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Ep. 101 Unlocking Cloud Potential: Strategies for 2024 and Beyond with Koby Phillips

January 27, 2024

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Jump in as we get things rolling in 2024 with Season 3 and Koby Phillips. Koby joins us to talk about strategies for 2024 and beyond as it relates to Cloud. Koby shares important lessons from a previous mentor, along with some key examples where he’s seen projects be successful and some of the things that keep projects from going to completion. All great tips for partners to listen in to!

Welcome to the podcast designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus and this is Next Level BizTech. [MUSIC]

Hey, everybody. Welcome back. We’re here in the studio with Mr. Koby Phillips, VP of Cloud Practice. And today we’re talking about unlocking cloud potential strategies for 2024 and beyond. Koby thanks for coming back in, man. Hey, I appreciate having me back on. Hey, so we’ve had you on for anybody that hasn’t heard. We talked about your backstory a lot, a lot of good stuff in there. Go back and listen to those old episodes for anybody that hasn’t heard it yet. I want to kick this off a little differently with a lesson learned, right? I want our partners to hear things that all of us have gone through. So walk us through a lesson learned, a situation, maybe from a mentor, a mistake, whatever, valuable, something valuable you’ve learned. Yeah, I think the one that sticks out the most, I’ve learned a lot, right? I think we all have. But the one that sticks out the most is actually from a peer. And so we’ll call it a lesson by proxy almost, right?

The gentleman that I heard the story from, I have a lot of respect for. And coming out of this, this has really stuck with me and resonated. And then it pulls through to what we’re doing with the cloud practice quite a bit as well. He told me a story about when he was a sales rep, a little bit younger. And he just went through training, set up an appointment, the customer takes, I think, I believe it was his boss’s boss, maybe his boss’s boss’s boss, but to somebody senior goes with him on the meeting. Afterwards, he’s asking for feedback on how he thought he did. I mean, the feedback, I don’t think is what he was expecting. I think because he came out of training and he hit all the right notes in his head of what he was taught and everything like that, which we all do. The gentleman that he went on the meeting with turned to me and said, I think he told him everything that you know. He goes, now imagine if we knew what he knew and you still get to know what you know.

And so I think the lesson I took out of that, especially when you start to get in to some of these business conversations, which is really what we’re driving our technology advisors to really drive into, to get to the cloud conversation, have the business conversation, drive the cloud technology solutions through that.

The more that you can listen, the more that you can absorb and understand, the more that it helps you position bigger conversations later on. So it’s got that information as power type of approach. We’re also quick to want to be able to go in and explain something that we just learned or that we know that we think that’s going to position and be this magic bullet. And very few times I’ve ever seen a magic bullet work, especially if you go in and you start to do product conversation right off the bat, you walk in, you’re like, Hey, what are you doing for data protection? This and that? Like, Oh, we just finished up that project. Where do you go from there? You just start peddling other products and it just unravels fairly quick. So the lesson I took out of that is listen more and talk less, kind of that Hamilton. I don’t know if you’ve seen the musical, right? That song pops in my head quite a bit, but that’s a little bit of, of what I took out of that. I think it’s relevant to what we’re, we’re helping try to position with customers. I think so. Yeah. I mean, look, there’s a lot of things that, that I think, especially once our partners learn all the things that maybe even some of them didn’t know that they could do with us yet. Like, yeah, you’re inclined to want to go share that with, I have all these customers, all these opportunities. And it is just a little bit of a pause. Let’s understand what they’re trying to do. I think it’s a great, great lesson. The other big lesson I, that I took kind of in concert with that is people generally care more about what they have going on than what you have going on. So if you let them talk about what they have going on, they’re going to tell you a lot more and you’re going from one potential opportunity that you’re targeting to a multitude or a force multiplier, what you’re able to make an impact. And if you take a bigger setback and you look at what we really get compensated on and the way that we drive it through our channel, it’s really, you’re not going in and you’re not selling cloud. You’re really kind of really selling more the management of, and you’re setting up managed service conversations. So then you need to understand a little bit more than just the technology. You need to understand the political landscape. You need to understand the landscape of like, are they successful running internally only? Is there an avenue that we can help improve and drive the right type of conversation that can open up a ton of different avenues for you? Yeah, always does. It always does for sure. Let’s look out here at your role, VP of cloud. It’s Laris. Let’s look out strategies that you think are crucial to really maximize a business’s potential for cloud in 2024. Well, if we’re wanting to kind of take what we just talked about,

