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Look at the following levels and consider where your customers are in each of these levels. This is critical for you to make sure you are offering the correct services at the correct pricing. This model will become even more important in the cloud broker model as you will have customers across all levels and need to offer them only services that make sense for their needs.
Level 0, Survival: Little to no focus on IT infrastructure and operations
Level 1, Awareness: Realization that infrastructure and operations are critical to the business; beginning to take actions (in people/organization, process and technologies) to gain operational control and visibility
Level 2, Committed: Moving to a managed environment, for example, for day-to-day IT support processes and improved success in project management to become more customer-centric and increase customer satisfaction
Level 3, Proactive: Gaining efficiencies and service quality through standardization, policy development, governance structures and implementation of proactive, cross-departmental processes, such as change and release management
Level 4, Service-Aligned: Managing IT like a business; customer-focused; proven, competitive and trusted IT service provider
Level 5, Business Partnership: Trusted partner to the business for increasing the value and competitiveness of business processes, as well as the business as a whole
I recommended that channel partners of all sizes look to create, adopt, buy, build or partner with some organization to provide a platform that can manage multiple clouds and help customers reduce costs. This model will look like a managed service provider or, better yet, a cloud broker.
The term cloud broker is where the lines are being blurred and definitions are being worked out. But no matter how you slice it, it's about a platform that allows you, your business and your customers to add some form of value. The only way you can manage this platform is with a management system that enables customers to consume what they want, how they want it, when they want it, and at Internet speeds with some guard rails. Microsoft is providing the visibility that cloud broker platforms require, thus enabling developers to take leaps forward in capabilities.
Cloud broker platforms that tie into hybrid cloud management systems like those offered by Microsoft will become the cockpit for decisions based on services and quality of experience for customers rather than cores, licenses and operating systems. We will all end up consuming computing as a utility, but the opportunity is what we do with that power and availability. The key here is you must embrace change and allow for flexibility in your offerings to succeed in this radically changing cloud market.
John Ross is an IT consultant building new service offerings for channel-focused customers and partners. John holds positions with several leading manufacturer advisory councils and regularly works with IT analysts to help define major paradigm shifts in the technology industry. He previously was CTO of Kittery, Maine-based GreenPages Technology Solutions.