How Channel Partners Can Go from Technology Reseller to Trusted Advisor With XaaS

trust levelRecord players. Lava lamps. Bell-bottoms. A litany of things that were cool in the 1960s have passed into nostalgia. However, at least one remains as relevant as ever. In 1960, economist, Harvard Business School professor, and editor of the Harvard Business Review, Theodore Levitt famously published Marketing Myopia, suggesting that businesses will do better in the end if they concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.

 As revolutionary today as it was then, this concept is particularly applicable to the IT channel as the growth of XaaS (Everything-as-a-Service) reinvents what customers expect and how providers deliver it. In the increasingly on-demand economy, services are becoming an essential part of the complete technology package sold to organizations. Deloitte reports that we are in the throes of a seismic shift, where the XaaS model is upending operational models and fundamentally redefining the goals of core modernization, helping businesses slash costs, secure their networks, and focus on more strategic business priorities than the day-to-day task that can be managed by a vendor. 

 An indispensable link in the XaaS value chain is the channel partner. In a symbiotic relationship with the technology provider, channel partners act as the conduit to sell services along with technology to customers. To stay relevant in the XaaS future, channel partners need to immediately re-examine how they approach their customers.

 In this way, channel partners are not just selling machines. After all, customers don’t want boxes; they want what’s inside — security, insights, efficiencies and cost-savings. XaaS enables channel partners to move from “technology distributor” to trusted advisor for a client’s technology needs.

Selling security to protect expanding mobile networks

Security is a top priority for most companies, and for good reason. In The Future of Cybercrime & Security: Enterprise Threats & Mitigation 2017-2022, Juniper Research forecasts that criminal data breaches will cost businesses $8 trillion by 2022. That figure does not include the impact on brand reputation, an average 7 percent loss in customers, and an average 5 percent drop in stock price for companies that experience a breach. So it is no surprise that security ranks at the top of Gartner’s top 10 IoT technologies for 2017 and 2018.

 The channel is well-positioned to help customers reap the full benefits of leading-edge “detect and respond” security features integrated into new technologies and to extend those benefits by wrapping them in services — especially in areas of workflow systems, processes and training — to realize full benefits and proactive protections.

 For instance, with mobility growing exponentially, each device entering or exiting a network represents potential risk. A Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) model provides businesses with the ability to comply with security protocols and maintain device protections via automatic updates, all while slashing the resources required to manage those devices.

 Another example is printers: a Spiceworks survey revealed that 16 percent of security breaches come through printers — a jump of 12 percent from the previous study — a number that is likely under-reported since printers are not scrutinized as carefully as PCs. And yet, only 16 percent of enterprise IT decision-makers consider printers a high-risk target for a security breach. 

Companies are receptive to outsourcing some or all of their security responsibilities: in a CIO/Computerworld/CSO survey, 56 percent of respondents said they are using consultants to design an IT security strategy, and 40 percent are transitioning to a Managed Security Service Provider. By connecting secure technology with specialized expertise and round-the-clock coverage, the channel offers customers prized security where and when they need it most. 

Lightening customers’ analytic loads allows them to return to the important tasks at hand — strategizing and taking action to actually implement the insights into business processes.

Selling insights to harness the full power of IoT

The growth of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices means that companies will have access to massive amounts of data. But nearly half of businesses admit they lack the skills necessary to make full use of its capabilities. 

Channel partners can harness real-time analytics to deliver deep and meaningful insights on usage, performance, maintenance and security as well as customer and operational data, packaging it and delivering it for their customers. These powerful insights can be used proactively to address issues before they become problems, keep the business up and running safely, deliver new and faster services and stay ahead of the competition. Even better, the channel partners can work with the customer to create an intelligence plan designed to meet organizational needs, and then deploy IoT to drive those objectives. Lightening customers’ analytic loads allows them to return to the important tasks at hand — strategizing and taking action to actually implement the insights into business processes.

Selling efficiency to cut down on operational waste

 XaaS is a key to the everlasting challenge to “do more with less.” It offers considerable and immediate efficiencies: a smaller footprint, simplified deployment, the ability to quickly and easily scale-up or scale-down to meet fluctuating needs, and reducing waste by using just what you need, exactly when you need it.

Beyond that, XaaS enables IT teams to focus on strategic transformation projects by shifting day-to-day maintenance tasks to a trusted partner. IDC reports that 50 percent of IT managers say they spend too much time procuring and managing devices, and 63 percent say they could better use that time on strategic IT projects such as security. IT managers who utilize XaaS have the peace of mind of knowing that these repetitive but critical tasks are in the hands of experts who are under service level agreements.

 Further increasing productivity, XaaS untethers employees, giving them secure access to files, programs and drives from anywhere via any device. XaaS also drives efficiencies in terms of value. Predictive analytics enable providers to add another layer of intelligence to technology solutions to eliminate over- or under-specced devices and unnecessary inventory, enable proactive management of PC and printer fleets, and enhance policy compliance. 

In order to stay relevant, companies must shift away from a shortsighted and inward-looking orientation to a focus on what customers need and want.

Sell cost savings by reducing energy consumption

 IT decision makers say they have achieved an estimated 25 percent cost savings from deploying “as-a-Service” solutions. XaaS generates a smaller — and greener — footprint by eradicating waste. For example, a company that habitually swaps not-totally-empty toners across a huge fleet saves big using XaaS to ensure toners are changed at the right time. Similarly, XaaS reduces waste by tracking print behaviors and then designing and deploying protocols across an entire fleet to specify conventions such as single- versus two-sided printing and color volume.

 XaaS also lowers energy consumption by automatically shutting off devices when not in use and scheduling sleep and wake-up modes across an entire fleet. It also keeps companies up-to-date with the most energy-efficient devices. Having more of the servers required to manage a fleet of devices sit offsite as opposed to on-premises also helps to slash energy costs for businesses.

 Theodore Levitt cautioned us that, in order to stay relevant, companies must shift away from a shortsighted and inward-looking orientation to a focus on what customers need and want. Still ringing true today, channel partners who take advantage of the services trend will quickly find themselves becoming invaluable advisors to their customers.

Grad Rosenbaum

Grad Rosenbaum

is the vice president and general manager of the Americas Solutions Business at HP.