What does it take to thrive during the digital transformation? Raj Dhingra, CEO of CloudVelox says it comes down to really mastering three things we've been talking about in the channel for decades: differentiation, dynamism and domain expertise. We wanted to know a little more, so we invited him in to talk about his "Three Ds" philosophy.

The VAR Guy: What are some of the biggest shifts you've seen over the last 20-plus years in this space?

Raj: The big change that's occurred in the IT landscape over the last five to 10 years...well, it's been unprecendented. It's pretty much restructured what customers buy, what they consumer, how they buy it. There's a lot of disruption--digital transformation, changes on the data center side, the cloud...all of these are really disrupting the entire IT landscape. The incumbents have to rethink and re-approach their business strategies because the newer players with their cloud offerings are fundamentally changing how IT is consumed. That's the main difference: IT is thinking now not about what they build, but about what they consume. That's a pretty dramatic transformation.

TVG: How does this changing technology affect the way that the business ecosystem of IT works? What do partners need to do to compete?

Raj: It comes down to what I call the three Ds: being dynamic, having differentiation, and having domain expertise, either around verticals or technology stacks. The pace of innovation in the data center since the advent of cloud is so much faster. If you look back at AWS's announcements in 2016, they claimed they announced a thousand new services in an entire year. That's practically three new services per day!

So partners who maybe in the past were focused on selling a particular type of a box or software capability need to change along with a couple of trends. One is how people are buying, and second is what they're buying.  It's no longer the tradition of you selling a particular hardware or software solution, then maintenance, then a three to four year refresh cycle. That's completely changed because with the cloud, the refresh cycle and support and maintenance is actually occurring behind the curtain. Channel partners need to adapt because the rate of change that's causing this disruption is very, very high. The way customers want to consume infrastructure, as a service, is different. They need to provide the right value, the right role in this buying and supporting process.

TVG: How does that affect business models?

Raj: It comes in on the second D, the domain side. If you were to go back a few years to a conference hosted by Citrix or VMware, the type of partners that used to participate in those types of conferences are quite different from the partners you're going to see at, say, Amazon's Reinvent. These partners are starting to specialize in the type of capability and value they want to offer. Maybe some of them are becoming more focused on helping with cloud adoption. Some of them might be more focused on helping customers with building brand new applications for the cloud. Some maybe focused on data warehousing or machine intelligence. These are different types of technology capabilities that customers are trying to consume, and partners are starting to specialize in. That means they need to build those competencies.

All of this really leads to "what domain expertise are you building?" You can have a vertical specialization, or a horizontal, technical specialization. Those are ways people are rethinking how they're going to approach the market. So I can become someone that delivers a managed cloud on AWS that can provide, say, HIPAA compliance to particular customers. Now I'm helping take that part over for that customer and delivering that as a service.

TVG: What about your third D--differentiation?

Listen to Raj's answer below.

TVG: What about when it comes to the nitty gritty business of selling? Any words of advice?

Raj: Most enterprise IT folks we've been working with and talking to, they are looking for help. I think there's an overwhelming amount of information to conquer for enterprise IT when it comes to how we go to the Cloud. So, I think maybe two years ago people were saying, "Is the Cloud ready?" Now, they're asking, "Are we ready for the Cloud?"

The ideal solution is actually working with a partner. The partner can come in and provide the expertise and say, "I will take a look at what you have; I will help you select what going to be appropriate for the cloud; I will help you select what's the right cloud to go to; and I can actually help you, from a technological perspective, be able to make this operational. In fact, not just make it operational, but realize ongoing and additional value."

I think these are going to be much deeper and tighter engagements. They start with where you, perhaps, can get the fastest time to value, and then continuing to engage with the customer, providing them, on an ongoing basis, the expertise. If I try my three D's together: It's bringing the domain expertise, being the person that can trust, making the right decision, the neutral decision, rather than being biased by any particular cloud provider or renderer. It's about providing the differentiation around the actual business value. And then it's someone that's going to keep track of what the changes are. Amazon's not going to sit still, and neither is Azure. How do I make sure that my partner is going to help me make sure I'm up to speed?

TVG: Any last words of advice for partners?

Listen to Raj's answer below.