we started kind of calling it a hybrid IT management. You’re going to hear a little bit about fusion teams coming out and that could be pulled into this conversation as well. It’s the idea of taking an internal team, mixing it in with MSPs or external resources and driving better operational optimization within an organization. One of the biggest conversations I have with customers is around project completion percentage. Like where’s that landing for you right now? Generally it’s in the successful ones or in the low 20s, 20%, 25%. So there’s a lot of room for that conversation to be had. And if you can come in with a methodology as an advisor to say, hey, I believe we have a way to improve that, but I need to understand all of this thing organizationally. That can open up a lot of different conversations around cloud security,

getting into the network again, getting into customer experience, collaboration,

everything that you have the ability to touch. You can really start to drive and understand what’s going on organizationally and what they’re looking, where their point A is and where their point B is and how they’re looking to get there and how you can help streamline that. Yeah, it’s a good call out. I think we make a lot of assumptions that, oh my gosh, if they went through this project, they’ve got to be done and had to get executed flawlessly. And truly there’s no way they’re going to need my help, all of which are wrong assumptions, right? Yeah, there’s still a 70% failure rate on digital transformations. You got 70% people that feel like they overpay on cloud. So 70% is generally a pretty strong number in this space when it comes to that. If I’m hearing that as a technology advisor, I’m hearing conversational opportunities or conversation opportunities, talk tracks that I can go bring these things up and not get into the weeds. I like to call me an expert facilitator. And if you look at what drives customer loyalty through the, I believe the book, the Challenger Cell, no, is it the Challenger Customer? It’s the second book. What drives customer loyalty over everything else. This is a couple of years old, but I would say it probably stands up. There’s four key categories that they measure. Company and brand, product and service, price and sales experience. Out of that, what do you think percentage wise that sales experience makes up customer loyalty on? High. Give it a shot. 68%. 53. Right. But out of those four key categories, what we have the most control over in our channel, our advisors is that sales experience. They can’t really control company and brand or products and solutions. They make recommendations that but they control the sales experience. And our channel, and dicatively is an example of that’s really closer to 100%. What drives loyalty with us. There’s a mix of different type of technology advisors.

The one thing that they all have at their core, very strong relationships with their customers. And they’re selling generally selling them multiple times over. Right. So that driving that customer loyalty through sales experience. If you look at where that equates and getting into a new technology like cloud or cyber or CX or any of these things that maybe you haven’t got into. My belief is if you fall back on methodology of a strong sales experience, focus on what you do, understand the landscape, understand the business needs, bring in the right resources, fulfill the right technology and move on to the next one. You’re always going to see success if you can just simplify your methodology to that. It’s good. It’s golden there. Good stuff. Let’s talk about adoption of cloud services in 2024. So why do you feel, why is 2024 pivotal for cloud services? And then what are some of those driving forces? So it’s actually going to be similar to the last couple of years with one change. It’s going to be AI. AI has been within the cloud mix for a number of years. It’s more conversational than ever. There’s been things that’s triggered it. It’s going to be the hot topic. If you remember, think back five, six years ago,

