I spend most of my time educating channel partners, most of them Value-Added Resellers (VARs) on how Cisco CloudCenter can help them help their customers with a hybrid cloud strategy.  What I’ve noticed in my first year at Cisco after being part of the CliQr acquisition is that selling cloud services is very different than the traditional VAR box sale.

Instead of a large influx of capital funds that a salesperson can use to retire quarterly quota, cloud selling is much more about planting seeds in multiple accounts, some of which will grow exponentially and continue to feed revenue streams in perpetuity.  That lets a VAR build relationships with lots of different people within their accounts and there’s plenty of opportunity for hardware drag and services revenue in the short term, but it’s that long term relationship a VAR is really trying to build.

In a lot of ways, understanding the state of a customer is more important with cloud sales than traditional box approaches.  A company at the beginning of its cloud journey has different perspective and is more in need of a trusted advisor like you than an organization that already has a sophisticated cloud operation and is looking to tweak its strategy to boost already substantial gains.

How do you tell these different customers apart?  One set of predictors is easy to spot within the first five minutes you walk into that customer’s conference room by answering these two questions:

  • What kind of connectivity is there for the display monitor in the room?
  • How easy is it to get on their WiFi?

Those two items probably seem like they have nothing to do with cloud strategy, but what they reveal is how a particular customer views innovation adoption.

Rogers Innovation Adoption Curve

Made famous in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm the innovation adoption curve pioneered by Everett Rogers tells us a lot about how technology gets accepted (and rejected) by a particular market.  Cloud computing has crossed the chasm between Early Adopters and Early Majority, but there are plenty of sales opportunities out there for the large number of customers in that Early Majority and the Late Majority to come.

Cloud adoption is a complex undertaking, far more complex than video set ups for conference rooms and guest access to WiFi, which is why where a customer stands with those two other, simpler technologies can be an early indicator of where they are on their cloud journey.

VGA + Guest WiFi Tickets = Shadow IT

When preparing to give your presentation to a prospect, as you go to plug your laptop into the video cable, if you see this:

remind yourself that Ronald Reagan was President of the United States when VGA first appeared on the IBM PS/2 and that this particular customer is likely not an Innovator or Early Adopter according to Rogers.

Similarly, if, in order to get on the customers WiFi someone has to go generate a ticket to get you a password, that tells you that they aren’t segmenting their access points according to where they are in the building and likely not managing their network with modern software tools that can easily separate guest packets from business-critical ones.

If it takes a ticket for something that occurs multiple times a day, every business day, what must it be like for a business team to get their hands on a new virtual machine?  If the conference rooms have Cold War Era video connectivity, imagine how IT must feel about Internet of Things projects.

The good news is, should you experience either of these ancient ways it means that this customer is in one of the Majority categories according to Rogers, likely has plenty of Shadow IT, are much earlier on their cloud journey, so it’s a great opportunity for a VAR to have a lot more influence on the account as a trusted advisor.

For customers in this category, that likely means starting with a discovery phase given that Shadow IT is probably more rampant than they realize as business teams work around archaic ticketing processes.  During that discovery, which would include careful analysis of network traffic to uncover unknown applications as well as scans of American Express accounts, many of those Shadow IT applications are not going to be compliant with existing security standards your customer has.  Once all of the applications have been inventoried and the self-service, on demand provisioning needs of the business teams are well understood, a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) like CloudCenter can help bridge the gap between business and IT by providing IT the governance they want without interrupting the speed needs the business teams require.

And don’t forget about Cisco’s Business Cloud Advisor, an incredible tool that can show any customer more precisely where they compare to others on their cloud journey.

Apple TV or Cisco Proximity + One Click Wifi = Cloud Tweaking

If, however, you find upon opening your laptop that the guest WiFi has already been discovered and requires a single click to join it, which then allows you to synch with the Apple TV or Cisco Proximity service to connect to the video board in the room at 720p or better resolution, you’ve walked into a very different situation.  You have now found yourself in the presence of an Innovator or Early Adopter and your conversation should go differently.

This audience is very savvy, likely already has an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool in place as a friendly front end for the business team constituents while the IT team controls things from behind the curtain of a CMP.  They may need assistance figuring out when is the best time to move an application from a public cloud, back to a private cloud which is why benchmarking applications in CloudCenter is so important.  Newer technologies like container clustering platforms could be of interest to customers like this and how to manage cutting edge applications built on microservices architectures alongside legacy client-server solutions.


Obviously, helping a particular customer with their cloud strategy is more involved than simply observing their conference room network and video connectivity, but those can be indicators of how their IT department sees technology innovations in general.  Customers who are new to cloud and part of one of the Majorities on the Rogers Curve need help getting started.  That starts with discovering what applications they already have, both sanctioned and Shadow IT, and inserting tools like CMPs and ITSMs so that IT can govern behavior, but without impacting the speed that the business teams demand.

Innovators and Early Adopters on the Rogers Curve have likely already have such tools in place, but need assistance determining when it is appropriate to move applications between public and private clouds.  They are probably exploring microservices architectures based on container clustering technologies and may struggle to attend to those applications while keeping older ones up and running effectively.  Regardless of where on the spectrum each individual customer may lie, there is plenty of runway left on this cloud journey we are on as an industry.  By more quickly identifying where a customer is on that journey, you can demonstrate your understanding of their problems better and become that trusted advisor they depend upon for the long term.


Pete Johnson

Principal Architect

Global Partner Organization