Some products sell themselves. Others require a bit of hand-holding. Cloud sits somewhere in the middle.
On the one hand, every customer has heard the growing cloud chorus and knows that many in their industry are already onboard. At the same time, cloud raises difficult, sometimes scary questions for organizations and IT teams. It’s up to cloud partners and technology advisors to find answers and help their clients separate myth from reality.
We spoke with several of the most successful Citrix partners about the biggest concerns their customers raise about cloud, and the most effective strategies for responding.
1. Fear of Huge Changes to IT
A common concern our partners encounter in the field is an overarching sense of culture shock when customers contemplate cloud. Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of cloud marketing. When people are bombarded with nonstop messages about how revolutionary cloud is, you can’t blame them for imagining it will turn their entire IT organization upside down.
The best response our partners have discovered: Dispel this myth by showing customers how much cloud they’re already consuming — often more than they realize.
Dispel this myth by showing customers how much cloud they’re already consuming
“When customers are interested in cloud but express these kind of concerns, we say, ‘Well, you probably are already in the cloud and just don’t know it,’” says Beau Smithback (@BeauSmithback,) CEO, Envision IT (@envisionitllc.) “You’ve probably got Salesforce, or AppDynamics, or some other service you’re already using out there. So it’s not as scary as you might think.”
2. Fear of the Unknown
Along these same lines, sometimes the IT people you’re working with have very human (and understandable) fears about changes to their own roles, or of losing the control over the environment they have today. What will their job look like as the company adopts more cloud? How valuable will they be to their employer?
The best response to these concerns: In-depth conversations about what cloud will look like (and won’t look like), and the different kinds of value that IT leaders will bring to their organizations as they use more cloud.
“It’s really about helping customer organizations shift the way they think,” says Ronnie Altit (@raltit,) CEO, Insentra (@Insentra.) “We help them focus less on what they have control over and more about the business outcomes they’re looking to achieve. We try to get them comfortable with the idea that, as they move things to the cloud, their roles won’t disappear, they’re just going to morph into something different. We have a lot of conversations with clients about what that morph looks like, because it’s not a change that happens overnight. It’s a journey.”
We help them focus less on what they have control over and more about the business outcomes they’re looking to achieve.
3. Concerns about Cloud Return on Investment
Some of the bigger concerns around cloud involve costs and benefits. Here again, sometimes the cloud marketing machine does as much harm as good. Customers looking seriously at cloud for the first time may assume that cloud automatically costs less than on-premises. Then, when they start looking at possible costs of ramp-up, re-factoring applications, or complexities of migration, they can get a bit of sticker shock.
But for most customers, cloud does deliver a concrete ROI over time. Our successful partners get ahead of the ball by listening, assessing and advising on the right solution with total transparency. They walk their customers through all the business advantages of cloud, instead of focusing exclusively on the short-term bottom line.
“One of the biggest fears we hear is, ‘Am I going to see an ROI? What’s the total cost of ownership when I go to the cloud?’” says Altit. “When you start looking at it from that perspective, you tend to miss what cloud really is about. It’s more about the agility, the flexibility. And it’s very hard to put a dollar figure on what that means for a client’s business.”
Some partners focus on hidden costs in customers’ current environments, which they may not be factoring into their evaluation.
“I’m surprised at the number of customers who don’t realize what the hard and soft costs are for their on-premises environments versus cloud,” says Pete Downing (@techdudeinc,) chief marketing technology officer, XenTegra, LLC (@xentegra.) “We educate customers on the savings from not having to update the application environment anymore, the evergreen setup for different components on-premises. We explain how it’s truly secure, because you get to choose what you do with your OS and your data, while the cloud provider manages the control plane. Once they get it, it becomes a much easier conversation.”
It’s more about the agility, the flexibility. And it’s very hard to put a dollar figure on what that means for a client’s business.
4. Concerns about Skills Gaps
Many clients fear that cloud will require a different set of skills, and they worry they’re not currently equipped to navigate the change. This can actually be a great conversation, as it allows partners to emphasize the value they bring to the table: boosting the customer’s existing in-house skill set so that their business can succeed.
“Legacy IT people can build infrastructure, build servers, install operating systems, but moving to a cloud model requires a different skill set,” says Matthew Metelsky (@telsky,) chief technology officer, Third Octet (@thirdoctet.) “We show them solutions like Citrix Cloud, where they can satisfy some of these gaps by using purpose-built software-as-a-service. And then of course, organizations like ours are here to augment skills gaps. When customers know they have our support, they’re a lot more comfortable.”
Boosting the customer’s existing in-house skill set so that their business can succeed
5. Security and Compliance Concerns
Cloud providers have made major strides in dispelling myths of weak cloud security, but partners still have work to do in reassuring some customers.
“A common misconception we still see is that cloud is totally open and available for everyone to access your files or data or applications,” says Adam Clark (@_adamclark,) solutions architect, Xenit AB (@XenitAB.) “Of course, it’s not really like that. It’s probably more secure than their own on-premise environment, especially for smaller companies.”
Some effective approaches that Citrix partners recommend:
- Walk through the differences between cloud and on-premises security.
- Explain the ways that cloud can make it easier to enforce security and compliance, such as applying more granular control over data in different geographic regions.
- Point to the large number of organizations with stringent security requirements (government agencies, financial services, healthcare) that are increasingly moving to cloud.
It’s probably more secure than their own on-premise environment, especially for smaller companies.
Help Your Clients Move to the Next Level
Clearly, these customer concerns don’t have to be deal-breakers. After all, organizations continue to adopt cloud at an accelerating rate, and every Citrix partner we spoke with said their cloud practice is expanding. Those whose cloud practices are growing fastest, however, had one thing in common: they embraced their role as consultants.
“We have a perspective and approach backed by statistical analysis, which allows us to walk clients through these discussions and address their concerns,” says Dan Speck, vice president of technology research and development, Burwood Group (@burwoodgroup.) “That consulting perspective really helps our sales organization to be comfortable when we have those conversations.”
“It’s our responsibility to come to the table with where you’re going, not where you’ve been,” adds Chris Pond, President, Burwood Cloud Services.
“Our job is to challenge your assumptions, in a constructive way, about what you believe the status quo is today and where you can go. We want to help you navigate these waters and succeed.”
At Citrix, we’re all-in on empowering our customers to take advantage of cloud (learn more about Citrix Cloud Services.) Want more concrete tips and best practices for growing your cloud practice? Current partners can check out our free eLearning series, Cloud Business Transformation for Partners, today.
Looking to implement a world-class cloud solution? Find a Citrix partner in your area.