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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Digital Transformation and the future of Reseller channel

The past 15 years have been tough for traditional resellers. Digital transformation will benefit the reseller channel. Today, the IT industry is abuzz with discussion of digital transformation. Unlike smartphones and cloud, however, DX may actually provide upside for traditional channel members. In this document, Techaisle, in its latest white paper argues in favor of the proposition “DX will deliver new opportunity for traditional VAR businesses”. VARs are best positioned to scale “the twin ladders” to deliver digital transformation technology building blocks and the Interwork platform helps the channel position digital transformation initiatives in successfully navigating through and across digital transformation delivery stages.

In many cases, channel organizations that describe digital transformation to prospective clients are really talking about digitization, or some combination of digitization and digitalization. This is particularly true of MSPs or cloud (SaaS, IaaS) suppliers who are positioning their infrastructure management offerings – which are, for the most part, vehicles for augmentation – as a means of achieving DX. However, in its transformational end stages, DX is defined not by supplier delivery but by customer processes and objectives.

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WW SMB Cloud Channel partners – builders more successful than resellers

Data gathered through the Techaisle SMB Channel surveys in US, Europe and Asia/Pacific shows that half of channel firms that have launched cloud businesses are primarily focused on “cloud builder” activity, which in many cases is an extension of existing resale business, and which is leading the channel partners down the path of specializing in virtualization and converged infrastructure. This naturally bodes well for channel partners of Dell, VMware and even Cisco although it must be said that VMware SMB channel strategy is yet to take center stage and Cisco is most famously focused on midmarket customers.

The three approaches to establishing a channel cloud business covered in Techaisle study include:

  1. “Cloud builders” who are typically engaged in creating private clouds for customers,
  2. “Cloud resellers” who resell third party cloud capabilities (often, SaaS applications), and who may also integrate multiple third party offerings, and
  3. “Cloud providers” who have built their own infrastructure and are selling access/capacity to SMB customers

Cloud builder, cloud reseller and cloud provider approaches to building cloud practices within SMB channel businesses all address common SMB customer needs, but have unique challenges. Survey data also reveals that cloud optimism and success is highest among cloud builders.

“Cloud resellers” is the second largest cloud business approach. About one-third of US & Europe SMB channel partners with cloud businesses are primarily focused on reselling cloud capabilities but the proportion of “cloud resellers” increases to 39 percent in Asia/Pacific. However, many cloud resellers are still not very successful (see figure below) in their cloud endeavors, again proving the fact that simply reselling cloud solutions is not a viable long-term business.

The third approach, “cloud provider”, chosen by less than 1/5th of SMB cloud channel partners, offers a high degree of control but requires reserves of investment capital and operational expertise that are beyond many channel firms.

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SMB Cloud Resellers: Recurring revenue is not the sole indicator of cloud business success

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner study shows that while cloud drives recurring revenue, profitable cloud channel members report that they drive more than 40 percent of revenue from non-recurring sources (such as services and attached product sales). Channel partners that are overly-reliant on recurring revenue are not achieving success in their cloud businesses; the companies in the Unsuccessful group report that more than 80 percent of revenue is derived from recurring sources.

techaisle-smb-cloud-resellers


 It is important to drive revenue from multiple business lines. While more than 50 percent of revenue for successful SMB Cloud channel partners is derived from recurring sources, unsuccessful channel partners obtain over 80 percent of revenue from recurring sources. Recurring revenue is important because one can predict earnings thereby reducing risk; however, selling licenses alone does not create a high value or high margin business. Cloud profitability requires that SMB cloud resellers combine sales of cloud services with sales of one-off consulting and products.

The market currently is comprised of two revenue sources: a large but declining on-premise business, and a small but rapidly-growing cloud business. Successful channel partners will be those that participate in both revenue pools thereby finding real advantages over single-market competitors. For example, think about a situation in which an SMB is looking for a new email system. Those that propose only physical hardware and on-premise software will be very expensive. Those that propose only cloud-based services will be much less expensive, but will not enjoy a substantial amount of revenue (a Microsoft partner would get 18 percent for the core Office 365 email connection in year one, and roughly 6 percent in second/subsequent years). A partner blending both on-premise and cloud might get both the recurring Exchange revenue plus additional product/service revenue – laptops, MDM, security software, migration and deployment services, etc. They would also achieve better margins for the on-premise products than the on-premise-only provider, since it would be more difficult to do apples-to-apples price comparisons for solutions that blend cloud and on-premise equipment.
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