The move from on-premises to the cloud comes with many potential advantages: cost savings, flexibility, scalability, and more. But “simpler” isn’t necessarily one of those advantages. Moving to the cloud can actually make things far more complex for a business, even if they are dealing with a great deal less physical infrastructure. So is there a need for a cloud vendor?
Moving to the cloud means dealing with multiple vendors who offer and support multiple services. It means multiple subscriptions to services, and for each service, there will be both a service relationship and a billing relationship. Suddenly what was once a one-off or infrequent relationship is now an ongoing one.
Cloud migration does not eliminate the need to manage infrastructure but changes the skill sets that are necessary to maintain it.
A discrete cloud vendor relations role—or not…
For a business to stay on top of its relationships with vendors, there must be a cloud vendor relations role within the company. However, this isn’t as simple as hiring someone and giving them the job title of vendor relations manager.
Who this role belongs to will depend on the size of the organisation and the staff it already has. A small business may need to simply assign the task of vendor relations to an office manager. Larger businesses may need to assign the role to one or more people as necessary.
Businesses will almost certainly already have processes for suppliers, and much of the same rules should also apply to cloud vendor’s. However, the process won’t be identical. With some vendors, a bid process won’t be appropriate. For others, a service level agreement (SLA) will need to be established. Some will have an account manager as a single point of contact, while others will have a team.
Also, businesses don’t often use the software as provided by the vendor and will have requested their own custom changes to make it fit their processes. A vendor relations expert will need to negotiate what the cost of this is and if that software is available to any other business. Typically, vendors will want to resell any custom software to maximise their revenue—but this has the potential to give trade secrets away. These terms will need to be in place so the customer and vendor position is clear.
There is also the work necessary when leaving a vendor. No supplier likes losing business, and the handover from one vendor to another may not go smoothly if SLAs are not agreed up front.
The skills needed for cloud-vendor management are not IT skills, though IT knowledge may be valuable. The main skills are being able to negotiate the SLAs and contracts that will give the business the best deal possible, while at the same time maintaining a harmonious relationship that gets the absolute best out of vendors.
The opportunity for MSPs
Cloud vendor relations will end up in a tricky no-man’s land for many businesses. What was previously the IT team’s responsibility should now be taken over by another individual or team—but IT knowledge and experience are still incredibly valuable in making sure the business gets the most from cloud vendor’s.
Many businesses would prefer to enjoy the benefits of the cloud without the extra complication, and this is where managed service providers (MSPs) can step in to manage these relationships.
Businesses don’t just want to outsource the running of an IT to an MSP, they want to outsource as much of IT as they can—including all the complications that come with it. To most businesses, there is no real difference between the software installed directly on a machine and SaaS services, and they don’t want to directly manage either.
The single billing relationship and a single support relationship that an MSP offers is incredibly valuable for a business, as they can focus on the core of their business without worrying about the IT estate. In order to continue offering this complete service, MSPs need to take over the cloud vendor relations role for their customers.
Essentially, businesses don’t just want cost savings, flexibility, and scalability from the cloud. They want all this and simplicity. MSPs need to add “vendor relations” to their skill set to meet this need and become, in effect, the single IT vendor.