Channel Star Sentinel Technologies Is Winning Consumption-Based Battle
Sentinel Technologies could see the writing on the wall as more and more organizations began moving to consumption and subscription-based solutions: the fast-growing solution provider needed to evolve the way it sold, engaged and managed its customers.
Top executives at the channel star, which made CRN’s 2019 Tech Elite 250, knew it could no longer simply install, setup and provide maintenance and support for its customers. They understood that to beat the competition and drive exponential growth in today’s IT world, the company needed to create an ongoing, lifecycle practice that intertwines the customer with the channel partner.
“We have become an extension of the customer’s executive team,” said Robert Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies, ranked No. 107 on CRN’s 2018 Solution Provider 500 list. “One of our healthcare customers actually asked us to get involved in process work for them as well. So even the CFO talks to us about reports he’s working with our advisory team on – some a little bit even outside of IT. We’re starting to touch across their whole executive team.”
Sentinel’s Enterprise Lifecycle Services has increased customer stickiness unlike anything before in the solution provider’s 37-year history and is driving advisory and services sales at a rapid pace.
The lifecycle practice offers unprecedented management around a customer’s consumption and subscription services purchases including Microsoft Office 365, Cisco DNA and enterprise agreements, AWS and Azure services, consumption models from Dell EMC and various multi-cloud SaaS offerings. Sentinel has developed strategic offerings to assure customers get the most out of the money being spent on consumption and subscription-based solutions by working with them on an ongoing basis to tune, optimize, right size and secure multi-cloud and SaaS investments.
“You might be using only 15 percent of what you’re paying for on an Office 365 E3. Well, what about the 85 percent of remaining capabilities that you aren’t using?” said Keblusek. “In Office 365 alone, for example, there’s 240 roadmap items that are coming continuously. Whereas if you’re sitting on Office 2016 today, until you upgrade to the next version of Office, everyone has the same experience everyday. So how do you get the most out of it because a lot of the capabilities that they’re adding could be very beneficial to the customer and you don’t want to do that on a three-or five-year upgrade cycle. We make sure we let them take advantage of those upgrades and features as they become available because they’re already paying for them.”
Through those types of customer engagements around optimizing SaaS and consumption-based solutions, Sentinel provides a slew of advisory and consulting services that include webinars, one-on-one advisory services, demos to demonstrate capabilities, and monthly or quarterly business reviews aimed at driving business outcomes.
The company even built a My Sentinel customized portal for businesses where customers can get visibility into their licenses consumption, SLA performance reports and an annuity management system to manage recurring services, to name a few. “We track your assets and the lifecycle of your assets in our system,” said Keblusek. “We have a team of developers who are constantly building out this portal.”
Prior to even implementing a solution, Sentinel engages in advisory consulting services to define the solution, determine the requirements and identify the business outcomes desired. The engagement doesn’t stop at the project’s completion, in fact, implementation is just the beginning of Sentinel’s Enterprise Lifecycle Services program.
“We’re the first call, we’re the second call and we’re the third call our customers make,” said Brian Osborne, co-president and chief sales and marketing officer for Downers Grove, Illinois-based Sentinel. “If anyone was to ask them, ‘Who is your partner technology?’ We want Sentinel to be the first name to come out of their mouth.”
Osborne has been with Sentinel since it was founded in 1982 and understands the difficulties ahead for channel partners in the new multi-cloud, consumption-based world.
“A big challenge is for partners to pivot now to these consumption-based models. How do you make money when you were selling big deals that had a lot of equipment and a lot of services and maintenance upfront, but now you’re getting a little drip of that every month instead?” he said. “Then your customers watch their bills go up and up and up and are wondering, ‘Why did I start at ‘X’ price but now I’m up at ‘Y’ price – what’s causing that and how do I get that under control?’ It’s a shift and a different opportunity [for partners].”
Not only are cloud providers like AWS and Microsoft offering consumption-based pricing, but many of the largest IT hardware and software vendors in the world have jumped on board. Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo, for example, have launched pay per use consumption models for on-premise data center solutions, while both VMware and Dell EMC are targeting more consumption-based offerings and channel incentives.
It took years for Sentinel to build the pieces and practices to bring together its successful Enterprise Lifecycle Services strategy to differentiate itself from the competition and drive revenues in an opex customer buying motion.
Overall, customers are buying into Sentinel’s lifecycle program because it gives them piece of mind and an true ally in a world of full of unknown IT costs and digital transformation benchmarks.
“Nobody has a good sense of comfort with what their future costs are going to be. This is a way to make sure we’re driving as much value as possible because that continues to be a concern with a lot of customers in making a more significant move to the cloud,” said Osborne. “We have gotten a lot deeper into customers business and are sincere in wanting to know more. We have to be always connected and always engaged.”