It’s a service-rich cloud-based application
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Welcome to the first IPED Channel Insight column. In my role as general manager at IPED, the research, consulting and education arm of Everything Channel, I have the pleasure of working side by side with solution provider firms. As I look back on the more than 20 years I’ve spent in this market, I can tell you that there has never been more of an opportunity for channel participants than right now.
As such, this column will focus on your needs and your challenges as you address the trends that impact your customers and your business in today’s dynamic marketplace. In short, I’ll highlight things that offer revenue-generating opportunities. To kick things off, let’s talk about cloud applications.
As we watch the transition to the cloud take place before our eyes, I have a couple of observations as you determine when and where to invest. First, the customer is changing. Call it the economy, the maturing of cloud offerings, the desire to incur operating expense rather than capital expense or the desire to “go live” faster than IT can facilitate -- whatever you’d like to call it -- it’s here. One solution provider said there is “cloud interest” at more than 50 percent of his customers.
IPED CIO surveys conducted in February indicate that more than 50 percent of CIOs will have a cloud initiative under way by 2012, although when asked about the corresponding IT spend, they said cloud projects will account for only a fraction of their budget.
When asked which applications in 2009 had moved to the cloud, Web conferencing, CRM and collaboration led the pack. However, when we polled solution providers, a few interesting things surfaced. First, solution providers were not as invested in CRM as customers in 2009, although they anticipated a CRM opportunity by 2010 and appeared to be investing to take advantage of the customer buying behavior. Second, solution providers do not see customers asking about cloud.
Microsoft with its CRM Online and Oracle with its CRM On Demand are two vendors making an effort to challenge first-mover Saleforce.com. CRM Software-as-a-Service, more so than, say, e-mail, messaging and collaboration solutions, offers plenty of process-based, post-sales services opportunities for you even as the application moves to the cloud. This is especially relevant as solution providers cite standard salesforce automation as a common customer entry point.
If you are interested in taking cloud beyond the data center and are willing to train your salespeople to call on line-of-business sales, marketing and call center leaders, CRM is a service-rich cloud-based application worth considering. Solution providers indicate that by 2012 it will be the fourth-most-invested-in cloud application.
And one last note: Don’t let your competitors unseat you in your trusted advisory status. Take the opportunity to raise the cloud topic with your customers. Be the educator, introduce the conversation and plan with your customers how they might take advantage of the cloud.