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IT vendors are often looking for ways to increase their presence in the channel. The good news is the channel needs their help.

Beyond establishing a direct channel presence and building an effective portal, what are some of the tools and strategies IT vendors can develop to offer material help to partners, MSPs, and MSSPs, and improve their results in the channel? And what opportunities do these open up for MSPs?

Here are four major trends that both IT vendors and their partners should be aware of.

Measuring Channel Partners’ Value

Jay McBain, a channel analyst at Canalys, has studied channel partner value in detail and has plenty to say about the issue. The key, he said, is for IT vendors to be able to measure, monitor, and manage all the things that partners do.

In the past, all the attention was on how much partners sold. Channel partners were paid on the assumption that they helped get the customer to buy and that they were going to get them to renew. In reality, some partners would go to great lengths to help the customer and get the sale. Others, not so much.

“Some partners provide sales, marketing, and engineering expertise throughout the deal and they end up underpaid for their services,” said McBain. “In other cases, a partner shows up at the last minute and is little more than an order taker.”

What is evolving are ways to measure the key moments before a sale – 28 of them, by McBain’s count. These include providing potential clients with eBooks and white papers and getting them to attend podcasts or webinars.

“As a result of these actions, vendors gain more visibility and should recognize the partner at the point of value instead of only at the point of sale,” said McBain.

This is becoming particularly important now that so many vendors are moving to subscriptions from the traditional sales model. Dell, Cisco, HP, IBM and others are all committed to this approach. That changes the game for vendor/partner relations. After all, the point of sale is the first 30 days. Every month after that, you must re-earn the renewal as well as drive upselling and cross-selling after the sale.

“MSPs are there every 30 days forever,” said McBain. “It is up to the MSP to manage it well and ensure the vendor’s solution is adopted broadly at the customer site.”

He said a couple hundred software companies are building and innovating to help vendors do a better job in the channel. They operate in a diverse set of areas including channel incentive management, ecosystem marketplaces, integration and orchestration, data management and mapping, recruitment and visualization, partner relationship management, ecosystem influencing, finance/pricing/inventory, learning, and marketing innovation. Each represents an opportunity for the IT community.

For more on the tools MSPs need, see the Best Managed Service Provider (MSP) Tools

Virtual CISO Services

Some MSPs and MSSPs are getting their feet wet in the emerging field of virtual CISO (vCiSO) services. These services are taking off due to a general shortage of experienced security executives and the high salary rates they command. Companies, even small businesses, are turning to service providers to access experts who can provide strategy to guide them in implementing security and managing risk.

The problem is that these services are hard to scale. Thus, vCISO platform vendors such as Cynomi are filling a big need – automating labor-intensive processes involved in assessing IT to understand an organization’s risk profile, as well as automating the strategic planning stage by ensuring compliance to all standards and regulations, and adding integrated project management features to aid in execution.

“We see the challenge faced by service providers in scaling some of the security services that they provide, particularly those that have a meaningful consulting/expertise-driven component,” said Roy Azoulay, co-founder & COO, Cynomi. “Due to a shortage of strategic cybersecurity expertise, service providers can’t increase the number of customers they serve. Consequently, there is a significant opportunity in providing smart automation tools that enable service providers to eliminate complex manual processes and increase efficiency, while maintaining, or ideally improving, quality and consistency of outputs.”

See the Top MSSP Tools

SASE Services

John Atchison, Head of Global Channel Marketing & Programs, Versa Networks, sees continuing opportunity in the shift toward a distributed workforce. This makes Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) technology increasingly vital.

“To meet the demands of this more distributed workforce, enterprises have accelerated digital transformation initiatives to deliver secure cloud applications and compute resources,” he said.

Over the last two years, SASE has gained traction and is growing at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 42% and is forecast to become a $15 billion market by 2024, Atchison said.

To take advantage of the benefits that SASE provides, research firms like Gartner predict that 60% of enterprises will have SASE adoption strategies in place by 2025. But it won’t all be smooth sailing.

Edward Qin, Chief Product Officer at Algoblu, said few vendors have a complete SASE portfolio, making it difficult for MSPs to find a partner that can do it all. Therefore, they may have to work with different vendors to provide various functional stacks with the right networking and security capabilities.

“The role of the MSPs and the work they do with the vendor ecosystem are even more important, as integration is key and the transition for customers has to be secure and smooth,” said Qin. “With the right vendor solutions, MSPs and carriers can virtualize the underlying network and fine-tune the management of network resources to provide multi-tiered services with end-to-end service quality assurance that meet their users’ needs.”

Also read: SASE Managed Service: MSP Guide to Secure Access Service Edge

Proactive Security is ‘Largest Opportunity’ 

MSPs, MSSPs, and the entire security ecosystem understand that the cybersecurity opportunity is enormous and growing. Cybersecurity is one of the top issues on the CIO’s mind. But the cyber challenge is getting more complicated. Companies cannot hire the people they need, and if someone is hired their tenure within cybersecurity is dramatically less than in other positions due to headhunting. The problem is amplified in the small and midsized business (SMB) segment, as they don’t have the budget to hire the staff or invest in the tools to protect them. What small and mid-sized companies need, in particular, is help in moving from a reactive to a proactive security stance.

“The opportunity to help your customers and build a proactive approach with them around cybersecurity is the largest opportunity for channel partners today,” said John P Holland, Chief Revenue Officer at Thrive Networks.

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