Genuine Competitive Differentiation

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As the dominance and scale of the major cloud providers has grown rapidly so has the technical services industry around it. From professional services to migrate to and transform in the cloud, to application developers building cloud-native solutions and managed service providers helping run operations in the cloud. In such a competitive environment creating points of genuine differentiation between yourself and other service organisations is a constant challenge. 

The stakeholders in your customers will be spread across technical, business and financial disciplines so it is important to consider how to differentiate on more than just technical expertise. Stakeholders from these non-technical disciplines will also be doing their research to evaluate potential providers and trying to understand what cloud operations will mean to their roles. Their internet search strings, sensitivities and priorities will be very different to their technical colleagues. They will likely feel far less well equipped to deal with the technical content that typically returns when searching for anything about the cloud. Being able to provide meaningful content and services that resonate with them creates an additional route to market. As multi-disciplinary customer teams evaluate potential partners, having champions promoting your value from different perspectives within the organisation provides a significant advantage. Compare this to an evaluation process that is purely a debate about technical expertise in which the non-technical decision-makers may not be well placed to understand the nuances of technical differentiation and instead create a race to the bottom.

As a business owner of an application in the cloud, just as you appreciate it provides exciting opportunities, you are also concerned about how the breadth of services, scalability and resources can all be switched on as easily as a tap. You worry how you are going to budget, how you will stick to that budget, how you can forecast future costs and how you will understand how all the services on your cloud usage reports actually contribute business value. You worry how you are going to demonstrate you are using cloud cost-effectively when the breadth of cloud capability means there are multiple technical ways you could deliver your outcomes. You find the choice overwhelming, feel concerned about how reliant you are becoming on your technical teams and how impenetrable the flexible cloud pricing models feel. You worry how you will maintain control over engineers who now have the power to incur costs themselves or indeed in their lines of code but you are aware that that control might stifle the innovation opportunity that took you to the cloud in the first place. 

For that business owner a partner who can address these concerns and questions will immediately stand out, particularly if their technical team is also advocating that partner due to its technical expertise.

When building technical solutions we consider a multi-layered approach to security that addresses the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the platform and its data. We build in measures to protect against and prevent failures or breaches be they physical, technical or operational processes. We implement mechanisms to detect issues/near misses and have associated processes to recover when they are encountered. We do all we can to create layers of isolation within our solutions to limit the blast radius of any problems that do occur. These are the demands of good technical stakeholders, we need to apply exactly the same rigour in addressing the demands of our business and financial stakeholders who are concerned with the cost management and optimisation of cloud.

What does a multi-layered approach to cloud cost management and optimisation actually entail? It starts with cost transparency, the equivalent of system monitoring that flags anomalies in spend patterns and helps attribute technical costs to business value. This is the foundation for the other layers. The most obvious layer brings processes to identify ways to cut and avoid costs by eliminating obvious waste associated with unused/under-utilised resources. Having removed this the next layer ensures that the remaining required resources optimise their use of the pricing model and cloud vendor incentives, initiatives or promotions whilst leveraging any available economy of scale benefits. To be as proactive as possible costs should also be contained by specifically designing with cost, as well as functionality in mind. It should also be possible to demonstrate how these layers integrate together and are assessed in their success in delivering efficiency to drive continuous improvement.

Our white paper on cloud cost management and optimisation expands on each of these layers and how organisations can develop their processes and capabilities as they mature in the business aspects of their cloud adoption journey. Reading this it is immediately obvious that for cost management to be able to leverage all optimisation opportunities effectively needs technical and financial teams to work together. Technical deployment approaches can limit the ability to harness some savings or switch to more efficient models. Technical, regulatory or geographic considerations may legitimately exclude certain savings potential but similarly, design decisions may simply have been made without awareness of the financial implications. By collaborating, teams can qualify decisions and create plans that provide the business with the governance and assurance it needs.

We are a financial services organisation specialising in removing the procurement barriers to cloud (”Financial Adaptor”), providing clear insight into cloud spend trends and anomalies (“Clarity & Transparency”) and using a range of techniques to ensure cloud spend remains optimal (“Managed FinOps”). Importantly these Financial Operations, “FinOps”, services do not solely rely on our analytics engine to automate recommendations. Our Financial Solution Architects, “FinSAs”, work with customers and partners to provide context around the tools to create practical recommendations that can be implemented. These recommendations are also backed by our unique approach to cloud resale which enables us to offer terms and savings not possible when buying direct from the cloud vendors or other standard resellers. We would be happy to explain how we provide this extra flexibility and savings potential whilst also being able to offer many of our value-add services free of charge and how we can do it for partners already operating as resellers themselves. 

Although we maintain sufficient technical understanding to help us provide practical advice, our focus is firmly on the financial side of cloud and so we actively embrace working with customer and partner technical teams. Like our partners our business success is built from creating an environment in which cloud becomes a sustainable, efficient solution to achieving the end customer’s objectives. That is best achieved when the technology cost-effectively delivers the required functionality in an environment that is flexible and agile enough to support innovation but can also provide the governance customers need to control and understand the value from their technology investments. We look to our partners to deliver the functionality, flexibility and agility while we provide the financial governance and assurance. Our experience from partnerships such as with  NTT or through the CloudBank initiative, for example, is that customers gain real confidence from this combination of expertise and its ability to provide a “second opinion” for validation.

Our partner page provides more detail on how we work with Partners but in summary: 

  • Our Teaming Partner Network comprises partners we have come to trust through their proven ability to deliver particular solutions. Our Teaming Agreements do not include any referral fees so customer introductions are only made when there is a genuine belief that the partner can deliver value. This applies equally whether we introduce the partner or the partner introduces us. Where cloud is the right fit our sole objective is to help, and be seen to help, customers use cloud effectively. Our experience is that this creates lasting, trusted relationships from which all parties ultimately benefit in some form.
  • When working with our FinOps Partners we allow them to provide our services alongside their own technical services so that together we operate like an outsourced Cloud Centre of Excellence. As described in our FinOps for Partners Service Description we have designed our service to be flexible in the way partners can incorporate it into their own service offering. For some this means a complete white-labelling of our services such that the end customer obtains the benefits from FinOps but with the consistency of a single partner. For others this means us sharing the customer relationship or taking over elements of cloud billing for example. 

For some of our partners, offering cloud resale is a useful addition to their cloud practice, for others the administrative overheads and risk make it a necessary evil in serving their customers that largely represents an unwanted distraction. In either case we can help you understand how to increase your margin from cloud resale and the value your customers gain from you as a reseller or indeed how you can remove the resale overhead and risk whilst still offering a point of value add differentiation to your customers.

We hope this provided some interesting food for thought and would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we could create a partnership that brings value to each of our customers.

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Strategic Blue helps organisations buy cloud on terms to suit their needs, helping them accelerate innovation in the cloud and optimise long-term cloud costs.

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