognised as being very secure, but this is not always the case with the people using it – in fact, when it comes to security, people are inevitably the biggest risk. So from the partner’s perspective, the assistance they provide should relate to issues like securing the desktop, to prevent user security problems, and also assisting the client with compliance matters relating to legislation like GDPR and the PoPI Act.
“But the biggest role that the service provider must play when it comes to the cloud lies in helping customers to clearly understand the multitude of benefits the cloud offers and assisting them to unlock additional value from it,” he says.
Gerber adds that the technology services partner role now involves leveraging competitive knowledge, skills and experience, derived from undertaking multiple such implementations, in a way that allows it work closely with clients to craft the cloud strategy that suits the customer best.
“Remember that many businesses that adopt the cloud in some form still find that they are using only a subset of what they are paying for. The partner must bring its own knowledge of cloud and cloud solutions to the table and use this to help them improve productivity, collaboration and more, simply by enabling the client to better use what they already have – but possibly don’t know they have – in solutions like Office365 and Dynamics365. It is all about ensuring customers are able to use their assets optimally.”
“Ultimately, the cloud has caused the technology partner’s role to evolve towards one where the key elements are explaining it, implementing the technology, delivering advice around its optimal use and playing a management role thereafter, as a managed provider,” he concludes.