We all know it by now – Cloud adoption is no passing trend. RightScale’s 2016 State of the Cloud report shows that 95% of businesses, regardless of size, are using some form of Cloud, be it Public, Private or (most commonly) a hybrid of the two. Demands for innovation, scalability and rapid growth are driving more businesses to the Cloud – and into the waiting arms of managed service providers and value added resellers.
Despite the crush of companies migrating their operations and applications to the Cloud, not all MSPs are experiencing unparalleled growth and success. Both the relative novelty and rapid development of Cloud technology means that many businesses in search of Cloud solutions struggle to identify the services they need and adequately assess MSPs’ ability to meet their requirements. In essence, you all look the same to them.
Of course, there are a number of ways service providers can address this issue and distinguish themselves from the competition, and many have already done so – harnessing vertical markets or establishing themselves as one-stop shops or niche experts has helped many MSPs find their place in the burgeoning Cloud marketplace. But RightScale’s report has also revealed a new differentiation tool MSPs can use: a Cloud maturity assessment.
Not All Clients Are Created Equal
As we’ve said before, not all Cloud service providers are created equal. But a trend that is beginning to emerge as time goes on is that not all Cloud users are created equal either. RightScale divides their survey respondents into 4 distinct categories:
- Cloud Watchers: companies with no actual presence in the Cloud who are considering a move to Cloud services in the near future
- Cloud Beginners: companies with minimal Cloud experience – they’re on their first Cloud project or working on proof-of-concept to determine how their Cloud strategy will unfold
- Cloud Explorers: companies with multiple projects or applications deployed in the Cloud who do not yet rely on Cloud infrastructure for the bulk of their operations – these users are focused on improvement and expansion
- Cloud Focused: those companies heavily invested in Cloud infrastructure – they want to optimize their strategies and costs
Examining these divisions, it’s apparent that clients with varying levels of Cloud experience will require very different services from the providers and resellers they work with, and a partner who specializes in addressing the pains of any one maturity level stands to provide more value to those clients. If you’re a managed service provider struggling to attract attention on an increasingly crowded playing field, consider using a Cloud maturity assessment to more keenly focus your efforts.
Watchers and Beginners: Introducing Cloud to Marketplace Freshmen
Members of both the Watchers and Beginners categories will benefit from an MSP who can provide them with expertise and support as they transition applications or data to the Cloud for the first time. Being least familiar with the technology, they cite adoption concerns like security, lack of resources and lack of expertise. While they will eventually face issues like compliance, governance and managing multiple Cloud services, right now they are looking for a managed service provider that can reassure them as they dip their toes in the Cloud technology pool.
While it may seem like businesses with a relatively low Cloud maturity assessment level are the splash pad rather than the deep end for managed service providers, MSPs willing to help Cloud novices through their initial transition steps can establish themselves as supportive experts and the obvious answer to all Cloud questions, gaining them a loyal following with their clients. You may be wise to focus on this group if your team is suited to:
- Helping identify and address security flaws and system vulnerabilities
- Assessing which applications are best suited to Cloud migration
- Providing troubleshooting for businesses who lack sufficient internal IT resources
- Supporting clients with performance and load testing
- Advising on and implementing backup and disaster recovery strategies
Explorers: Helping Cloud Juniors Grow and Improve
Mid-level Cloud users in RightScale’s Cloud maturity assessment still face challenges relating to resource and expertise shortages, but their concerns about security drop off significantly (from 38% to 28%) compared to their beginner peers. Having successfully implemented multiple Cloud solutions without major security issues, this group will look to you with increasing frequency for assistance with compliance and cost management. Managing multiple services may still be on their horizon, but it’s nowhere near their primary concern.
On average, about one quarter of businesses fall into this category, with 34% of enterprises and 19% of SMBs identified as Cloud Explorers. Focusing your efforts on businesses who have already migrated to the Cloud but need help maximizing their return on investment can save your team the hand-holding and step-by-step transitioning that lower maturity levels demand, while still earning you the loyalty of businesses who are able to better utilize the services they have as a result of partnering with you. You may find Cloud Explorers are an appropriate target market if you:
- Provide support for businesses who lack internal IT resources
- Identify and address industry or government compliance requirements
- Offer cost-saving alternatives based on your clients’ Cloud usage patterns
- Assist with automation to increase productivity
- Support clients with performance and load testing
Cloud Focused Businesses: Serving the Needs of Established Players
You may assume that businesses with well-established Cloud strategies don’t really show a need for managed services, but SMBs and enterprises in this category still cite a lack of resources and expertise as their number one challenge in using the Cloud. Concerns beyond that differ pretty drastically from other maturity levels, with many companies noting they struggle with building a Private Cloud, managing costs and managing multiple Cloud services. Security concerns still exist, but are down to 17% at this level, and not a key challenge.
Obviously, this category of Cloud users is likely to see growth as Cloud adoption continues and Beginners and Explorers gain the experience and knowledge needed to make major Cloud investments. There are ample opportunities for skilled MSPs to carve out a niche for themselves serving this high-value market. If your team is ready to offer innovative solutions to experienced Cloud users, this might be your audience. SMBs and enterprises in this group will count on you to:
- Architect and construct Private Cloud solutions
- Automate processes to lower costs and increase productivity
- Manage services across multiple Cloud providers
- Provide support for businesses who lack internal IT resources
Using a Cloud maturity assessment as a differentiator can help MSPs more effectively demonstrate their value to their target audience and win the loyalty of customers. If you’re a managed service provider or value added reseller who would like some assistance in making yourself stand out from the crowd, our team is here to help. At Total Product Marketing, we specialize in helping MSP and Cloud resellers more effectively communicate with their market. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you.