Cloud and the technology roadmap for South Africa

According to Jason Sharp, director for cloud and hosting at First Distribution, the company believes the future will be one where customers end up utilising multiple clouds – encompassing both private and public – as well as maintaining certain on-premise facilities.

“Regardless of how it ends up, for those customers seeking to incorporate the various types of cloud in any way, it’s imperative to develop a technology roadmap. Essentially, we’re talking about understanding what the business aims are and what the challenges are that need to be resolved in order to achieve these goals. Ultimately, it’s about the business needs – technology is merely an enabler to ensure that enterprises are able to meet these needs,” he says.


“The beauty of cloud is that it offers opportunities to enter new verticals and horizontals, allowing businesses to try new and different innovative ideas in order to achieve their aims. It is particularly suitable for those organisations with little capital to spare, as cloud serves as the great equaliser between large corporates and the small and medium enterprise sector, allowing large and small entities to compete in the same space.”


Sharp adds that it also enables the creation of products where businesses are effectively able to become their own product suppliers. This allows resellers to achieve a greater level of ‘stickiness’ within the end-customer, as it means the company is providing a range of services across verticals, thereby making the end-customer increasingly reliant on their services. When this is achieved, he continues, it enables the business to scale more quickly, which is really what the cloud is all about – scaling rapidly, with little capital expenditure, and doing so irrespective of the size of the reseller business.


“The biggest change the cloud has driven in the reseller space is that in the past, the focus was typically around selling ‘capex’ sales. This meant that the company would make several big sales and then move on, starting again at zero with every new month. However, the nature of cloud is such that it instead delivers annuity revenue that increases every month.


“At First Distribution, we are driving our resellers to keep cloud in mind, both public and private, and we’re well positioned to help them resolve any issues that their end-customers may have across cloud types and cloud providers. This includes educating them around the business imperatives of the various cloud options, and ensuring they learn the skills required to implement and continue their cloud operations.”


According to Sharp, implementation skills are particularly important, as many providers and partners tend to view it as a once-off process, but, as he explains, the cloud actually enables ongoing and continuous engagement with the end-user.


“It’s not only about getting customers into the cloud, or getting their environment set up, but also about continuously optimising the cloud to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. This is why First Distribution chooses to follow this enablement process with both experienced and first time cloud partners, so as to ensure they’re able to deliver the best experience throughout the entire cloud journey.


“We’ve had a close relationship with Microsoft, both locally and globally over many years, and continue to take its value proposition to our partners and its end-customers. To this end, the company’s new One Commercial Partner programme has been instrumental in helping us to enable our partners in such a way as to provide exactly what the end-customers need.”


He adds that public cloud uptake is increasing, and, with Microsoft’s Azure datacentres coming to South Africa, growth will only surge. This, he says, will bring the public cloud to SA and Africa in a truly effective manner – lowering latency, solving data sovereignty issues and ensuring that cloud users are on the correct side of the law.


“First Distribution believes that while technology is critical in helping partners to overcome the challenges they face and is vital to digital transformation, this is only part of the solution. People and processes are equally important, which is why we believe in providing enablement training to ensure that our partners fully understand digital transformation, and how it is relevant to them.”


The company enables partners to improve their digital and product strategies, enhancing new and existing customer acquisition and retention. This is supported by its First for Cloud offering – a comprehensive transaction and provisioning e-commerce platform provided that empowers partners to facilitate end-user transactions.


“Finally, it comes down to aligning your business with the evolution of digital transformation, and how to ensure that the end-customer is able to have a digital experience where they can transact in the cheapest and most efficient manner. The way the world is changing now means that with the right access to technology, the smallest business can compete with and offer the same levels of service as a large enterprise.


“Moreover, it is wise to remember that digitisation encompasses both your products and how you do business. It is therefore a continuous journey that requires strong partnerships to maximise value. As cloud and digital continue to evolve, we will stand by our partners as passionate advocates of their evolution,” concludes Sharp.


Cloud Solutions, First for Cloud

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