In this new era of cloud computing, the roles played by technology vendors and partners are subject to change—and often without notice. In many cases the route to market, and specifically to the customer, has been disaggregated. The role of partners who provide consulting and integration-type services are affected to an extent, but we feel it’s a change rather than a disappearing act.
Checking the Forecast—is the Outlook ‘Cloudy’ for SIs?
Becoming a ‘Cloud Advisor’
First and foremost, there is a certain inevitability that our customers will look to the cloud. The ability to consume software and solutions ‘as a service’ or like a utility is a very attractive proposition (for the right workloads and applications), and when you combine this with the favorable pricing models and levels being marketed, it becomes clear that customers are bound to utilize cloud technology.
However, don’t assume that your customers know everything there is to know about the cloud. When we talk about a cloudy outlook, it can apply to your customers’ future IT roadmap, as well as their knowledge of how cloud technologies can be applied to their business. In this scenario, we think there’s an opportunity for the role of the solutions provider or systems integrator as a trusted advisor to become that of a ‘cloud advisor’. The role is much the same; however, those partners who are helping their customers apply the right cloud solutions within their business—and really are helping their customers realize faster returns (another perceived benefit of cloud-based solutions)—will see a closer relationship developing with their customers, and in turn see more success.
IT and LOB—Bridging the Gap
IDC forecasts predict that cloud services will grow at 4 or 5 times the rate of overall IT growth over the next 5 years, and will also drive around 30% of IT spending by 2014. Of course, forecasts and predictions are just that, but the underlying trends don’t lie.
This cloud advisor role also lends itself to addressing one of the issues that cloud technology has created within businesses: the ability for the line-of-business (LOB) folks to buy on their own and create a rogue IT function, with the lack of controls and integration that go with that. In fact, legend has it that certain leading ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) vendors’ early marketing efforts suggested, “Don’t tell IT”. We feel there is an opportunity to bridge this gap, by brokering between IT and LOB—allowing LOB’s to understand how the technology can be utilized to drive their business goals, whether that be cost savings, increased sales, or visibility of data, or the like—but also by ensuring that their applications fit into a longer strategic IT roadmap.
Integration Is Here to Stay
And so, let’s examine the outlook for integration services. In fact, this is not cloudy at all, as in our humble opinion the need for integrated applications that ensure your customers’ systems interoperate and provide the ability to have integrated and visible data for both internal and external sales use is something that should never go away. The integration projects will likely be smaller and more iterative, rather than the larger integration projects of the old days, but the requirement will still be there.
One final item to think of for solutions providers and SIs is ‘packaging’ the IP that they are building as they take customers through this transition into a ‘product’. An example of this shared by one partner was where they packaged a set of standard integration services and even called them ‘integration as a service’. The offering allows them to scale the work they do, manage their resources, and also drive a level of consistency with their customers.
So, back to the cloudy outlook for SIs…
We feel that, although it may have been a little overcast at times, now the forecast is brightening, and the timing is now right for integrators and consulting services providers to become cloud advisors to their customers.