Here are a few highlights of Robinson’s questions and the panelists’ responses.
Robinson: What are the most important IT trends solution providers should be looking to invest in in the next one to five years?
Snyder: The future is clearly going to be digital in the next five years. More immediately, however, there are opportunities around security and professional services and the software that is becoming part of the digital fabric.
Fitzpatrick: Six-year product renewal cycles are disappearing and being replaced by monthly subscriptions. Make sure you’re recognizing the effect of customer satisfaction. Give your customers a long-term journey where you can take them with your technology.
Beloussov: The main value of cloud is that it’s a repeatable business opportunity, but only if you can control churn. One of the keys to managing churn is to offer multiple cloud services; the more services you offer the less likely customers are to leave.
Robinson: In which current solutions at Microsoft do you see future opportunities?
Fitzpatrick: We’ve been talking about AI (artificial intelligence) for 20 years. It’s now becoming a reality today because of the availability of mass quantities of data. How can you use AI to help your customers’ businesses run more effectively?
Robinson: What is digital transformation and what should partners know about it?
Snyder: Big data, analytics and cloud are all key drivers to digital transformation. We define it three ways: customer experience, workforce experience and business process transformation.
Robinson: How do you keep up with trends?
Beloussov: News.com, whitepapers, Twitter, Facebook and conferences.
Fitzpatrick: There are a lot of news feeds people can subscribe to, but there is no replacement for being in the field and doing customer and partner visits to understand what’s happening in your region. It’s important to understand the adoption of technology in verticals and to look at geopolitical influences, too. Also, look at what’s happening with the new generation of workers. How are they learning?
Snyder: The field is the best source for keeping up with trends—meeting with customers and partners.
Robinson: How are you addressing buyers born in the cloud and used to using apps?
Fitzpatrick: It’s critical to have a digital footprint that explains what you can provide to end users. Also, customers want customized marketing, and the best way to provide that is by looking to peer groups and marketing to peer groups.
Robinson: What is Cisco doing to prepare for new ways of doing business?
Snyder: We’ve developed very specific plays around manufacturing, retail, healthcare and other verticals so resellers can deliver these solutions as business outcomes. We’re also doing lots of training focused on selling vertical solutions.