By: Len DiCostanzo, SVP and Dean of Autotask Academy
Even while traveling through sunny Southern California this month, I couldn’t help but notice the noise from the cloud grow louder. The scramble for IT service providers to understand what the cloud is, teach what the cloud is and bring cloud offerings to market is in full swing. Perhaps most interesting is how the cloud hype has attracted all the attention, with managed services moving into the background. At the conference for MSPs I’m attending in Orange County, there was even a track solely devoted to cloud! However, just as with other industry disruptors like managed services, Application Service Providers (ASPs), Software as a Service (SaaS) and the host of marketing spins on IT service delivery offerings, the cloud will eventually quiet down, and reality will set in. In the meantime, how can we cut through the clutter and just make the cloud part of what we do every day?
Every successful IT service provider—no matter what business model they follow—must have a well-defined catalog of offerings. That catalog has to contain the various products and services clients can buy and service providers can deliver to meet their clients’ business objectives. Defining items in a catalog is no simple task. It is so important to the success of IT service business, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) dedicates two of its five books, Service Strategy and Service Design, to provide best practice guidance on this initiative.
Adding Cloud to Your Catalog
If we look at cloud offerings to be potentially included in your catalog, then we can begin to apply best practices in understanding where—and how—they fit among your existing options. The key characteristic of any catalog item is it resolves clients’ business needs and facilitates the outcomes they want to achieve. So, it will be hard to sell a cloud offering if a client doesn’t need it. The fact is, most times a need can be resolved with a few different types of service delivery. Take a simple client need like email; how do you resolve that need?
Before the cloud, your recommended best solution for your client might have been installing a mail server with mail software from your vendor of choice, plus your integration services. With all the trimmings, this on-premise solution would meet the client’s need, and net you a nice project to complete.
But the cloud demands you to adjust your solution sets accordingly by presenting a few different flavors of an email solution: the on-premise solution you are comfortable with, a hosted solution from some third-party vendor, or perhaps your own hosted email solution. The solution you recommend has to include education of the many ways an email solution can be delivered, along with what they cost, how they work, their strengths, benefits and their risks. It’s all the stuff you are probably doing, but more inclusive of the evolving cloud offerings you now have to consider including in your catalog.
Take the Cloud for a Test Drive
So, consider you need to learn the various cloud offerings out there that tie into what you do now on-premise to meet client needs. Be prepared to use those offerings in your daily business activities, and evaluate them. If you want to include cloud offerings in your catalog, it might prove beneficial to take the leap by first using them yourself. Then, you will be more comfortable adding cloud offerings into your catalog and quoting cloud options in your recommended solutions. If you stop and think about it, this is probably the same strategy you followed in the past: use various products in your business, and deploy them for your clients. Why change now?
When you push through the fog, cloud offerings are simply other items you need to consider as part of your service catalog. Clearly understand what client needs can be resolved with a cloud offering, find the best vendor who can help you deliver it or decide if you want to build it yourself. Properly define the offering and add it to your catalog. Then, recommend and sell the cloud when the situation calls for it. After all, it’s what you have been doing since you started in this business.