You may hear the words “change management” tossed around a lot these days, but what exactly is it? And more importantly, how can partners leverage it to help our customers, grow our businesses, and be more profitable? As an IT coach and consultant focused almost exclusively on Microsoft solutions, I speak with partners pretty much daily about augmenting their cloud business with change management services, and I’d like to share with you why it’s important and what the opportunities around it are.
So first, what is it? Change management (CM) is a set of processes and tools that focus on how people will use new or updated technology to achieve desired business outcomes. There are a number of factors driving the need for change management practices – including adopting cloud-based solutions – but the real goal of change management is to help your customer grow and evolve.
Change is inevitable. How it’s managed makes all the difference
Adopting cloud-based solutions lets organizations change not just the way they pay for IT, but also the way they use IT to gain strategic advantages and operational efficiencies. In order to achieve these intended benefits, there is a lot more involved than simply implementing new technology. The role and responsibilities of IT and of the partner have to evolve, and that’s one of many places where CM comes in play.
But evolution in the technology industry doesn’t just affect an organization’s IT team; the changes are widespread and impact every end user in the company. That means the way in which their people work may be fundamentally changed.
Just think about it: even the way cloud services are purchased now is different from the technology-purchasing processes organizations followed in the past. Instead of IT doing the buying, these days many decisions about adopting cloud solutions are made at the business departmental level. Sales and marketing departments, finance, HR, purchasing, and manufacturing groups are choosing cloud-based solutions independently of their IT organization.
The opportunities of taming the whirlwind
The change to cloud solutions means wonderful cloud selling opportunities for partners, but the shift to the cloud can be disruptive for customers. Therefore, these sales should – where possible – be bundled with CM services. Your customer’s sales organization, for example, may be adopting Salesforce and Office 365, so the way these people work is going to have to change accordingly. They’ll need the new solutions to be configured for their needs, and they need to learn how to use these solutions. They’ll want enhanced functionality but also for some things to remain as in the past. At the same time, these solutions must fit within the organization’s IT and business standards for access control, security, maintainability, supportability, and continuity. What a great opportunity for you to increase the size and value of your sale!
There are many more enhancements to partner businesses when they include CM as a part of their solution offerings. During the selling phase, by bundling CM services, you can demonstrate distinct market differentiation compared to those who only offer a cloud product sale. These services generate significantly larger revenue streams that can be billed up-front or amortized and bundled into a single monthly invoice for product licenses and services. During the project, CM techniques enable smoother, faster, and more successful deployments. This results in great improvement and stability of your bottom line profits. After the project, use similar techniques to provide ongoing management services with additional recurring revenue streams. These services can encompass much more than just managing the technology; partners who deliver CM usually accomplish the enviable goal of moving from being thought of as a vendor to one of being a trusted advisor. You can now get a seat at the table and truly help your clients change their businesses – not just their technology.
Know your solutions
At Alliance for Channel Success, we’ve always said the best way to learn to deliver new solutions is to use those solutions. CM is such a perfect example of this. Our clients no longer want to hear about how partners are the oldest or biggest or have the most certifications. They want to know that we understand their business and can help made a difference. Partners should learn CM and use it to change their own businesses, specifically to develop their CM practice. There are so many best practices and techniques of a successful CM offering. It begins with learning and then practicing.
A great place for partners to start their CM journey is during Microsoft’s upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this July in Orlando, FL. I’ll deliver a dedicated session on Change Management as well as touching on it in my “50 Tips in 50 Minutes” session. After WPC, there will be a series of courses for partners on how to develop a successful CM practice. Microsoft cares about your success.
When starting your CM practice, you can work with partners who have CM experience. This way you can begin offering solutions that include CM while your organization changes, learns, and develops their CM offering. If you can’t find a partner to work with, contact us. We can help guide you through the process and get you started. Don’t miss this opportunity! In a cloud world it’s difficult to stand out. But if you follow the logic of a mobile-first, cloud-first approach (open the door with cloud and then find all the hybrid and on-premises opportunities), you will develop significant long term and loyal client relationships.
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