Cloud: It’s among the hottest topics in tech right now. And if you’re an enterprise customer, you can’t open a web browser without getting hit by a deluge of  helpful cloud advice: “Top cloud considerations”; “What to expect from your migration”; “Weighing the pros and cons of public cloud providers”; and a thousand other cloud blog posts and explainers.

But what if you’re the one selling cloud? As a Citrix partner building up your cloud practice, cloud represents a major transition for you as well. The changes to your own business can be just as big as your customers’ — often even bigger. You have to rethink everything from how you engage with clients, to your back-office and billing systems, to the basic value proposition you deliver in a cloud world. It’s not always an easy transition. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some cloud explainers aimed at you?

We spoke with several leading Citrix partners who have successfully made the transition to cloud. They shared the biggest challenges they faced in their own cloud transformations and offered advice for others undertaking the same journey.

Challenge #1: Embracing Cloud Culture

According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitis, “character is destiny.” The same principle applies to technology sellers: success or failure depends in large part on the culture of your organization. That’s especially true when making a major change, like realigning your business around cloud solutions and services. If your internal teams aren’t fully invested, you’ll struggle to make it work. So, the first and most important step is to get your people onboard.

“The single biggest piece of advice I’d offer is to start from the premise that cloud is going to happen,” says Ronnie Altit (@raltit,) CEO, Insentra (@Insentra.) “It’s not a question of ‘if’ anymore, it’s a question of ‘when,’ and a secondary question of ‘how.’ It’s critical to make sure that people on your team are open to this shift and comfortable with the fact that it’s going to happen.”

It’s not a question of ‘if’ anymore, it’s a question of ‘when,’ and a secondary question of ‘how.’

Citrix partner cloud leaders recommend finding internal champions to promote and reinforce the cloud transition. Chief among them should be salespeople who’ve bought into the larger market shift towards cloud and understand it represents the future of the business.

Reassure sales teams that, even though compensation and cash flow models change with cloud, that doesn’t have to be a negative. Yes, there will be fewer large cash infusions from big on-premises infrastructure deals. But recurring cloud revenues can be both more predictable and “stickier.” And, at the end of the day, that’s where your customers increasingly spend their money—so that’s where your business needs to be investing.

Challenge #2: Rethinking Processes and Back-Office Systems

For technology sellers, the biggest cloud shifts don’t derive from moving technology out of internal data centers to external clouds. They’re the changes to back-office, billing, and other systems that have to happen when your clients shift to a subscription services-first model, rather than capital expenditures.

“It isn’t one big thing you do to make this change; it’s several small steps brought together,” says Dan Speck, Vice President of Technology Research and Development, Burwood Group (@burwoodgroup.) “First, there needs to be continuous education about how the buying process is different, and that cloud represents a different engagement model with our clients.”

It isn’t one big thing you do to make this change; it’s several small steps brought together.

“It’s a large shift for organizations,” says Chris Pond, President, Burwood Cloud Services. “Your field sales teams are struggling with the new customer engagement model and asking, ‘How do I migrate someone to a consumption orientation versus a capital-focused, asset-heavy solution?’ Compensation models have to change. Your back office has to adapt significantly. Billing is a big one. Often, you’ve got billing coming in from multiple sources monthly to deliver a single solution. Rationalizing that, being able to provide a comprehensive bill to a client, in and of itself is a significant challenge.”

This shift also affects monitoring and operational tools you use for customer environments. Now, those tools have to be able to interface with APIs from Amazon, Google, Microsoft Azure, and others. Yet they still have to integrate with each customers’ unique data center deployment from a compliance and risk management perspective.

“All of these modifications have to be integrated together across all lines of business,” says Pond. “It’s a cycle that I think we’re going to be operating in for a considerable amount of time, across the board.”

Challenge #3: Rethinking Customer Engagement

Embracing cloud often implies reimagining your relationship with your customers. That encompasses how you work with them to finance deals, the specific stakeholders with whom you interact, and the ways you interact.

From a finance perspective, shifting to operational budget funding does require new tools and approaches. But it also embeds the technology provider deeper within the customer’s business. Some clients may have tight operational expense (OpEx) budgets, for example, which require creative approaches. Others may be completely sold on consumption-based models and the ability to move quickly without capital restraints.

“Your financial relationship with your clients changes, because they’re moving things to different places on their balance sheets, and it gets much more complex,” says Pond. “At the end of the day, it comes down to fundamental ways of understanding your customer. Read your customers’ 10-Q fillings or other financial reports, so you can understand their unique financial situation and position solutions that align with their business.”

Selling cloud also means interacting with different sets of stakeholders than you might have worked with in the past. For example, several of the most successful Citrix partners are investing heavily in DevOps tools and teams to engage developers in client organizations more effectively. At the same time, they still need to address traditional infrastructure team priorities: security, availability, compliance, risk mitigation.

“We’re having to appeal to a customer set across the entire domain of the CIO, if you will, instead of just a subset,” says Speck. “So, we’re making investments in tools and people to meet that broader spectrum of needs.”

Several partners we spoke with cited education — both internally and with customers — as a key ingredient in successful cloud engagements.

“Training and enablement for the field is critical,” says Pete Downing (@techdudeinc,) Chief Marketing Technology Officer, XenTegra, LLC (@xentegra.) “We make sure our field and engineers stay up to date with the latest and greatest software, and maintain our certificates and our practicum. Sales-wise, we’re constantly doing communications and webinars with the teams.”

Another Citrix partner, Envision IT (@envisionitllc,) has found that ongoing customer-facing workshops have become their most successful marketing outreach for cloud.

“Many of the folks coming to our workshops come because we’re trying to deliver value, rather than sell them something,” says Nancy Pautsch, President. “We give them some of the tools and know-how to start exploring these things in their own organizations.”

“For people who have already started dabbling in cloud, it becomes a best-practices conversation,” adds Beau Smithback (@BeauSmithback,) CEO. “What are some ways you can secure it? What are some best practices around networking, security? A lot of engagements that followed from those workshops started exactly that way.”

Let Citrix Help Strengthen Your Cloud Practice Muscles

At Citrix, we’re all-in on empowering our customers to take advantage of cloud (learn more about Citrix Cloud Services.) But we’re just as passionate about helping our partners capitalize on this huge industry evolution. For current partners, we’ve created a free eLearning series, Cloud Business Transformation for Partners, that dives into the steps successful partners take to effectively sell and deliver cloud solutions. Whether you’re in the early stages of transformation or a seasoned cloud pro, you’ll find key performance metrics, best practices, and concrete advice on how to drive cloud deals, retentions, and renewals.

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