By Jonathan Lerner, CEO at InterVision Systems
Digital consumers expect organizations to exceed their ever-increasing expectations. Naturally, it’s impossible for providers to fulfill those expectations without building relationships and contracting with cloud partners — more likely than not, quite a few of them. These bonds form a cloud partnership ecosystem.
A cloud partner ecosystem refers to the network of strategic alliances and collaborations built between cloud service providers, software vendors, system integrators and resellers. For example, a world-class managed service provider (MSP) like InterVision constitutes a cloud partner. Relationships with vendors like InterVision allow organizations to meet their clients’ expectations.
Like fingerprints, no two ecosystems are the same. Clients have unique business needs and diverse competitive differentiators. Great partners will take these factors into account while diagnosing and prescribing solutions.
Let’s discuss how to identify partners that prioritize organization-specific solutions and illuminate how leaders can promote and nurture their cloud partnerships today.
Benefits of a robust cloud partnership ecosystem
Two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two… and so on and so forth. Maybe this adage seems trite, but it’s true: The average enterprise used 1,295 cloud services in 2019, the most recent year from which data is available. That number has likely ballooned alongside the general cloud services market. Statista predicts the global cloud services market will increase by 21.7% in 2023 alone.
In all this noise, ascertaining the ROI on various cloud partners — let alone your organization’s ecosystem — presents a challenge. A well-maintained cloud partnership ecosystem should unlock several organizational benefits, including the following.
- Expanded services and solutions — By partnering with other organizations, leaders can offer their customers a broader range of services and solutions. Depending on a client’s specific needs, this may involve improving current IT infrastructure — such as cybersecurity or endpoint detection and response — and/or adding new, innovative services.
- Better geographic reach — Partners can help organizations extend their reach and serve customers in new regions or markets — particularly important for global enterprises. Local partners are better positioned to understand the needs and requirements of customers in their region, leading to high-quality service in these extended markets.
- Higher customer satisfaction — By offering integrated solutions and services through partnerships, organizations provide customers with tailored solutions that better meet their needs.
- Faster time-to-market — Partnering with established providers can help organizations bring new offerings to market more quickly, as they don’t have to build everything from scratch.
- Cost savings — By leveraging their partners’ resources and expertise, organizations can often achieve cost savings in research and development, marketing and customer support.
- Competitive advantage — A strong partner ecosystem can help differentiate an organization’s offerings by providing additional customer value.
- Improved flexibility and scalability — Partnering allows organizations to adapt to changing customer demands and market conditions on a dime. Leaders can scale their services as needed by relying on the capabilities of their partners.
- Risk mitigation — Sharing responsibilities and risks with partners helps distribute the burden of providing services and solutions. This can be particularly important in managing cybersecurity and compliance risks.
While each of these considerations is important, different organizations will gravitate toward different functions based on need. For example, city, state and local government leaders will likely prioritize risk mitigation because their industry dictates far more stringent regulations surrounding data storage and use.
Before assessing options or scheduling intro calls, it’s wise to draft a cloud partner ecosystem roadmap to determine which benefits are most relevant to your organization. Similarly, if the benefits mentioned above aren’t being realized by your current cloud partners, it may be time to ask more or reassess those relationships. Specifically, you’ll want to interrogate vendors about the five big Ws (and don’t forget about the H).
Who, what, when, where, why and how
Leaders should prepare questions for their potential cloud service provider in advance. These questions will help to ensure a new partner meets your organization’s individual needs and security requirements. Questions regarding a solution’s value proposition, ROI and scalability are also relevant for existing relationships to ensure they remain mutually beneficial.
These questions align with the age-old who, what, when, where, why and how schema.
We can combine “who,” “what” and “why” because they fundamentally concern the same basic information regarding a provider and their solution. Their answers will identify the solution’s functionality and serviceability. Questions to ask include:
- What cloud services do you offer (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)? Do you have specific solutions tailored to my industry or use case(s)? (And, if not, do you have the capability to develop those solutions in line with my KPIs or roadmap?)
- What security certifications and compliance standards do you adhere to (e.g., ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR)?
- What is your uptime guarantee, and do you have Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place?
- What is your pricing model, and are there any hidden fees? Can you provide cost estimates for my specific use case?
- Can I customize the cloud services to meet my specific requirements? Are there any limitations on customization?
Questions concerning timing will indicate a solution’s time-to-value and flexibility. The more scalable the solution, the better. Questions to ask include:
- How easily can I scale my resources based on demand? What are the expected performance and latency for my applications?
- When can I expect results that align with my roadmap or KPIs?
Cloud services use various storage models, from public and private cloud to hybrid systems. Understanding how your partner handles data storage and access protocols is important, especially given the diversity of cloud storage models — from on-prem and hybrid to entirely cloud. Questions to ask include:
- Where will my data be physically stored?
- What are your data backup and disaster recovery procedures? Can I access and control my data backups?
- What is the process for migrating data in and out of your platform? Do you use standard formats and APIs for data integration?
At this point, you probably understand the fundamentals of your partner’s cloud service offering. The final stage of questioning should focus on the partner’s customer service support and understanding of the industry landscape — their modus operandi, if you will.
- How do you handle data sovereignty and data residency requirements?
- How do you compensate for downtime or breaches of SLAs?
- How do you interface with clients (e.g., 24/7, chat, phone)? Do you have dedicated account managers or technical support teams?
Creating a record of these critical considerations and regularly re-visiting them will help guide your relationship management process. Enterprises dealing with dozens — if not hundreds — of cloud partners especially stand to benefit from standardizing their assessments.
Ultimately, in the digital era, the success of your cloud partnerships determines your organization’s viability. As such, leaders should carefully consider the vendors and solutions they choose. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partners facilitates a stronger partnership, better results and more significant competitive advantage. And if you’re not realizing those benefits already, it’s time to find a partner that works for your organization, not against it.
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