5 Cloud Leaders discuss how they ensure the best outcomes for their clients

Concept pulled together 5 Cloud Leaders who work tirelessly supporting and guiding their customers through their technology road map.  The discussion covered how they ensure the best possible outcomes for their customers by challenging them and consequently, providing the right solution to them and their organisations.

Who are our Cloud Leaders

Matt Fooks: Boxxe’s Lead Solutions Architect – a fast changing and transforming Microsoft Cloud Partner  

Mark Crowne: UK General manager of Nexer Insight that specialises in Microsoft, IOT and AI on Azure for industrial and instruction clients.

Jason Normanton: Head of Cloud Services at CSI limited, who is building a Microsoft Azure practice for the MSP

Shaun Ritchie: Co-founder & CTO of Meritum Cloud, a Microsoft Gold Partner and nimble service provider specialising in everything to do with Microsoft Cloud from Azure to 365.

Richard Blandford: Managing Director of Fordway who is a service provider revolving into public cloud and private cloud integration. The company has a strong focus on security within the government and public sector.

What challenges are businesses’ facing?

The main theme is that client’s want to be more agile and have better value of services. In managed services, the traditional deals offered by the larger players are not so popular as they don’t offer any flexibility. With services on demand, it is difficult to create a new schedule when adding a new service to that. What these organisations have found is that charging a % of spend for different levels of service is immediately covered and is a way to provide that flexibility and is a way of looking at ways of reducing overall spend but by getting the same experience. Customers want agility, and it is therefore important to become a partner, as they want fast and consistent deployment.

All organisations are now trying to relieve customers of the inflexible contracts they used to be in, and within any contract, there must be flexibility. Everyone sees Cloud as a good answer, but smaller customers misunderstand that Cloud is not magic: It is a migration, and there are aspects to consider. In a lot of cases, organisations are losing direct control of infrastructure, because when using Cloud, you are ultimately playing around with someone else's work and having to assemble components yourselves from the hypothetical ‘Lego blocks’ they have provided you with.

Jason raised the differences between legacy and “brand new” environments.  There is certainly a conflict between moving legacy infrastructure into Cloud (with traditional database / applications) against building an environment straight into Cloud. CSI operate a lot of power for customers, and CSI is hyper cloud centric but also focused on power in workloads. There are micro services, like open shift and containerisations that can run tighter packed services. Balance management is all about keeping legacy investment, and therefore putting effort into customer relations is a bonus when working in this sector.

Moreover, by offering truly agile and nimble resources which they specialise in, they are able to offer highly competitive services to their customers in order to aid their businesses. MSP and other partners out there have not embraced Cloud and are still doing traditional managed service, so for Meritum Cloud for example, who manage BCDR in Azure, it means sometimes they have to work with existing partners if they do not have skills in house, and they offer niche skills and services to aid their business.

Mark from Nexer, who has previously worked in the Microsoft eco-system and has been involved in trying to sell managed services, knows both sides and associated challenges. Its unglamorous but it is a vital end of what is being done, and all the businesses are trying to help these companies that are struggling against more agile competition, and a lot of them are not going to move as there is no business case to move it to. The world is full of large companies trying to prevent massive cyber-attacks, and most chose to underinvest in their infrastructure in order for the back end of the company to look good, with an example of Maersk almost being destroyed by this.

Automation

Clients want to innovate but they cannot do it on their own, so they need someone along with for the journey. Microsoft are killing it in these areas as they are hyper connected, even though it is not seen as trendy anymore.

Most customers feel they can stick whatever into the Cloud and it will work, however within Boxxe, they place significant value in automation as it is getting a lot of interest in ways of streamlining, whereby you look at a process that is challenging to the business. It can be that it is not optimised appropriately or is time consuming where a lot of people’s efforts go into that. It is therefore appropriate to process map that out before you automate it as a manual process.

An example is on boarding of new staff, whereby it is the first impression of staff in joining a business, and sometimes it does not work that well, as they may not have a laptop readily available or are not on all the systems to begin with, and therefore it places importance on the automation side.   

