Saturday, August 7, 2010

Technology Forecast: Increasingly Cloudy

As talk of the cloud in IT media circles increases to deafening point, many SMB focussed providers are facing the reality that the push to the cloud could have real impact on their business.
Thats not to say that if you're focussed on the SMB market you should pack up your toys and open a lawnmowing business and leave selling IT services to Telstra. Rather, cloud services needs to be part of your business plan, even if it sits in the category of stuff you don't plan on offering right now.

The simple reality is that many of us already offer cloud services to our customers - remote monitoring and management, hosted exchange, backup replication to a data centre. So really, cloud services in SMB are nothing new. What is new is the immediate need large vendors have to fill their scorecards with cloud services sales. Those SMB IT providers helping vendors like Microsoft and Telstra to hit their targets will be rewarded with actual face time from a partner account manager they never got when they were selling on premise solutions. Will this face time help your business achieve higher levels of success?

Cloud services are no easier or harder to sell than on premise. And that is the key. You must decide if cloud services are part of your product offering, how you will attract customers who want this service and how you as a business owner will make a sustainable product on their sale. Its clear that the margins available on the Microsoft/Telstra BPOS offering are low, so simply reselling this service, or that of Google or any other cloud vendor will only work if your business relies on volume. If, like many SMB IT business owners, your business predictably hits a 20 - 30% margin, then you'll need a good suite of services to add to your cloud services sales if you intend to transform their sales into a sustainable business.

If your business doesn't have a predictable sales engine or regular marketing actions to attract new customers, then frankly it doesn't matter what you sell. You will be left behind as SMB IT service delivery is aggregated and streamlined.

So before you waste another breath on explaining to a vendor or fellow SMB IT community member why you think cloud services won't work, make some time to document your business plan and how you will make sure that you have customers this year, next year and for years to come. The names and specifics of technology has always mattered more to those in the SMB IT community than it has to customers. What technology delivers the business results to customers is irrelevant - what counts is the valuable services you deliver in packaging those solutions into a consumable product that delivers consistent profits to your bottom line.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

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