Thoughts

Accelerating your agency's journey to the cloud with the Microsoft CSP Programme

When we talk about the cloud, most people know a little of something about it. Whether it’s where we share files, host email or store data, it’s part of our everyday lives at work, and at home. The cloud is transforming how the world works, quite literally.

For digital agencies, the cloud opens up a whole new world of possibilities. From how you shape user experiences, use data insights, and even begin to build AI-based applications. The opportunities are limitless.

The cloud landscape will continue to evolve, and in doing so your business model will need to evolve with it. Planning for the future is about future-proofing your business. Offering a new portfolio of cloud-based services, which will continue to develop alongside the cloud.

You’ve probably heard the term CSP – the Microsoft cloud programme designed to help businesses to work more closely with their customers to provide cloud services.

But what actually is CSP, and what does it mean for your business?

In a nutshell, the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) programme delivers a platform to own the end-to-end customer engagement, enabling direct provisioning, billing, support and customisation of Microsoft Cloud technologies for customers.

By partnering with an Indirect CSP, you can take advantage of all of these benefits without needing to change the core of your business or make the massive investment in the infrastructure needed to provide the support, billing and invoicing capability requirements.

You become a ‘trusted advisor’ by offering value-added cloud solutions, whilst benefitting from the recurring revenue from the solutions, support and billing services you’re providing through the CSP platform of your partner. It’s a faster and simpler way to join the cloud journey and earn revenue from it.

Joining the CSP programme isn’t as easy as just saying “yes, let’s do that”

It takes commitment and resource. You need that desire to help your customers to innovate and grow using a cloud platform. Especially if you want to accelerate that growth and get transacting quickly, and offer a fantastic new approach to your market.

First of all, you need buy-in at board-level, because they need to understand the value of what you want to achieve, and that it will take effort and resource to achieve results.

Then there’s your internal resource. Do you have in-house sales and marketing resources you can dedicate to the programme? As well as the capacity to carry out R&D on the technology to truly understand where its value lies for your customers?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then you're in a great position to embrace and accelerate your cloud adoption. But how do you achieve this? Here at Wirehive, the UK’s only Microsoft Indirect Provider dedicated specifically to helping digital agencies build and sell cloud products and services, this is something we know a bit about.

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We have developed our own unique approach to cloud acceleration, through a programmatic methodology to help agencies with a real vision to build a sustainable cloud practise to get onboard quickly.

Here are our top tips for cloud acceleration.

Identify your core team from the outset. This will set you up with a good base of talent, expertise and ideas to really get things moving. Having a defined resource with a defined responsibility for each particular area of the CSP programme means tasks will get done, rather than just talked about.

Your core programme team will need to cover the key areas of your business, most importantly sales, marketing, technical, commercial and training. Having this core team in place can be the difference between success and failure.

Look at you where you are now and where you’d like to be.

We call this the discovery stage. It’s where you put a stake in the ground, and map out where you are right now, and what success looks like for you. This will identify the journey you need to travel to develop a cloud practise into a sustainable portfolio of cloud products and services. It’s your benchmark for progress and the start of the journey. Without this step, you’ve got nothing to compare your success against, so it’s a vital part of the process.

What’s your cloud story?  

For some agencies, this will be a review of your existing cloud proposition, for others, it will a totally new business focus. Either way, this exercise will determine how you will position yourself moving forward as a cloud solution provider.

You need to define your target audience, decide how the cloud can benefit them, and what your unique messaging around this will be. Which in turn determines what you can offer your customers.

Are you going to offer packaged solutions, with value-added services attached? Is there IP you can build which can be sold to multiple customers? How will these be priced? Simplicity is key for everyone, so the less complex your cloud portfolio is, the better.

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What does the cloud opportunity look like?

As you’ve defined your target audience in the previous step, it’s time to identify who within their existing customer base fits the criteria and what challenges you solved for those customers.

