Ahead President: 8 Bets On Dell, AWS, Cisco And New Talent In 2022

Here’s why Ahead’s Stephen Ayoub is placing his biggest bets in 2022 on AWS, Cisco, Dell Technologies, ServiceNow, SnowFlake and VMware, as well as hiring new top talent to drive service sales.

Stephen Ayoub: Ahead’s Biggest Investments For 2022

IT visionary Stephen Ayoub has big plans in store for Ahead in 2022 around vendors like Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Dell Technologies and ServiceNow, while at the same time aiming to hire new top talent and to potentially execute some acquisitions to drive services revenue growth.

“We’re going to invest in sales talent and technical talent, as well as all the operations teams to support the business,” said Ayoub, president of Chicago-based Ahead in an interview with CRN. “From a technical standpoint, there will be a heavy focus on our service and delivery teams to help support our growth as our customers continue to ask Ahead to do more from a services perspective.”

Ahead ranked as the No. 3 fastest growing solution provider in CRN’s Fast Growth 150 list this year, while also climbing to No. 28 on CRN’s Solution Provider 500 in 2021. The managed services, cloud and security specialist has been growing at a rapid pace over the years thanks to a healthy mix of organic and inorganic growth.

In an interview with CRN, Ayoub breaks down the eight biggest IT bets Ahead has in store for 2022.

Hiring ‘Top Talent’ For Sales, Technical And Operations

At the top of Ahead’s list of biggest IT investments in 2022 is hiring new top talent to increase the company’s sales, technical and operational headcount.

“First and foremost, we’re going to invest in people in 2022. We have a phenomenal team right now, we’re looking to continue to add top talent to help us serve our clients,” said Ayoub. “So we’re going to invest in sales talent and technical talent, as well as all the operations team to support the business. So it’s a broad stroke across the company.”

From a technical standpoint, Ahead plans to grow its total employee headcount with a focus on increasing services sales.

“There will be a heavy focus on our service and delivery teams to help support our growth as our customers continue to ask Ahead to do more from a services perspective. How we deliver that is to have more talented people in our delivery and our technical team. So we’re going to invest there,” said Ayoub.

Ahead recently appointed Dell and VCE veteran Tony Coffey as its new chief operating officer in April, responsible for scaling Ahead’s operations.

‘Phenomenal Growth’ Expected In Cloud Services

Ahead will continue to double down on cloud vendors like AWS, Microsoft and Google with a focus on driving cloud services sales to new heights.

“We’ve had phenomenal growth in our cloud business and cloud services. We anticipate that growing exponentially through 2022. We’re going to align with AWS, Azure and get momentum from the public cloud market,” said Ayoub. “So what we’re doing is helping customers realize how to move workloads, and refactor applications to be cloud native. For some of our customers, it’s about actually moving the applications in the cloud, and then how to operate them in the cloud, which is completely different from the way that they’ve operated for years in the past.”

Ayoub said cloud services investments in 2022 is about more engaging and executing on a customer’s strategy. “It all starts on the strategy. So we try to really engage from a strategy standpoint. Once they have a strategy, we need to help them execute on that strategy,” he said. “Execution comes first around application rationalization. Second, any kind of refactor the app, and then move the app to the cloud. Customers are really asking us for a hybrid solution.”

‘Big Three’: Dell Technologies, VMware And Cisco

From a technology standpoint, Ahead plans to continue to focus and stay aligned to Dell Technologies and VMware.

“We are still very aligned to Dell and VMware, that they will continue to be a platform that we that we go to market with as well as Cisco. Those are our big three vendors that we are going to continue to invest in,” said Ayoub. “We’re focused on growing market share with those three vendors.”

On the Dell front, Ahead is betting on Dell’s enterprise reach and massive product portfolio in 2022. “Dell’s breathe of portfolio and alignment with the enterprise clients is what we like about Dell,” he said.

For VMware, Ahead will continue to invest in the virtualization superstar as VMware continues to dive deeper into new markets like Kubernetes and cybersecurity. “VMware is clearly expanding their portfolio. So it’s not only their ESXi server or their virtualization, but their container strategy, network strategy and security strategy. VMware really now has a nice set offering for enterprise clients,” Ayoub said.

In terms of the global networking leader, Ahead is continue to invest in Cisco’s end-to-end solutions. “Cisco continues to deliver for all sizes of clients an end to end solution, especially around networking and security. We find our customers trust Cisco for these spaces due to their technical leadership,” he said.

‘Explosive Growth’ In ServiceNow

Ahead will double down on ServiceNow in 2022 as sales and customer adoption are taking off.

“Our ServiceNow practice has experienced explosive growth over the past year and we anticipate that that growth continuing through 2022,” said Ayoub. “It’s really the fact that customers are adopting the platform of ServiceNow. So they require help from experts like us to help deploy that enterprise-wide.”

Last month, Ahead earned ServiceNow’s IT Asset Management Product Line Achievement, marking the fourth accreditation the company has earned from ServiceNow. Ahead has also earned ServiceNow’s IT Business Management, IT Operations Management and IT Services Management accreditations.

‘Strong Desire To Build’ AWS Partnership

If there’s one cloud vendor Ahead is placing its bets on in 2022, it’s Amazon Web Services.

“AWS has recently showed a strong desire to build on the partnership that we have. We’ve seen growth within the AWS space accelerate for Ahead over the past six months,” said Ayoub.

In October, Ahead achieved the Amazon Web Services Networking Competency status for AWS Consulting Partners, one of the first solution providers to achieve such as status. The networking competency proves that Ahead can help customers security connect to AWS from public or private clouds, grouping and distributing their applications across Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, while also providing tools for network performance and monitoring. AWS matches customers with these highly specialized AWS Consulting Partners like Ahead who can provide a variety of cloud services for AWS solutions.

“Cloud services are in high demand. I think AWS is a great partner for us to drive that business,” said Ayoub.

Snowflake To Drive Data Decisions

With data being a leading tool in organizations decision making abilities, Ayoub is betting big on Snowflake. Ahead is doubling down on the data cloud services provider in a move to help customers make more data-centric business decisions.

“Snowflake is another big investment for us in 2022 and we’re investing in a Snowflake partnership,” said Ayoub. “We believe data is that the forefront of all decisions and extremely important for our clients to stay competitive. And if we can help them with a data platform leader like Snowflake, we believe that there’s great opportunity for us.”

This year, Snowflake expanded the scope of its channel partner programs in an effort to recruit SaaS application developers and data providers.

‘Boutique’ And Larger Acquisitions In 2022 To Expand Services Capabilities And Footprint

Ahead is known for its big and bold M&A strategy over the past three years, including the company’s blockbuster acquisitions of RoundTower Technologies and Kovarus in 2020. The solution provider also merged with Data Blue, Sovereign Systems, Link and Platform Consulting in 2019 which transformed Ahead into what it is today.

Ayoub said Ahead will continue its bullish acquisition strategy next year, especially around services and geographic scale.

“Ahead will continue to do strategic acquisitions in 2022. And it remains a focus for us in our growth plans. We’re looking at add-on boutique service companies as well as some larger players to help us gain geographical footprint or strengthening in existing markets,” said Ayoub.