The marketplace has always been an organization whereby you need to be good at a small, certain subset of technologies, or good at a niche, vertical market of subset of customers. When customers are looking at capabilities, they need to look at certain market segment specifics and expertise. Highly valued organisations do not do it all themselves: They contract specialised people to do all their behind the scenes.

Client stories

For Nexer, it is important to have crisp client stories, as they hold high value in how they progress and work with further clients. For customers, it is important for them to know how their problems are going to be solved, and where a specialise service they have provided has worked for someone similar.

Every client’s journey to the Cloud is different, so mapping out journeys with good portfolios and automations around it, and by making sure it is highly secure and no manual mistakes, means the customer will then feel transformed, and the journey will be sold. In recruitment, the value is hearing the challenges in the business and then adapting a solution. If you can find examples of customer challenges and talk about how they were previously sold, then they feel aligned with you and know how you can help them.

Partnering

Within the Managed Service Sector, there is significance placed on partnerships, and a good eco-system of tried and tested partners. At CSI they do not do any Power BI or data warehouses: They have long-term partnership that are honest with how they can offer every service. Moreover, it is important to be honest about how good or bad your company is. For example, Shaun cannot support the network, and therefore does not try and white label it. They then do not have to manage multiple customers.

It is therefore all about having a network of partners to use for certain activities, whereby an organisation can either manage a customer problem themselves, or pass them completely over to the partner, whom have been tried and tested, and therefore trusted to offer a valuable service. this means the outcomes are beneficial to the customers.

Such a comparison from recruitment, as that is the last thing you want to do for loss of control and engagement, but in technology, it is a normal thing to have confidants and partners.

Challenges in solution selling

In any Cloud Migration, it is a journey and there are multiple stages, and there are no inherent benefits in some cases. There is, sometimes, an uncomfortableness working with big banks and financial institutions, but an ease working within the public sector, as they appear more open to good ideas and are constantly looking to improve their work.

Winning new customers is now more difficult, but highly beneficial and valued, and they tend to trust the professionals and stick around. Also known as a fulfilment partner, you have to win the new customers and treat them good to them keep them. Richard says that it is a mutual listening to from someone’s business to the technology servers. Also, customers need to listen and be open to professional insights, and Fordway have found some organisations are not open to this, and therefore struggle in adapting.

There is also importance in adapting and thriving: Inside any contract signed with his business, there is a concept called continuity service improvements, and they maintain customer relationships. No customer wants to rip out good, potential services and all about customer requirements. It is further down to certain organisations to keep pace with technologies and keep skills and capabilities relevant to the customers. Also, discussing challenges that may occur within 6-12 months with the customer, known as forward vision, allows for both parties to prepare where to go and apply it across as much of the customer base as possible.

Under CSP terms, if the client wants to leave you, he can effectively move to another CSP in the Microsoft world. You may have a managed service contract with them, but you will lose a lot of revenue as he moves his CSP to another company to get ready to break the managed service contract with you. The problems with moving from a traditional managed service to a Cloud managed service provider, is realising that you have ‘Plan, Build, Run’: Knowing that when it goes into run, the other two services don’t stop. CSI are making specific inflection points every three points, where they look at existing environments and review it, and giving them best practice and security prices, and places importance in touching points with clients all the way through.

What is the biggest decision factor – is it around the customers or the profit?

Matt Fooks expresses that the customers are most important to his company, and they primarily focus on remote work and how employers are looking at adapting their offices and how to keep their employees connected anywhere at any time. Looking at analytics around their people, and people outcomes. Moreover, there is a lot of cost consolidation and efficiency, but last 12 months have mainly been centred around people.

The conclusion of the webinar places value on digital evolution, as it focuses on what their dependencies are, talking to customers and in turn providing a service that the customer can consume and make money from. The key factors to succeeding within the Cloud services is to make sure value is being added, being nimble, keep evolving to provide beneficial experiences, make sure you are relevant, and the services your company is providing are continually being adapted. 

We’ve got plenty more fantastic industry experts lined up for 2021 to take part in our webinar series. If you’d like to find out more or to get involved as a speaker yourself then please get in touch with Robert Taylor.

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Kate Higgs

16th April

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