Developing the Right Service Portfolio for Your Business

By Ram Singlacher, Senior Consultant, ISSI

One of the most vexing problems for partners working in the hyper-scale cloud industry is determining the ingredients of their service portfolio. Finding the ideal mix of solutions and products will obviously have a big impact on a partner’s sales and long-term revenue. However, it can be difficult to identify the right set of offerings that appeal to customers while being properly supported by in-house talent.

While running consulting sessions and workshops, I’ve spoken with many partners who have voiced frustration over this challenge. Their end goal, of course, is to grow the company’s customer base, but it’s common to hear stories about businesses investing time and money in specific solutions, only to find they went down the wrong road.

It’s ultimately up to each organization to find, land, and retain customers, however, there are effective ways to think about a service portfolio that will help establish a foundation for creating and maintaining a solid customer base.

Let’s look at some of the common misunderstandings that get in the way of achieving this, and some high-level recommendations that ISSI makes for thinking differently about it.

Building Solutions Before Knowing the Gaps

The hyper-cloud industry is huge, complex, and always moving at a fast pace. There are literally hundreds of products offered by the big cloud providers and many, many dozens of potential customer use cases, from the very common to niche needs. It is simply not possible for any partner, regardless of size, to succeed and grow in this industry by trying to assemble a service portfolio to match the size and complexity of the market.

Yet a common pattern I see is partners jumping in too quickly to build solutions before they gain a deep understanding of their in-house capabilities and how that might map to business opportunities.

It’s understandable. There’s often pressure from the major cloud providers to meet customer demands, which can change frequently. That can create a lot of FUD – fear, uncertainty, doubt – among partners as they try to keep pace with demand and one step ahead of their competitors.

FUD can also result from over-saturated media coverage and the voices of industry analysts. Today it’s common to encounter daily media reporting of AI and machine learning. But if you try to dig deeper into what exactly is going on with these technologies and customer plans for using them now and down the road, it’s not always clear. The blizzard of hype, though, can push partners to feel like that have do something in response.

Analyst firms don’t always help either. Even big analyst names that anyone would recognize frequently produce reports that are just a 40,000-foot view of a technology or trend with little to say about what’s happening on the ground.

Building a Solid Foundation

Some partners manage to build a great service portfolio with a strong connection to what their customers want. In my experience, this typically happens with startups and small companies that have a very focused—and often limited—set of offerings that is tied to an intimate understanding of what their customers need. A common theme is that these companies got their start by working with one or just a few customers with specific needs, gained deep knowledge as a result, and thus grew their portfolios and business.

Getting to that point is a bigger challenge for established companies. One growing trend we see is that very large organizations, particularly telcos, are gradually getting out of the hyper-scale cloud business due to the resources required to make those parts of their companies profitable.

However, it’s a big market that presents enormous opportunities if you carefully think through the development and long-term management of your service portfolio.

In my experience, it’s helpful for partners to go through a deep dive to better understand their own resources and business scenario. This can include identifying business assumptions and goals and taking a close look at in-house skill sets. I also recommend evaluating factors such as the personnel who will support the end-to-end processes involved in building a range of offerings, from initial development through sales and customer support.

Companies might look at this and think, “We’ve already got this covered.” However, the process of doing a detailed gap analysis, followed by a rigorous discussion and roadmap sessions, are always revealing.

For example, I worked with a partner that has a multi-national presence. They had smart representatives working hard in different countries and came to our workshop armed with marketing slides that seemed impressive at a first glance. But during the workshop, a deeper probe revealed that their geographically separated sales and technical people were not aware of what their colleagues in other countries were working on. Moreover, a technical dive into their capabilities revealed gaps between what their marketing slides said and what the company was actually delivering.

The combination of rapid growth and geographical dispersion had created a real disconnect within the company. Bringing this to light was a revelation for the organization’s management team, and they made changes to bring the entire staff back to the same strategic page.

Each company is going to have its own unique circumstances – executives, developers, sales, and a level of drive that will affect the organization’s ability to land customers and grow the business. Getting an understanding of what the company is good at so it can build a service portfolio that fits its business is the first step towards successful growth.

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