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Cloud insight

James Goulding recently interviewed Wolfgang Ebermann, President of Insight EMEA, about what the global IT reseller is doing to help customers make the transition from an on-prem world to the cloud

As a Fortune 500 company with a global reach, Insight has identified significant changes in the needs of enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses, which Wolfgang Ebermann, President of Insight EMEA, says have far-reaching consequences both for its business and for the broader IT channel.

He describes the four main challenges facing organisations today as the need to change how they engage with customers, for example through greater personalisation; to modernise working methods e.g. by moving from email to social media and chat; to digitise and automate business processes; and to change the way products and services are delivered.

The best way to meet these challenges, suggests Ebermann, is to cloud-enable solutions, as Microsoft has done with Office 365. This provides end user businesses with agility and removes the need for large up-front costs and time consuming and costly maintenance and upgrades that used to be carried out onsite by a VAR with high labour costs.

To this end, Insight has established a cloud marketplace – the fastest growing part of its business over the last three years – where customers can find cloud solutions from vendor partners, such as Microsoft, as well as Insight’s own managed services and cloud migration services.

A big challenge
Ebermann says that while the cloud offers enormous benefits to end users, it represents a big challenge for VARs, especially for those with a lot invested in the status quo that may want to put obstacles in the way of customers’ migration to the cloud.

“Today’s infrastructure is up and running and there is a local value-added reseller supporting that today. That IT advisory will sometimes try to retain the status quo and put forward arguments o retain existing business practices. SME decision-makers who are not that well educated on next generation cloud solutions might rely on the recommendations of their long-trusted partners. We see that happening today and need to educate SMEs that cloud solutions and the opex model will drive agility in their business,” he said.

Ebermann warns that some resellers will also prey on customers’ fears about data security in the cloud, even though the data centres of Microsoft and Amazon are much more secure than on prem IT infrastructures.

Another fear – that the cost of cloud solutions can quickly build up and be hard to manage – can be addressed, suggests Ebermann, through analytics and flexible billing.

“We have built analytics tools as part of our cloud marketplace so that we can provide clients with consumption analytics and recommendations on how to optimise their usage of cloud services. We also give clients the chance to buy all their cloud services on a subscription model, with one invoice on a monthly, quarterly or even yearly basis. This allows clients to manage cloud consumption according to their needs. As clients consume more and more cloud services, they will have a one-stop shopping experience, a one-stop analytics experience and consultancy around how they can optimise their costs in running cloud services,” he said.

While Insight is adapting to what Ebermann describes as ‘a real stepchange in the IT industry’, he argues that other channel businesses need to do more to meet the needs of their customers and ensure their own long-term prosperity.

“The IT industry needs to demonstrate that IT is a key enabler in the digital world, that it is not just a cost factor, but rather an enabler to drive business outcomes. We need to reach out to business decision-makers and help them make their business more digital-enabled,” he said.

“As a company, Insight has had a 30-year track record of providing hardware and software to our client base of large enterprises and SMEs. We want to be managing our business in accordance with our clients’ needs, which is why we have evolved our business model, from managing IT – supplying standard software and hardware – to transforming IT with intelligent IT solutions.

“We want to provide end-to-end solutions that modernise the way people work and, with that, increase workforce productivity and attract the next generation of talent.

“Secondly, we want to help organisations move their on-prem IT infrastructure to a more hybrid IT infrastructure. There are businesses out there that want to yield their investment in the on prem world and we will support them in that, but also help them migrate to the cloud datacentres of the future. That’s what we call ‘a hybrid cloud infrastructure path to success’.

“The third important element is building digital innovation, allowing businesses, through our acquisitions in the US, to take advantage of the internet of things and to modernise applications running on a smart data centre – providing specific bot solutions that allow key services to be automated rather than people-based.

“Every channel partner has to decide how the digital age is going to affect their business. On the client side, all key decision-makers are assessing their current state of business and thinking about how they can become digital-ready, and the channel needs to do the same. That requires a real transformation as you move from an on-prem hardware, license selling proposition to a service business, with managed services and professional services around that. This is a real transformational change, not only on the vendor side, but also for the channel.”

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