By John McDowell – SVP of Global Sales for Astadia Consulting
I was half tempted to title this blog post “Notes from an SVP on a Small Island”! Yes, I’m in the UK visiting our EMEA team and as luck would have it I’ve chosen the coldest October week on record – what joy! Along with running from warm cab to rainy street and back again I was also invited to attend the SIIA OnDemand Europe Conference at London’s Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, as a speaker for one of the panels. The conference is attended by executives from ISVs, SaaS, Web and Enterprise companies from across Europe, gathered to explore, debate and discuss all aspects of SaaS and Cloud Computing.
The overriding theme of the conference was that SaaS and Cloud Computing are here to stay and will continue to change the way we consume IT services in the future. However, with this change, Systems Integrators (SI) are faced with an ever-changing environment in which to grow, gain business and profit. My panel slot discussed how SIs can achieve this and what customers should be looking for when selecting an SI for a SaaS or Cloud-based project.
The ‘big boys’, the likes of Cap Gemini, Steria, Accenture and Deloitte, still reign king at the top of the tree, but what is becoming increasing apparent is the growth of new, smaller, more specialist SIs with real expertise in the SaaS and Cloud market space. In my role as Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Astadia Consulting, I have learnt there is more to being a profitable SI in today’s hi-tech market than we traditionally thought. Here’s a snippet from some of the panel questions and what my thoughts were:
Q: Why do you think there has been such growth in the smaller SIs for Cloud & Saas?
In todays cloud space it’s about being focused on one area of business; for Astadia we like to see ourselves as our customer’s first port of call for all things cloud. So when a company looks to step into the cloud space, we can help with the initial move and then look at what additional infrastructure can be leveraged once they’ve made the first step. Astadia are Salesforce.com largest implementation partner worldwide. Why has Salesforce taken off at such speed? Because, traditionally CRM is the easiest place to start the migration of your application infrastructure into the cloud; the nice part about Salesforce is the license model, as well as the integrated bolt-ons that are part of the Salesforce AppExchange.
The sheer nature of smaller SIs makes them more adept at partnering with the many cloud vendors in order to provide holistic solutions for the Cloud. A nice example of this is the Astadia Front-Office; where customers can quickly leverage a package of applications that help with Marketing Automation, lead generation and lead nurture through to Salesforce Automation, targeting and commission structures.
Q: What advice would you give to smaller start ups in this market?
You can’t be half-hearted in your approach to the Cloud. That’s why so many smaller SIs are making such big changes and growth spurts in this game; they focus solely on the Cloud. They are experts in their fields who have a range of applications, technical expertise and best practise knowledge designed specifically for the Cloud. That really is Astadia’s strong point.
You should also realise that one size SaaS vendor does not fit all. Certain products will fit well in some cases and not in others; the successful SI will be the one that knows how to place these products specifically for the customer’s requirements.
SIs also need to focus on what they want to achieve. Astadia is a Services company, not a product company. We don’t compete on selling products; we compete on the services we provide from an industry best practice standpoint.
Q: What industry verticals do you see growing the most in this market?
So far the fast movers have been the Telcos, Media, Not-for-Profit and Financial Services sectors. The laggards are healthcare and the public sector, which I’m sure, will change as they have the most to benefit from SaaS and Cloud computing. Particularly from a cost saving point-of-view; which I see is at the forefront of the British Government’s agenda of late; I was looking at the news this morning re the pending government cost cuts.
Q: How much of the work to migrate to the Cloud requires integration – Getting the data into one place?
As far as we see it, all projects start and end with data. This underpins the success of any Cloud project and that’s why we partner with a number of integration providers. There’s no point having a whiz-popping Cloud application that can be used mobile, at home, offline and so on, if it doesn’t have the relevant data stored in it. Data drives end user adoption and buy in; without this your project is doomed.