we went to channel partners or any trade show was the number one top SD-WAN. SD-WAN. SD-WAN. Just now do we see the consumption of SD-WAN catch up to the hype that it was five or six years ago where we start to see that that come to fruition basically with cloud clouds, 15 years old, cloud adoption. So you have a mix of different things. Yeah. The early adopters who probably need to go back and look at modernization, they did it wrong. So there’s a conversation being out there. So the people trying to figure out, do I want, how much cloud do I want to use? They still need to be educated on the different types of clouds, private, public, why it makes sense. And generally why hybrid makes the most sense across the board. And now you got a conversation as, Hey, I want to use AI. I want to, I want to do an LLM. I want to understand all of these things. Cool. Is your organization ready for it? Do you have everything structured that you can bring in this newer kind of cutting edge technology in some cases to maximize the spin that you’re going to use on it and what you’re going to get out of it? So is your infrastructure set up? Is your data set up the correct way for it to be analyzed and utilized or is it a mess? So there’s some pre-work that can come out of this to modernize an environment to get ready for the technology, which is a whole idea around cloud to be more flexible, more agile, to be able to consume new technology as it emerged. And that’s what we’re seeing with the AI conversation. Yeah. Let’s dive into that a little bit here. So I’ve got some questions around kind of data privacy and compliance, and that’s important. But I think you bring up a good point. And as we start to talk about large language models, that’s the next rush. We know that’s what customers are going to want. We’ve always talked about insecurity as this great example of the job shortage for security folks. I think it just what’s coming in this wave of everybody’s going to want, I want an LLM. To your point, maybe they don’t even have the data in a structure that’s advantageous to talk about putting it into an LLM. What’s your perspective? And I know, obviously, partners are positioned and suppliers are positioned to be at the receiving end of this, but what’s your perspective on just the talent shortage of people that are even going to know how to build conversational AI against a large language model? That’s so hard. Well, I mean, if you look at the talent shortage in tech across the board, cyber,

just general developers, things like that in the space and in the ship that we’ve seen, that’s still ongoing and just basic cloud infrastructure, basic infrastructure going from traditional servers, things like that to serverless and as code and the skill set that’s emerged and developed there and that shortage now compound that with more complexity, more specialization, but higher need or at least perception of need because more this is a sexier conversation than why would I change my infrastructure to go serverless? Is it as impactful? It could be argued. Is it sexy to talk about and is it is like cutting edge? No. And so just like anything else, you’re going to get customers that are interested in this. And then we talk about going out and trying to do it on your own versus this hybrid approach or having it as a service. And just like what we’ve seen in the expertise of somebody wanting to maximize hyperscale or AWS, Microsoft, Azure, etc. You got to have the right team and the right expertise to pull that off. This is going to be no different than that. Just a little bit more even specialize as it emerges as a new or new technology in the world has to catch up. Meaning colleges have to develop courses, there’s got to be training certification, all the things that have emerged out of like a member of cloud guru. How old do you think that is? About a decade. Gosh, he came out of AWS. I probably started a cloud guru in oh, nine, maybe 10. I don’t even remember when I started. It’s been around. And look how big that’s built up. And there’s others, right? A couple other. And just for background, those are training programs for someone who wants to go get certified

