Written by Sachin Bansal, VP of Strategic Alliances at Logicworks
SMB companies have long relied on partners to help fulfill their technology needs. Partners can help reduce costs as well as fill a knowledge gap on everything from procuring hardware & software to contracting for IT integration & managed services. Over time, partners become trusted advisors to their customers on their strategic technology decisions. As such, it’s critical that partners continue to anticipate and stay ahead of disruptive technology trends in order to help their customers meet their ongoing business objectives.
Now layer in cloud computing, arguably the most disruptive technology trend in recent history. As it hurtles towards its $1.5T potential at a breakneck pace, customers and partners alike must get their arms around what it means to their respective businesses. Often businesses and partners need to rapidly pivot or adjust to meet competitive pressures, leverage technology advances, and gain greater control of costs as more businesses continue to move to AWS & Azure. Unfortunately, time is seldom on a partner’s side. Spinning up a successful Public Cloud consulting practice is typically a multi-year journey that requires a mix of the right engineering talent, tooling, and operational experience. It becomes apparent rather quickly that the cloud is an intricate and exhaustive ecosystem of programmable services that requires a new breed of engineers who approach infrastructure as if it is code. To add to an already challenging situation, this talent is scarce and expensive. Competitive hiring amongst customers, partners, and even the cloud providers has become common and difficult for many to attract and retain top talent to fill gaps in their ranks.
Many partners are using inorganic means to accelerate the time to market or time to cloud for their cloud practices, such as:
- Pursuing mergers & acquisitions
- White label third parties such as staff augmentation firms or advanced cloud SIs and MSPs
- Rely on a distributor’s Cloud Center of Excellence to bootstrap their cloud practice
Given that there are so many different ways for a partner to bring a cloud practice to market at varying maturity levels, the process to validate their capabilities is a critical first step to any cloud transformation effort. Luckily, AWS & Microsoft have done much of the hard work for you. The core of this blog post is to show you how you can quickly and confidently execute this diligence using partner validation programs which implement a transitive trust model between the cloud provider, partner, and customer.
Cloud Partner Validation Programs
Partner Validation programs are created by the cloud providers themselves and are a means to ease some of the upfront due diligence on a partner’s cloud capabilities. They signal to customers that “Yes, this partner can actually do what they say they do,” by objectively evaluating partners on technical merits, as well as their breadth of experience which is typically validated by customers. Given the sheer amount of use cases that cloud can power, these programs are highly specific so customers can drill down into which workload, service, and industry they require expertise in. In employing these validation programs, customers stand to save hundreds of hours of time by trusting the rigor of these validation programs versus attempting to mirror this exercise in-house.
What Does Validation Look Like?
As described above, the best validation programs assess partners on two merits:
1. Technical Expertise
The core of any good validation exercise is to define architectural best practices as a benchmark to measure partners. For example, AWS and Microsoft Azure’s MSP designations have a defined operating model that requires partners to employ automation, telemetry, and in-depth security controls to ensure that a customer’s cloud infrastructure is secure, resilient, and highly scalable. Partners are scored against an exhaustive list of controls and are asked to furnish reference architecture as evidence. Additionally, partners must also demonstrate that they have the requisite subject matter experts in house, and in some cases require a written succession plan to ensure that customers have continuity of service. If the above sounds like an audit, well that’s exactly what it is. It requires weeks, if not months of preparation and extensive stakeholder involvement on the partner’s end to prepare the necessary evidence to satisfy the program’s controls. From here, it becomes an easier task for a customer’s technical team to cross-reference their requirements against what the respective validation program has already vetted.
2. Breadth of Experience
Technical excellence is only one-half of the cloud capabilities equation. As previously mentioned, it takes years to build a strong Microsoft Azure or AWS practice. Breadth of experience based on proven success is key to understanding what extent customers benefit from these services.
For example, early adopters might get to market quicker than their competitors, but may experience roadblocks along the way. This is largely a function of how partners mature their practice, by learning from past engagements and refining their approach. Validation programs use a lagging indicator approach to vetting partners by assessing them on the merits of past performance to indicate future progress. They require partners to provide a battery of public case studies, while supplementing them with survey responses to provide insights into the experiences of past customers.
The case studies themselves are far from some of the superficial marketing blurbs found on glossy handouts at trade shows. Each case study must enumerate the customer’s business drivers, the solution implemented, and quantitative outcomes with a senior stakeholder to provide a quote commenting on their experience with the respective partner.
Admittedly, customer surveys are less than a perfect science and its ubiquity creates significant customer engagement fatigue. Validation programs must rely on surveys to capture customer feedback from those that are reticent to put their names on a public case study.
As we conclude Part I of this blog, I hope that you have been given enough transparency into the thought and rigor put into these validation programs and how it helps you assess the capabilities of your current partner. In Part II, we will explore specific programs that AWS and Microsoft have created so that you can start building a comprehensive due diligence process for partner evaluation.
Stay tuned for Part II of this series. If you would like more information on how you can leverage Logicworks to help navigate which programs are right for you, accelerate partner funding initiatives, and our expertise helping customers modernize, migrate, and operate on AWS & Azure at scale please contact us.