How do you stay relevant in an industry that’s changing faster than anyone can react to? How do you continue to remain viable while adjusting to the evolving needs of your customers? These days, nearly every established IT company struggles with these fundamental issues.

 

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more work with public cloud solutions around AWS and Azure, and it occurred to me: if you’re new to this way of doing things, there’s a lot of skilling up to do. Whether you’re a consultant, a customer, or a partner, staying up to date on current and emerging trends is vital to your success. But this can also quickly become a waste of time if you try to boil the ocean. How do you manage it?

 

Instead of the thinking about learning as being a giant buffet where you randomly choose what you want, be selective. Think about the areas you are already proficient in and take a project- and objective-based approach. Start with the technologies that you’re already using today and build out from there. If you’re using NetApp, you’ll already be ahead of the curve. Because there’s a lot of similarity between NetApp’s cloud-based products like Cloud Volumes Services, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Cloud Sync, etc., you can use the same skillsets across solutions without having to become an IT omnivore. This buys you more time to learn about the other things.

 

After you get some knowledge under your belt, how do you then go out and help customers start using the cloud to solve their business problems? Most customers (particularly at the C-level) don’t want to have technology conversations anymore—they want to talk about business outcomes. As IT professionals, we need to shift to a more solutions-based approach. It’s not so much about the cloud as much as it is about what the customer wants to get out of the cloud, whether that’s maximizing return on investment or using applications like analytics to streamline internal processes or bring innovative solutions to market faster. Say a customer is looking to automate a process or implement analytics. Start there and work the conversation backwards. Ask them what they’re trying to achieve with their data and look at how you can use the solutions in your toolbelt to help them solve that problem. Then bring in the technology around it.

 

The data is the key point, and that’s why mobility and fluidity is so important. As clouds become a commodity, customers want to consume from the best service at the lowest price, not the one they’re locked into or the one they started with. A customer might have started in Amazon, but maybe down the road Google turns out to be a better offering, or vice versa. Having the flexibility to get data between clouds or even back on-premises becomes vitally important, and it’s an area where NetApp has a lot of strength—choice is part of NetApp’s DNA as a company.

 

NetApp’s broad portfolio gives you a lot of angles to solve customers’ unique problems. Instead of going into customer conversations with a solution that you’re trying to sell, start with questions about how they use data. Ask questions like, “How does your business do off-site backups and disaster recovery? Are you able to move datasets from on-premises to the cloud and back again efficiently?” These are door openers, and things that a lot of customers wouldn’t necessarily expect NetApp to be able to help them solve. The pivot that NetApp has made towards enabling cloud solutions changes the tools that we have at our disposal to solve customer problems and opens up a lot of new possibilities. As an advocate for NetApp, I can tell you that even I didn’t expect this level of commitment to staying relevant in a cloud-first world, and I’m thrilled to partner with a company that is on the bleeding edge.

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Jason Benedicic

Jason is a hybrid cloud specialist based in Cambridge, UK. He works with customers to design IT solutions that meet a variety of needs, including backup, virtualization, and cloud storage. Jason is also an expert in building and managing cloud services and professional services infrastructure.

Outside of the technology industry, Jason enjoys all forms of gaming, ranging from classic table-top to online RPGs. He runs a successful raiding guild in World of Warcraft. Jason is also a keen cyclist.