Convergence may have been a scary concept for solution providers a couple of years ago, but the coming together of hardware, software, telecom and cloud services is opening up the door for channel partners to offer so much more to their customers -- and earn more at the same time, partners say.
It's no longer about selling WANs and circuits for agent partners, it's about selling the full stack of IT services. But many partners still need help making the transition to full-fledged solution provider, and partnerships between VARs and agents could be the best path, according to a panel of solution providers at master agent Intelisys' cloud training event, Super9 Convergence, in New Orleans on Wednesday.
"Convergence is awesome for partners," said Mike Miller, solutions consultant for Sidepath, a solution provider. "We're going to make more money."
Convergence is giving partners the opportunity to sell more services to their existing customer base, without having to recruit new clients to earn revenue, said Tricia Ward, founder and managing director of Onward Communications, a Portland, Ore.-based telecom and cloud consulting firm.
"[Agents] used to rely on one or two sources of revenue, and now we might have 50 to 100 sources of revenue. Things that we never had access to before. It's a tremendous opportunity for everyone," Ward said.
Structured Communication Systems, a Clackamas, Ore-based VAR, until recently hadn't dipped into connectivity services. Its customers were buying hardware from Structured Communication, and then going to another partner for its telecom and networking needs. The separation was creating conflict for some customers when their two IT sources suggested different solutions, according to Gizzelle Akin, UC solutions advisor for the VAR.
"Thanks to convergence, we can become the customer's holistic provider for everything in their network, including taking on those carrier and cloud services," Akin said.
But partners don't have to build their own telecom, software, or hardware practices from scratch. Partnerships between VARs and agents will serve both parties, especially as prices continue to be driven down all around, partners said.
Irvine, Calif.-based Sidepath, a data center VAR that "grew up" as an agent, relies on collaboration with other channel partner organizations to stay successful, Miller said.
"Myself and other [solution providers] pick up the phone and call each other when we have an opportunity in someone else's wheelhouse," he said.
Onward Communications also enjoys partnerships with other channel organizations, Ward said. "I'm not comfortable leaving anything on the table anymore with a customer that I can't bring a resource to or partner with someone to help. Personally, I'm not going to go out and build a hardware or a software practice. I'm going to look for the leaders in those fields to work on [an opportunity] together," she said.
Just as agent partners aren't familiar with the hardware world, VARs don't understand connectivity and often, the recurring revenue commission model. Partnerships between the two are critical for that reason, so partners aren't "experimenting' on their own customers, Akin said.
"All you need is one good experience that you can proliferate through your organization to point to and say; 'look at the success we had with partnering,'" Miller told the audience of VARs and agent partners. "Just one example."