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Transforming for the Future: How Pulsant modernized and digitally transformed its organization to stay relevant in a cloud-first world

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From Pulsant to AMP; establishing a modern brand

The advent of public cloud technology coupled with a dramatic shift to Platform as a Service- (PaaS) and Security as a Service- (SaaS) based business models has created an uncertain environment, where traditional hosting service providers need to rethink and transform their business to stay relevant in the marketplace.

Pulsant, a long-time hosting partner and colocation services provider, was quicker than most in recognizing the need to transform their business to keep pace with shifting demand. Over the last two years, some of its own customers had stopped renewing their contracts entirely, while others began reaching out to Pulsant asking for help moving their workloads to the cloud. Seeing the writing on the wall, Pulsant registered as a CSP partner and began their transformation in earnest.

Pulsant decided that it wasn’t enough to simply pivot its offerings–it needed to create a new brand presence that could represent this transformation. Ultimately, Pulsant chose to subsume their Azure services and hybrid cloud solutions together underneath a single, unified brand, and thus AMP was born.


Building a transformative brand with Microsoft

As Pulsant was beginning to build its AMP brand, Microsoft introduced it to strategic positioning and go-to-market agency Paal15, a Microsoft partner specialized in facilitating digital transformations. Following a Microsoft-sponsored session in the US, Microsoft, Pulsant, and Paal15 began the process of building the AMP brand from the ground up.

“We began establishing our messaging and defining what our core solution sets might look like. In the span of a few months, we had Microsoft engineering teams, UK partner marketing teams, corporate industry teams, Paal15 and ourselves working to lock down our pricing, branding, go-to-market strategy and training programs.” – Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant


Transforming your sales organization

Aligning on its brand was only part of the equation. Pulsant also needed to go about the process of transforming its sales force. Knowing that it could be difficult for its existing sales organization to make such a radical shift on its own, Pulsant hired a group of new cloud salespeople to lead by example.

“Rather than simply waiting for our old sales force to get caught up, we hired several eager, young, cloud-savvy salespeople to help kick-start the process. This new sales force was able to accurately articulate the value of our Azure services in the marketplace, and their significant success early on set a great example for our existing salespeople. Additionally, we restructured our entire sales organizations’ compensation structure to incentivize the solutions we wanted to sell, allowing them to earn more by selling Microsoft cloud solutions.” – Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant.

When asked what key learnings would prove most crucial for other Microsoft partners undergoing their own digital transformations, Nielsen-Marsh identified three key takeaways.


The three keys to enacting your own digital transformation

1: Secure executive sponsorship

For partners looking to transform their organization, it is critical to secure executive sponsorship. When discussing Pulsant/AMP’s transition to becoming a CSP partner, Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy for Pulsant, was bullish on the need for absolute buy-in and sponsorship at the highest level, stating:

“If you are going on this journey to become a successful CSP partner, the number one thing you need to do before anything else is to secure executive sponsorship at the absolute highest level. Without that, it is not worth embarking on the journey in the first place–the amount of restructuring required in a successful transformation needs to be driven from the board level down or it won’t happen” – Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant

2: Find your “secret sauce”

When looking to undergo a major digital transformation, it is crucial to identify the unique differentiator your organization brings to the market, and then develop a selling proposition for your sales force. Nielsen-Marsh says:

“Customers will often ask partners ‘why you?’ and maybe the partner says ‘we have been in business for 20 years,’ or ‘we have the best people.’ The fact is, competitors will almost always say the same thing. We find that often some of the ‘why you?’ statements companies come up with are really ‘me too’ statements.”

Pulsant knew it had to sell Azure, but it also knew that simply adding Azure to its portfolio and telling its sellers to start pitching it to customers weren't nearly enough to differentiate itself.

Coming from the hosting and colocation space, Pulsant knew that it could marry this existing expertise with Azure to develop a specialization in hybrid cloud.

“Knowing that we didn’t want to sell everything, we looked inward and asked ourselves what our specialty could be. We knew we were good at hybrid cloud–we were good at connecting one cloud to another and we were good at the security and governance work that make those hybrid deployments possible.” – Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant

If you are going on this journey to become a successful CSP partner, the number one thing you need to do before anything else is to secure executive sponsorship at the absolute highest level. Without that, it is not worth embarking on the journey in the first place...

– Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant

3: Continue to evolve

As businesses adapt to the latest shifting trends in technology, the only constant is change. Pulsant’s efforts to develop AMP as a unique brand encompassing its new Azure hybrid cloud offerings is only the first step towards maintaining relevance in the marketplace. Having only recently started to realize the payoff of its first model, Pulsant is already proactively working to improve its offerings well as its sales and marketing strategy.

“Just as we launched the first iteration of our AMP brand, we are now going through the second evolution. Just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean the work is finished–there must be a dynamic, evolving picture. If there are people who don’t want to come on the journey with you, be prepared to say goodbye to them.” – Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant


Outcomes

In just its first year, AMP is projected to bring in USD1.3-2 million, surpassing Pulsant’s targeted goal, all while having precipitated the development of a new, cloud-focused sales force and the company-wide development of crucial managed services and cloud support skills. Pulsant’s new brand and hybrid cloud focus also enable it to increase its customer engagement opportunity, allowing for longer engagements with ~30 percent greater revenue returns.

For Pulsant’s customer base, a list that includes Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) developing line of business (LOB) applications for oil and gas, Pulsant’s shift to developing and offering reliable hybrid cloud services can provide a new foundation to improve its own offerings–the hybrid cloud infrastructure ensures that sensitive data can be held securely in private datacenters, while their applications benefit from the hyperscale technology afforded by modern cloud solutions. Pulsant estimates that this could cut the time needed to perform data modelling in one of its customer’s LOB applications from between two-three weeks to just two days.

Since the launch of AMP in March 2017, Pulsant has increased its CSP numbers by 40 percent and has seen increased traction across previously untapped markets with potentially larger deals and higher margins. Its success is a testament to its courage in investing fully in its own transformation, and is an example to other hosting partners looking to keep up with an ever-changing marketplace.

Just as we launched the first iteration of our AMP brand, we are now going through the second evolution. Just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean the work is finished—there must be a dynamic, evolving picture.

– Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant

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