From this you can create specific opportunity criteria through segmentation, which suits the nature of your business. For example, cloud adoption level – high, medium, low. A vertical-specific segmentation - repeatable solutions for a defined industry challenge, or horizontal alignment – a solution for the same challenge which is applicable across multiple industries.

This can be the baseline for your CSP strategy. The start point upon which you can build out from what you do now, and identify those vital next steps to develop your CSP growth strategy.

It will also help you to identify a target list of customers you can start talking to straightaway about your new cloud portfolio to get you off the ground more quickly.

Are you making the most of the cloud?

Assess your own cloud adoption. This is not only a way to identify if you can streamline your own process and operate more efficiently, it’s also a great use case example you can share with your customers.

You can talk about the challenges the cloud has helped you to solve in your own business and share real results and insights on the improvements this has helped you to benefit from. Adding another string to your ‘trusted advisor’ bow.

Get ready, steady, go

Readiness covers three main areas within your agency:

  • technical capability

  • sales confidence

  • competency attainment

For some agencies, this could be a totally new way of selling your services. Typically, you’ll need to assess the sales team knowledge, and potentially create an upskill training programme. Having confidence and an understanding what you’re offering, the business challenges it solves, and being able to recommend the right solutions, means you’ll be ready to tackle the cloud opportunity.

Ensure you set goals with measurable targets and metrics, so that you can measure your success, and keep your sales team focused on the cloud opportunities within their customers.

Technical readiness is your ability to design and build solutions, as well as support them. You should review how and what you’re currently doing to identify any possible ‘gaps’, then put a strategy in place for how these can be filled, be that training, recruitment or 3rd party consultancy services.

As technology is always evolving, so should your technical capability, so ensure there is a strong focus on on-going training and development for the relevant team members.

Competency attainment is a fundamental aspect of credibility as a CSP partner, and Microsoft Silver Competency is the minimum you should aim to achieve. This not only gives customers confidence but unlocks reseller incentives from Microsoft. You should have a clear plan outlining who is responsible for each area of the competency with timelines in place for when you expect to meet the required criteria.

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Go to market with a well thought out, targeted plan.

All the background work has been done to understand what you’re going offer, and how it will be positioned and priced. You’ve worked out who it will appeal to, and what you want to do now.

With all your ducks lined up, the only thing left is deciding how you’re going generate awareness of your new offering, how you’ll get your audience interested, create a desire for this, and get them to act.

What you do as part of your current marketing activity may well be relevant but it’s unlikely to cover all the bases. It’s a matter of going back to basics and devising a programme of activities focused on your cloud target audience to develop a robust marketing plan which launches your new capabilities and provides an on-going in market presence. Be that through events, education, thought leadership, or other activities, regular communication to your target audience about your new, and evolving, cloud capabilities is key.

Execute, review, enhance, repeat.

Even the best laid plans may need to be refined. Plans are a guideline, and should never be set in stone. The cloud is agile and flexible, and you need to be too. Once your CSP offerings are in market, review their performance, and don’t be afraid to enhance, change or remove where you need to. The cloud is constantly growing and developing, so it’s stands to reason, you need to do the same to be successful.

Partnering to accelerate your success, with a specialist Indirect CSP partner like Wirehive is your best choice. Our programmatic approach means that we’ll take the time to understand your existing business and work with you to take it to a new level with cloud technology. We specialise in providing technical expertise to digital agencies throughout the UK. Which is why we’re partner of choice time and again for digital agencies.

The cloud opportunity is huge, but it doesn’t come for free.

Cloud adoption will continue to grow, and you need to grow with it. As a digital agency, you need to define what the cloud means for you, and how you can use the opportunities it offers to your advantage.

One route to market for digital agencies to embrace the cloud is through the CSP programme. Partnering with an Indirect CSP enables you to take advantage of their existing infrastructure to provision, bill and support your cloud solutions. Allowing you to concentrate on your core business.

If you want to know more about how Wirehive can help you to accelerate your cloud opportunity, please get in touch.