as a solutions architect and on an AWS. And now I think they’ve extended out to Microsoft, Azure and Google and everything else. But that doesn’t exist right now. In my, my knowledge base for an AI specialist or someone that can go in and curate an AI environment for a company. And that’ll come, but we’re on the beginning stages. And the other thing we have to look at is, how do you monetize that as a partner, that conversation? And that’s a lot of the stuff that we’re focused on as well. Yeah, I think that’s a good thing that for partners listening to this, it’s important to call out that and you know, we’ve talked a lot about this over the last couple days. The monetization option is here, where partners might not even know that yet, that there is ways to create a large language model. There is ways to do consulting engagements with your customers around this. So I think it’s, it’s super, it’s super important to say, yes, this is brand new, but our suppliers are already in front of this, we’ve already got options here. And more coming, right? I mean, I’ve talked to a number of suppliers that are wrapping their arms around how they’re going to productize this. And a lot of it’s getting customers ready for AI. And a lot of it’s still emerging on where we see our sweet spot. We see a ton of it right now in CX and some of the stuff that they’ve built in. But they’ve been, again, this isn’t anything new for a lot of these companies. It’s just that it’s gotten a ton of attention. I’m trying to give it a comparison. I can’t really think of anything that’s been around that just taken off as far as getting more public attention than it’s ever gotten. You look at the number one cyber, like we looked at this, right? We looked, we pulled up the number one cybersecurity tool in AI for 2024. And they listed Darktrace, which is kind of an OEM in that space. I remember seeing a demo of Darktrace almost a decade ago, and my jaw was on the ground with the cool stuff that it did. But it’s, it’s been around for that long. And, you know, utilizing AI to search for anomalies and then attacking and, and holding, you know, getting them out of your environment. That’s been around for a long time. But it’s, it’s not a, it’s part of a product. It’s not a standalone product. Yeah. Now it’s a good point. It just takes time. Yeah. Customers, I guess, takes time to move the way I’d say it is AI is a technology at this point, in my opinion, not a product. Yeah. And so how do you productize some of that technology that you’re going to see that numerous different ways? Yeah, across all the all the solutions for sure. Let’s talk about then, how do you, how do you coach a customer? A partner comes with an opportunity, customer says, I want to go to LLMs. I want to do something conversational with my infrastructure in cloud or my data is, but I’m worried about securing that. How do you handle some of these data privacy concerns? Because this is just going to cross over like crazy. I would look at it like I look at many of the conversations around infrastructure and applications as a whole now. Starting off with what’s your resources internally look like? How do you want to manage this? How do you want to take it on understanding the business ecosystem that they have to put around the technology. Then once we have that conversation, and we see that we’re in a clear, what I like to see out of that is generally where the customer realizes I need to bring somebody else in again, because that’s where we see the most benefit. And we can bring the most value. Then what do you need to see it structured like? And are you building it with security in mind? I think that’s the biggest difference is a lot of times, you know, go back five years ago, people would build without insecurity would come second or third, maybe seven years ago, maybe five years is too. But you see the mindset now where securities generally thought of on the front end, not on the back end. And just like anything else, once you understand the rules of the game, and security sets the rules of the game quite a bit, you can build it out and play it to the to the best of your ability. And that’s the way that I would attack it. I’d understand the landscapes that they had within that vertical. What, you know, if it’s something where it’s not federally recognized, but by state, okay, we have to keep the data here, we have to do this, all of those checks and balances that you have to go through. I don’t see the conversation to be totally different around it, you bring in the right skill set to build to the rules and the compliance that you have. Yeah, you just have to keep it on the forefront. Yeah, stay on the basics. I love it. Alright, so so I’m a partner, I’m listening. Maybe I’ve been selling cloud or I you know, I’ve been selling some other services, maybe I haven’t delved deep enough into cloud to compare to maybe where it seems like I should be focusing here focusing here. What’s the practical advice or the the approach that you give them and you do a lot of events, you do a lot of training, a lot of strategy. But but for those listening here, what’s that advice that you give them to just help capitalize on some of those cloud opportunities?

