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What is the role of partners in a vendor-driven ‘as a Service world?

Digitalisation has changed gear and the shift to Everything as a Service has revised not just the way businesses think about technology purchases and deployments, but also what’s needed from vendors, resellers and integrators. The roles and responsibilities have shifted. Customers adopt ‘as a Service to give them more flexibility in an unpredictable world. It also elevates IT out of its day-to-day role – with time better spent translating business needs and outcomes into technology requirements.

So, where do managed services companies and systems integrators fit? How have their roles and responsibilities – to a vendor and a customer – changed?

One of the objectives of the ‘as a Service (aaS) shift was to simplify the way technology solutions are packaged and delivered. You choose what you need from a catalogue of services, then pay and run only what you use in your environment – making changes as needed to cope with changes in your business.

If only it were always that simple.

While many ‘aaS software solutions can be more easily deployed off the shelf – sometimes with a small tweak or data migration – when it comes to Infrastructure as a Service, the process requires far greater levels of customisation and integration. In fact, the vast majority of customers live in a hybrid world where we will continue to need on-premises or private infrastructure for reasons of security, data protection and compliance. So, how do you decide what applications, what workloads and what infrastructure is optimal to meet your business needs – while ensuring you have the performance, integrations, security, scalability, governance and flexibility that you need?

This is where the vendors have also matured their offerings and become great at presenting their services as “all encompassing” and able to meet your every need. In some cases that may be true, but in reality, most businesses need multiple services from multiple providers – often with the solutions sitting on-premises, in a cloud, owned, leased or aaS.

The critical piece becomes ensuring they all work together to deliver the expected outcome – and this is the role that managed services and integrators have always filled. It’s really no different now. At Data#3, our heritage as a diverse services provider, along with an impressive portfolio of partnerships and accreditations with all leading technology vendors, puts us in an enviable position with a proven model around consulting, implementation and customer success.

So, before you dive into the ‘aaS world, here’s a few important things to consider:

  • Getting real value out of ‘aaS solutions relies on having a partner who is there beyond the sale. A partner who can help you get the most out of your investment to address your key business outcomes – and is there throughout the entire lifecycle.
  • The ‘aaS consumption model, like any other, has its pros and cons. Perfect for flexibility and low-resourced teams, but often feature-rich (more than you may need) and ROI can vary from short to long-term.
  • Delivering a true hybrid cloud management experience is challenging due to the variety of technologies involved. Ensure you understand how everything is going to fit together; both your existing investments in infrastructure across hardware, applications and network architecture, as well as your technology refreshes and roadmap.
  • Assisting in navigating customer buying processes is also a key part of this shift. Working through internal propositions with multiple stakeholders, including from finance and legal, is a key part of approving new consumption models.
  • Do your due diligence around what is actually included – a tick in the security feature box doesn’t mean it ticks the regulatory and compliance box for your industry.
  • There is still a key role for both vendor and integrator in navigating these complexities, so you want a partner with strong vendor relationships.

How has an integrator’s role evolved to meet the needs of ‘aaS?

The focus of an integrator’s role has shifted towards ensuring customers are maximising their value as quickly as possible. This includes the presales function in defining “what are you trying to achieve?” and “what does success look like?”. So, what’s best practice? There must be a robust program of work that encompasses any as-a-service offering to ensure what is being proposed and delivered is optimised, and you’re not paying for capacity or services you’re not using effectively.

Even though it’s ‘aaS, there is still a hardware component. There will still be a tech refresh at some point even though hardware is ceding more and more capability to the software. As software evolves there may be capabilities you’re not aware of, but should be.

There’s also the question of skills gaps and transfers. No IT team or management is the same and some want to be more hands-on – and others prefer to leave that to the integrator and focus on delivering more value to their businesses.

All of these considerations are covered in a customer success function that is designed to uncover these questions and fill any gaps. Matching the right ‘aaS solution and support to meet the needs of your business has more dimensions than ever before.

There are other considerations too:

Breadth of skills

Don’t underestimate the work required to truly know and understand multiple ‘aaS vendors and solutions. When integrating ‘aaS solutions, certifications across multiple providers have become essential alongside additional skills such as support, training and implementation. Don’t forget the financial elements. While it has become attractive to shift from purchasers of technology to consumers of technology, the best integrators can still provide advice around how best to structure that shift and apportion it to internal budgets.

Independence

Experience and certifications are the result of continual investment in training, testing and research over many years and the best integrators manage multiple vendor relationships rather than limit themselves to a single solution. While these relationships are strong, you want your integrator to focus on the best solution for your business needs, not which vendor is pushing the hardest, so independence is important.

Strategic thinkers

One area that integrators really shine is helping evaluate the right purchasing models to meet business needs. Just because ‘aaS is becoming the most popular way to purchase technology solutions, doesn’t mean more traditional or finance-based solutions aren’t still valid. The best integrators will challenge your thinking, putting forward multiple options for consideration. Most real-world solutions include a mix of cloud and on-premises with traditional finance and ‘aaS models. Bringing it all together and ensuring it meets the business needs now and in the future is the critical skill.

Data#3 Customer Experience

As a system integrator, it is our mission to ensure technology solutions deliver on our customers’ business objectives – in both the short and long term. There is no one size fits all solution for organisations wishing to successfully transform to a consumption-based model. We offer a very personal approach in getting to know our customers’ unique environment, and work hard to ‘connect the dots’ between a customer’s business objectives and technology solutions.

Once a new consumption-based solution is implemented we’re here to help navigate the changes. Our Customer Success team interactions are built around these new offerings as part of a true lifecycle approach.

If you are interested in exploring consumption-based models to meet current and future infrastructure requirements, request a consultation with one of our solution experts.

Tags: Consulting, Device as a Service (DaaS), HPE GreenLake, Hybrid Cloud, Hybrid IT, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Managed Security Services, Managed Services, Networking as a Service, Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Storage as a Service (STaaS)

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