Those of us who work in and around data centers, big data and analytics know that there is a growing demand from customers for deeper insights into unstructured data, but the channel is suffering from a this-is-how-we've-always-done-it mind-set, rather than rising to embrace this opportunity. Value-added resellers traditionally have worked with IT managers or CIOs to sell specific technologies, and those customer contacts traditionally have been viewed by their companies as cost centers, rather than solution centers or profit centers.
It's time to shake up this paradigm. Business executives -- the CFO and CEO, in addition to the CIO -- want to know more about how they can extract actionable, valuable information from all the data their IT teams are storing, and apply it to strategic business needs. The C-suite has questions about how to turn data into information, and the channel should be delivering the answers.
Taking data from the storage unit to the balance sheet
Let's consider a typical sales situation. A VAR might approach an IT contact inside an organization. The reseller asks which storage solution the organization uses, and then explains why the product he sells is better. That method has worked fine for years, but as line-of-business executives begin to realize the strategic value of their structured and unstructured data, VARs need to get more strategic, as well.
A well-informed channel partner can evaluate what an organization has for storage and recognize that:
A. The company is doing nothing more with its data beyond backing it up.
B. If the company looked at its data differently, it could reap significant business benefits in terms of sales, productivity, compliance and more.
A channel partner that understands the technology aspect and the business pain points can bring IT and business executives to the table to discuss solutions with returns on investment that will be felt far beyond the data center.
To lead a conversation around impactful data intelligence in the market and with individual customers, VARs need to ask, “Who is today's buyer?” More and more often, the answer to this question should include a C-level executive, either before contact with the IT department or, preferably, in conjunction with it. The channel has an opportunity to help elevate IT from the basement to the boardroom, where technically focused staff can help business leaders understand how to get more from their data. This is also about shifting the channel's focus from the team that will install a technology solution to the team that will actually use it.
A growing market for the strategic channel partner
Research firm IDC predicts that the overall big data technology and services market will grow at a rate of 31.7 percent through 2016, when it will hit a predicted value of $23.8 billion. There is clearly opportunity here for the channel. Maximizing that opportunity, however, will require VARs to show their understanding of how the technology solutions and services they sell affect business goals and objectives, and show themselves as capable partners to business-focused executives.
Organizations are clamoring for better insights from the unstructured data they're storing, and they will turn to the channel for help. Those VARs who are ready to understand the business needs and the available technology solutions to meet those needs should be leading more market discussions about how to fuse big data storage, intelligence and analytics, so that users can tap into their data where it resides and use it to answer critical business questions.
For example, we're focused on creating technology partnerships, such as a recent one we solidified with DataGravity, to help organizations extract intelligence and analytics from data storage. With this partnership in place, we're ready to elevate the conversation around unstructured and structured data.
Russell Ford is the president and chief operating officer of Qumulus Solutions, a managed service partner that assists businesses with designing and managing enterprise IT solutions, and a DataGravity early access partner. He has more than 16 years of experience in the technology sector, working for well-known data center and Internet service providers in the Midwest.