Begin the conversation. That’s still our number one hurdle. It’s just, we’ll have advisors come, technology advisors come to the event, they spend a couple of days or they learn about something, take a class, they invest time. But it takes a lot to think about doing something to them putting it into action, then to put it into repeatable action. And we’re seeing the trend line go that route. As more and more customers are consuming, meaning therefore they’re asking more about it, we see our technology as advisors responding to that. It’s a tougher conversation. There’s only so many hours, so many minutes in the day, for us to go out and create conversation versus react to things that are coming at you. And it’s natural to prioritize and be reaction because somebody’s asking something of you versus you going in trying to create something. So it takes a discipline, really, at this point, where I’ve seen the biggest growth is to force an hour or two a day of going in and practicing what you’ve already consumed, and in putting it into play, and then tweaking it to that. And what I like to call hunting for the opportunity is not reacting when they come up. And that just takes a couple of things. It takes people needing the products, which we’re getting there more and more. It takes the portfolio to be able to fulfill those and understand them and know that they’re credible, which we definitely have that with our supplier relationships. And then the confidence to bring in the resources that can back you up and not leave you on an island on something that you’re not quite sure of. We definitely have that. So what I take all of that into consideration is to say, if you focus on the sales experience, and the methodology that you’re approaching the conversations, and understand the technology to whatever capabilities you want to, knowing that you have the resources to come in and really expand on it. If you focus on those, this travels. It can be cloud, it can be cyber, it can be any technology, any sales motion, but you’re now putting yourself in your comfort zone, even in an uncomfortable technology situation, and you’re going to deliver that same sales experience by leveraging the right resources. Love it. Let’s get into a success story. So let me talk about it. You’re out there, you’re training, you’re teaching, you’re getting in the middle of opportunities, you’re all over the place, right? So you get to see this practice develop. Walk us through an example that, because of some strategies you helped to partner with, what did it do for their business overall, either strategically or at an opportunity level? We have a good example. A partner came and said, “Hey, I just struggle with this because I need to know everything about what I’m like, I’ve sold voice, network, I know every little thing about it. I’m more of an engineer at heart, and I have a hard time having comfort.” We talked through that, and there’s just, I don’t want to ever say there’s no way, because somebody could come along. Very difficult to know everything that’s going on, and what we, that encompasses cloud, right? With all the innovations that the companies are doing, the changes and things like that, you can get a good baseline, and that’s going to take you pretty far because that’s, it’s still pretty, a pretty tough, like technology to wrap your arms around. However, if you think about what I just said, you take that methodology, just focusing on the sale experience, becoming an expert facilitator, getting the right people involved, and that doesn’t mean throw it over the fence and get out of the way. Your job is still what makes the loyalty happen. It’s overseeing it. It’s driving the right behaviors. It’s prepping. It’s doing all of the little things that make a world-class sales experience versus just introducing people and setting back. It’s actually partaking. And so we had this conversation, and I said politely, get out of your own way. And I might have been a little bit more harsh than that because we were buddies. But they saw a 34% increase in overall sales. They lost their number one salesperson.

