Time for the channel to reinvent itself

Karl Meleuma, Riverbed Technology (Matthew Burbidge)

Legend has us believe that in the murky world of shadow IT, the provisioning of IT infrastructure is moving away from the IT organisation, and the business units are making the calls of what flies, or rather what lies underneath. However, the responsibility for making the solutions work together, and keeping them working, still lies with IT.

As a result, IT professionals are becoming increasingly nervous, says Karl Meleuma, Riverbed Technology's senior vice president of global channels.

“They have more and more issues in dealing with technology they didn’t pick from a manageability perspective, but someone else picked from a useability perspective,” he says.

Meleuma told the Margin recently that there’s nothing wrong with the businessperson swiping their credit card to get more AWS, ‘until it stops working’. And then the hunt begins to find the fault, which often led to a ‘mean time to innocence’ blame game.

“You can keep running around for days, and that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in productivity loss.”

Part of the problem is that few organisations have any insight into the end-user experience.

Matters are also complicated with an increasingly mobile- and cloud-centric world, and visibility into those environments becomes increasingly important, he says.

Doing their own homework

This new dynamic creates opportunities for the channel, and Meleuma says the channel needs to take advantage of this shift.

“If the decisions on which technologies to favour are made by the business side of the house, and you’re not talking to them, you’re not influencing them and those decisions get made without your input.”

He says, depending on whom you believe, between 65% and 70% of decisions on technology are made before an organisation speaks to vendor or partner.“ They do their own research, they do their online stuff, they talk to peers and it’s only in the last 30% of the decision-making process that they consider inviting a vendor or partner.”

“If a partner keeps talking to the IT person they’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Meleuma says in the last decade and a half, there has been significant changes in the availability of information.

“Back then, the vendors had the information and they would decide which little pieces to give out. Today there’s almost nothing that’s not on the internet. Many people feel threatened by listening and being pressured by vendors and partners. They’d rather do their own homework.”

For partners, this means a change in the way they do business, says Meleuma, adding that they need to be more visible on the internet, and should rather establish their credentials as a ‘thought leader’.

Partners should also begin to specialise in a particular technology or vertical; ‘you can’t be everything to everybody any more’.

This means transitioning from a systems integrator or managed service provider to someone who can affect business outcomes.

“When people listen to customers they listen for business outcomes rather than technical language. Nobody cares about a feature. People want to understand how you’re going to help them get a better business outcome and avoid things that are going to be negative.”

He says when he joined Riverbed in 2015 the company had done 80% of its business with about 170 partners worldwide. By way of consolidation, that figure has now dropped to about 100.

Meleuma also plans on assessing the company’s partners on their proficiency in the five areas of Riverbed’s technology: Wan optimisation, SD-Wan, SteelFusion and application and network performance management. This would give him a clearer view of what parts of Riverbed technology were being sold, as well as identifying any shortfalls.

“I’m just trying to understand reality,” he says.

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