In our “Reimagine the New Next” video series, Michelle Ruyle, Intelisys’ VP of Marketing and Digital Transformation, joins channel industry experts to discuss how the “new next” sparked an industry evolution. In this episode, Cox Business and RapidScale‘s John Muscarella, Masergy‘s Rob Watson, and Vonage‘s Aqeel Shahid join Michelle to discuss what the future holds for partners and end customers as their businesses evolve over the coming months, and give advice to partners starting out in the indirect channel.
Michelle Ruyle: Hello. My name is Michelle Ruyle, Vice President of Digital Transformation here at Intelisys. As we “Reimagine The New Next Together,” our conversation today is about evolving. We will be talking with Cox Business and RapidScale’s John Muscarella, Senior Director of Indirect Channel Sales. We’ll be talking with Rob Watson from Masergy, National Channel Director; and Aqeel Shahid, Vonage Vice President, National Strategic Partners.
Hey Rob. In March of 2020, we’re all getting ready to get on a plane to Channel Partners. Then we get the notice that the event is canceled. What went through your mind at that time?
Rob Watson: I’d say it was a very surreal feeling, because you heard some things about this coronavirus, and you didn’t quite know what it was or how to pronounce it even. And such a big event that we’re all looking forward to gets canceled, and you stop in your tracks and feel like it’s a little surreal to think that such a large important event that we were all looking forward to is now all of a sudden off the books because of, like you said, the new normal. It was very surreal.
Michelle Ruyle: Yeah. John, what about you? What were you thinking?
John Muscarella: At Cox Business, we’d actually canceled participating in that event the week prior. Our company’s very focused, not just on our customers and agents, but our employees. And we made the decision the week prior not to participate because of the ongoing concerns with the virus and putting people at risk. So, I was disappointed that we weren’t going when we decided not to go. But then when they canceled the event itself, I was, I hate to say pleased, but I was pleased to see that we had the forethought to cancel early and not wait. And we informed everybody as quickly as we could.
And really, Michelle, our hearts go out to everybody that’s been negatively impacted by this, both family-wise and business-wise. I don’t think anybody realized at the time how significant of an event this would have been.
Michelle Ruyle: Aqeel, what about you?
Aqeel Shahid: Just like John mentioned, while we were disappointed, we were also pleased that we were actually doing the right thing for our partners and everyone else and tried to keep everyone safe. I was really looking forward to it. In fact, I even ordered myself a hazmat suit. I was ready to wear that and walk the show floor. Right? If that’s what it took to be there. But I think that was the right thing to do, and looking forward to the next event where we can be all together again. Rubbing elbows and seeing each other in person.
Michelle Ruyle: Absolutely. Hey Rob, so as we continue to evolve, how do you see the role of the partner evolving over the next 12 months?
Rob Watson: Ultimately technology is always changing, so that’s not new for us, right? But this is a brand new thing that we’re all having to work through together.
Disparate locations of end-user customers, how do we manage that? How do we understand how people work? For partners specifically, they’re getting asked to do so many new things and to have answers for so many different problems that customers have. They really have to raise the bar on their consultancy level, right? Their consultant skills have to get heightened, and I think one of the best ways to do that is to really pick who your core suppliers are going to be.
Who are you going to go to bat with and specialize in? Who are you going to be an expert with? And what suppliers are going to invest in you as a partner so that you can get even more granular into the solutions and really take those weird off-ball questions from your customers and know that you got somebody to try to figure it out? It’s going to be tough, but I think all of us here on this call are prepared to go to bat with the partners and help them specialize even more.
Michelle Ruyle: You mentioned the end customer. So, John, we just talked about how the partner is going to evolve over the next year. What about the end customer?
John Muscarella: When you look at the customer and their journey through this, I think a lot of the things that have changed: remote working, the use of Teams, the cloud solutions they’ve deployed. These things will be permanent. So, our agents that we work with have to realize the dynamic has changed with the customers, and what they’re expecting from trusted advisors.
Now, the customers are seeking more solutions that are not premise-based. Solutions that can be used from a home environment like we are today, like everybody here is today. So, that impacts the agents and how they are perceived, and what values they bring to the table. And we’re trying to do our best to make sure everybody’s prepared for that transition, continued transition to cloud offerings, and enabling them to be successful with their customers.
Michelle Ruyle: Aqeel, so, what if your new partner just starting right now–a new agency–what advice would you give them?
Aqeel Shahid: My advice to a new partner would be, when you start a new agency, go in with a holistic approach, right? No longer can you just focus on one segment of a specific solution anymore, right? Because your customer is expecting you to be a true trusted advisor, help them navigate through the waters. Because this is obviously a new situation for everyone, right?
They’re trying to navigate through, not only what their technology requirements are, but how they stay connected to their customers, how they stay connected to their employees, how do they improve their overall employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and navigate through the digital transformation journeys that almost everyone is going through.
So really, to, I think, what Rob mentioned earlier, find a partner or supplier that can really go deep and wide with you, educate you, and really give you the resources you need to enable you. But also keep your mind open and really look at the entire solution holistically. No longer just connectivity, no longer just cloud solutions, it’s a matter of bringing all those different components together to create this digital journey for the end user, for the customer, for the overall long-term as well.
So, those are the elements I would certainly recommend and advise a partner that’s starting a new agency to keep in mind. And really educate yourself on all the technologies available that are out in this space, including disaster recovery and other API solutions that can customize that experience for the end users.
Michelle Ruyle: That’s great advice. Hey guys, thanks so much for being part of this conversation today. We really appreciate it. And you can get more information about these suppliers on MyIntelisys. Bye for now.