Next-Gen Partners Dish On How To Create Cloud-Savvy Businesses

Partners must change their sales compensation models, create internal vendor management resources and hire more application architects to be successful in the cloud, according to a panel of leading solution providers that addressed the 2015 Best of Breed Conference.

The group of five sounded off Wednesday on the urgency of public cloud, M&A opportunities for born-in-the-cloud firms and the challenge of retrofitting legacy companies for a digital future.

"If you're not doing something credible in public cloud within three to five years, you're going to struggle to stay in business," Jamie Begin, founder and CEO of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based RightBrain Networks, said at the conference, hosted by CRN's parent, The Channel Company. "There are a lot of people in this business who do not understand what a big deal public cloud truly is."

The transition to cloud will prove particularly difficult for traditional solution providers that must both keep legacy revenue streams going and start up brand new business practices, according to Ron Dupler, CEO of Kittery, Maine-based GreenPages, No. 159 on the CRN Solution Provider 500.

"If you have a legacy company and you're not starting from scratch, you've got a problem," Dupler said at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla. "The infrastructure that we've built as a solution provider ecosystem over the past decade-plus is not agile enough to really support business innovation."

Dupler sees cloud as a tool – similar to software-defined computing or hyper-convergence – that can make it easier for IT organizations to support business by simplifying or rationalizing complex, non-agile legacy infrastructures. 

Begin disagrees, though, arguing that cloud is much more than a toolset and not a cyclical trend like virtual-desktop infrastructure or particular client and server devices. 

"A lot of people are going to be very surprised at just how disruptive cloud is going to be to their business models," Begin said. "You really have to change everything about your company."

The service-heavy nature of cloud means solution providers must change their compensation models to stop incentivizing sales reps who are merely pushing boxes, Begin said. And since cloud sales cycles are so different than that of on-premise, Begin said partners also need to completely overhaul the recruiting, training, stocking and delivery models.

Partners that find themselves playing catch-up in the cloud will need to go all-in on either training their existing workforceS or recruiting new people.