And they did that by changing their methodology of having to be the expert on everything, to bringing up stuff that they’re not the expert on, but getting the right people involved. And then I think this, and that was in 2022, 2023, we saw them take a bigger step and have their best year ever, period. So beating 2022 was previously their best year. And again, selling across the spectrum of technology, not just what they were comfortable in talking about. Awesome. Love it. Love that story. Final couple thoughts here. I do want to say, took five conversations to get them there. And that’s understandable too. Again, it’s changing that muscle memory, changing that behavior. It wasn’t just like a one conversation, epiphany. It was multiple times of them wanting to change and bringing it up multiple. Like, we know we have to do this. We don’t have to, but this is our hurdle. And so once we overcame that hurdle together, it took off. Yeah. And it’s repetition from both sides, right? It’s repetition from us helping coach on here’s what we see other people doing. If you do this, this will be successful, but it’s also repetition and muscle memory for the partner sometimes, right? Maybe this is a new muscle memory for you. You’ve got to do it two, three, four, five, however many times until you get comfortable with this is just a new process I’ve got to develop. And I’m equally proud of this. Another one that happened where there’s a partner who actually sells in the cloud space more than anything else. They weren’t selling any, any other products. And I always asked him like, why wouldn’t you, if you have this, yeah, seemingly one of the, the more you’re trusting app they’re trusting with applications and infrastructure and all of these mission critical things, why wouldn’t you leverage that to take advantage of some other technology areas? So we, we saw some other partners start to expand into more network, more security, more CX and go back to their same customers. And now they’re 10 products deep versus two. And that’s what I love to see because that stickiness comes across the board in your, in that’s healthier for all of us. Oh, for sure. Customers coming to you for everything. Absolutely. That’s what we all want. So, so let’s, we touched on this a little bit with AI. So I don’t want to steal any thunder, but if you just look ahead, as we think out, you know, 12 months, anything new or different that we haven’t talked about that you see coming down the pipe from a cloud innovation perspective that you want our partners to be aware of this. There’s continuing development of getting to that one thing I need quicker than I’ve ever been able to get to you think about the evolution of cloud infrastructure versus move yourself into our stuff. We’ll take care of it for you. Then it’s, we let’s take a server and then we start to piece off this and that and we chop it up, chop it up. But we’re giving the customers this flexibility to have agile movement in and out of different environments. You see that with containerization. I believe you’re going to continue to see this more development mindset from a developer standpoint towards infrastructure versus traditional infrastructure. It’s been going that way for a number of years. That’s going to continue. I think it’s going to accelerate because of some of these things with AI and some of the other components that are coming out. It’s going to make a lot of companies looking go, are we positioned to keep up competitively in this landscape? And if not, what do we have to do? And you’re going to see a lot of modernization. A lot of people that were kind of still put a bandaid on COVID. Now they’re coming out, they’re coming back and going, did we do this the right way? Or what can we do differently? And of course, the number one thing, I haven’t even seen the reports, but I can tell you because it’s been that way for like five or six years in a row, cost optimization is going to continue to be the hot topic in 2024. But if you turn that conversation into tech debt and in FinOps versus let me save you money, I think it’s a more intelligent way to attack it. And we’re going to be talking a lot about that and trainings and conversations for our advisors as well. Yeah, no, it’s a good point. I mean, you think about what we were talking about this yesterday, looking at some of the quarterly reports from some of the publicly traded cloud companies, right? And just Oracle themselves did 10 billion plus in just the management of XYZ infrastructure license. So that’s just Oracle who’s got a much smaller segment of the overall cloud landscape. So much opportunity out there for everybody. Yeah, that’s going to be the story for the foreseeable future. Yeah. Okay, so final thoughts here. I don’t know what a hat of a CIO looks like, but imagine I’m putting on a CIO’s hat for a second. So I’m the business. We’ve got some businesses, some partners are steering their customers to this, and they’re kind of listening, understanding the resources and how we approach technology. So if I’m a business, I’m listening to this, and I’m thinking about a cloud migration, or maybe just optimizing my existing infrastructure. What are the pitfalls that you would tell me, the customer, to avoid, or just key considerations to keep this whatever migration I’m going to try to do in 2024 going smooth? I’d say keep an open mind to leveraging best of breed type of approach, meaning what can I do internally versus what I can’t? And how do I bring in somebody that can extend my team or collaborate? How do I put myself in a position to accelerate what I’m doing and optimize? Now, I’m using a lot of marketing type words, but if I’m really sitting there, I’m looking at it, and I’m like, how can I get this done faster and more efficiently than ever? And does that mean leveraging what I have internally, leveraging resources outside my organization that can come in and collaborate effectively and drive it? And how do I hold the organization accountable to hard deadlines that don’t hold my company hostage if we don’t hit? Think about how many companies are held hostage by IT resources and projects. Hey, we could go faster, we could be more efficient in this division. Oh, it’s with IT right now. And that’s a backlog of 3, 6, 9, 12 months. So I would have to take a hard look at my entire ecosystem of what my team’s holding back the organization. Sometimes that’s a harsh way to look at it. But I think if I’m an ICIO, that’s the right way to approach it. And then what do I got to do to remedy some of these things? And who can I leverage? Who can I trust to come in and help drive these initiatives with me and get them done faster? And I’m thinking of two things always. Application optimization, the stuff I’m already paying for, am I utilizing it? Is the organization utilizing it like what we should be? An operational optimization? Do I have the right resources? Are they leveraged the correct way? And are we driving to the results that the organization needs? Love it. Okay. Great thoughts. Good stuff, man. All right, buddy. Thanks for coming on again with me, Koby Yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Okay, everybody. That wraps us up for this week. As we finish up unlocking cloud potential strategies for 2024 and beyond. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto SVP of Sales and Engineering, Koby VP of cloud. Until next time. Next Level BizTech has been a production of Telarus Studio 19. Please visit for more information.