The current health crisis is accelerating digital transformation, but we were living in an increasingly software-driven world long before COVID-19. Sam Paris, Vice President Services and Annuities, looks at how cloud and SaaS are transforming how businesses engage with and retain customers and manage their supply chains, and how it is opening up opportunities for creating value at all points along the solutions lifecycle.

IDC’s COVID-19 Impact on IT Spending Survey reveals that organisations are still spending on IT through the pandemic, but that investments are increasingly focused on cloud and SaaS. The pandemic is forcing end users to embrace software and subscriptions even faster and more strategically. 

This shift is more than transformational – it’s fundamentally disrupting the way the channel operates, engages and transacts. In the past, vendors sold devices with in-built software and a maintenance contract. Solutions were static in nature. When they stop doing their job, they were simply replaced or upgraded.

By contrast, software solutions are dynamic in nature, with a tendency to continually change. The software development cycle is agile, with regular updates, additional modules and new features. Software has a life beyond the sale. A life that needs to be managed and maintained to retain customers and extract maximum value from every sale.

Life after the sale

Solution lifecycle management is synonymous with the consumer brands we use every day. We’re all familiar with the coordinated, ‘always-on’ strategies for the whole product lifecycle used by brands such as Apple, Amazon and Netflix to keep us coming back for more.

In the IT space, pure SaaS companies such as Salesforce and Microsoft have been implementing this continuous lifecycle management approach too. Continuous workflows and post-sale ‘customer success’ models drive adoption, expansion and renewal.

Driven by business outcomes

Now hardware-based vendors are moving into this arena with software subscriptions and consumption-based models. One of the key drivers of this transition is business outcomes – if the end user isn’t getting the business value or the outcome they expect from a solution, they will not fully adopt it, buy any more of it, or renew their licences.

This is the basic premise of customer success and software lifecycle management, and it’s a sales motion we are incorporating into distribution as well.

Enabling and equipping partners

Our role as a distributor is clear. We make technology available, and we stay connected to the solution and the customer post sale. Our workflow doesn’t stop at the PO. When we supply a software solution to a partner and on to the end user, our role is to provide the partner with the data and tools they need to adopt and implement a lifecycle approach.

It is simple to implement too. Just by starting a lifecycle conversation at each touchpoint. One month post sale, check if the solution is delivering as expected. If not, how can we help? This way the end user gets the service they need, fully adopts the solution and then potentially buys more. Three to six months down the line the conversation is: “You bought this solution, you should buy these adjacent technologies.” After 12 months, it’s a tech refresh conversation: “Your customer has this solution in its install base. It’s old, replace it with this.”

Getting more value along the lifecycle

This solution lifecycle management approach puts partners in the driving seat in today’s increasingly software-driven world. By combining our internal sales data, product knowledge and deep customer insights, we can identify the key steps and touchpoints along the entire solution lifecycle. We can then engage, enable and equip our partners with the knowledge and tools they need to perform lifecycle activities that drive real, incremental growth.