Cloud Computing Driving Big Business For SMB Channel

Cloud solution providers

While AMI-Partners acknowledged that making the leap to the cloud is a challenging transition for SMB and mid-sized-focused VARs, the study found that moving to the cloud presents a significant opportunity.

According to the study, 70 percent of SMB and mid-market cloud channel partners in the U.S. significantly expand their seat counts with customers in the first six months after a cloud deployment, and nearly one quarter typically roll out the solutions to all employees in the organization.

"A trend we are seeing is that many SMBs will start out with a focused cloud application or service deployment in order to gain a comfort level," said Jessica Efta, market development manager at AMI-Partners. "Once they achieve that with the cloud solution and the partner, they then expand the implementation to recognize the full value."

AMI-Partners also found that channel partners that have been successful in transforming into cloud providers are seeing benefits beyond incremental sales opportunities. They also recognize that the cloud is driving customer satisfaction. The study found that two out of every three cloud solution providers report that their customers are "much more satisfied" with the partner overall since they started offering cloud solutions.

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"An important contributor to the success of these partners are their investments in cloud-specific, customer-facing activities, such as cloud sales rep training and dedicated cloud solutions support," Efta added.

Cloud solution providers also realize the importance of strategic vendors, AMI-Partners found. Among cloud channel partners surveyed, nearly 50 percent said that a top priority for them in the next year is to develop and invest in strategic relationships with cloud vendors.

In a related study, AMI-Partners found that channel partners that display "high-value competency" will drive the $50 billion U.S. SMB cloud market in the next two years.

A high-value cloud partner, AMI-Partners said, possesses five distinct partner competencies that make them indispensible and highly profitable: business analytics, unified communication and collaboration, business process management, mobility and infrastructure alignment. AMI-Partners' research found that among 72,000 U.S. partners that focus on the SMB, only 20 percent are currently proficient in two or more of the high-value competencies.

"High-value competency (HVC) partners drive three times the market opportunity compared to other SMB partners and the margins they derive from these key solutions are about 25 percent higher than other partners," Avinash Arun, director of SMB channels at AMI-Partners, said in a statement.

HVC partners are differentiated by their commitment to the cloud, AMI-Partners said, and are three times as likely to be already experiencing cloud success from both the business and financial perspectives.

"Their success in the cloud is critical to the sustainability and growth of the partner ecosystem and to vendors who are betting heavily on this transformation," Arun said.

According to AMI-Partners, HVC partners tend to focus on high-value SMB industries like financial services and healthcare, and their breadth of product offerings, coupled with vertical specialization, enable these partners to cater to more sophisticated clientele and drive operations efficiencies, enhance productivity and reduce IT complexity.

Solutions typically offered by high-value competency partners include business intelligence, CRM, unified communications, virtualization, Infrastructure-as-a-Service and mobility applications.