Education key to helping resellers achieve cloud revenue ambitions

Shortage of sales and support skills and perceived immaturity of cloud market main factors in inhibiting channel

Resellers are sensing an opportunity to grow their revenues by selling cloud services, but concerns over the immaturity of the market and staff skills to sell and support cloud solutions are standing in the way of their ambitions. Vendors must do more to educate and support resellers to bolster their confidence in the cloud services market, Claranet warns today.

The latest statistics from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) reveal that almost a third (32 per cent) of resellers expect cloud services to constitute more than 20 per cent of their revenue by 2015, up from 13 per cent in 2012. But while the channel clearly anticipates increasing demand for cloud services over in the coming years, there are signs that resellers do not feel entirely able to take advantage. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of resellers are concerned that their staff lack the skills required to support cloud solutions, and 19 per cent think they are missing the skills to sell those same solutions.

Simon Bearne, Sales Director at Claranet, said that unless Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) can up their game and offer the channel the support that it needs, resellers will struggle to address the opportunity:

It’s clear that resellers are keen to take advantage of the cloud, sensing the obvious market opportunities it presents. But the cloud remains a new and relatively unknown frontier for a large contingent within the channel and, while their concerns are by no means insurmountable, they will only be overcome with the help of vendors. CSPs must work with resellers to instil trust in their products and give them full confidence in the skills of their staff to sell and support cloud solutions.

“Cloud providers must do all they can to educate resellers and enable them to overcome the skills shortages that they feel are holding them back from adopting cloud services,” Bearne continued. “But this needs to extend beyond simply providing ‘classroom’ training. The best CSPs will provide channel partners with direct access to their expertise, ‘loaning out’ staff to help with initial sales and to establish the reseller’s knowledge base. Only if resellers understand exactly what they are offering will they be able to smooth out the sales process, support end-user experience of migration and integration, and realise the predicted revenue boom.

“The popularity of hybrid solutions, combining traditional IT hosting with cloud services, can present challenges for resellers who saw the cloud as a good way into the hosting market but who may have little or no experience of traditional hosting. Reselling the cloud is about more than simply providing a well-packaged product – expertise, support, and trust are just as important, and this is where CSPs must step in,” Bearne added. “End-users should look for resellers with established long-term relationships with both vendors and customers – a sure sign of a strong understanding of the technology they are selling and the needs of the organisations they are selling to.”

Cloud services are also perceived as unproven, with 18 per cent of resellers voicing concerns over the immaturity of the market. In response, Bearne suggested that independent accreditation can provide much-needed endorsement of providers’ promises and point to market maturity:

“In an industry such as ours where “cloudwash” is commonplace, it’s easy to bamboozle customers with unfounded claims over security and data protection. The knowledge that an organisation has taken time to ensure its technology is up to scratch and put itself through rigorous auditing and certification processes – such as those for ISO:27000 or PCI DSS – will build up resellers’ trust, giving them confidence that they are looking at a mature market that takes their security concerns seriously,” he concluded.

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