As an increasing number of enterprises embrace a cloud-based model, CIO and IT teams are grappling with problems of a different sort: how to manage services instead of equipment in a dynamic user environment.

At the same time, software companies themselves are transitioning from the traditional license and maintenance model to one based on subscriptions. According to Gartner, all new vendors and more than 80 percent of historical software vendors will adapt to this new model by 2020. “What began as a trickle a few years ago has become a stampede of vendors wanting to make a move to a subscription business model,” says Laurie Wurster, research director at Gartner.

The benefits of usage-based subscription models for software vendors are clear: in addition to allowing a more agile deployment cycle and ensuring better “version control” across all users, usage-based subscriptions allow them more flexibility in monetizing the software by offering such options as pay-as-you-go and concurrent licenses.

There are also significant end user benefits; the model allows customers to scale services up and down according to their actual usage without significant upfront cost. But it’s also a multifaceted process that is causing significant confusion among IT and channel leaders, who are often left asking “how do we manage all these new subscriptions?”

Partners can help cut through the chaos by having a deep understanding of all the user models available to today’s enterprises, specifically perpetual licenses vs. subscription services. The right partner will have already operationalized its organization for selling subscriptions and can help align a company’s adoption metrics and utilization to map out the different offerings. This exercise will ensure they are capitalizing on their investments to achieve the best possible return on investment (ROI) and lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

They’ll also have comprehensive knowledge of the different line of business (LOB) requirements for specific business application across a variety of markets and will be up-to-date on emerging application in verticals such as healthcare and finance to better educate their customers on the best options for their business. This includes tying in their specific business applications into their collaboration toolkits.

Technology, Simplified

Another element in play in this dynamic environment is the technology itself. The good news: there are more capabilities than ever emerging in spaces like next-generation meetings. Artificial intelligence has moved into the conference room in a big way and is reshaping the way companies work. Technology advancements such as facial recognition, voice assistants who assign action items, the ability to instantly locate and pull in experts to a meeting—are all imminent capabilities from vendors in the next-gen meetings space.

The bad news: there are more capabilities than ever for IT leaders to manage. Software vendors are working to make the technology transparent to the end user, simplifying the experience throughout and streamlining functionalities across product lines for a better user experience. Cisco, for example, earlier this year integrated its collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark and Cisco WebEx under the Webex brand for Meetings and Teams and streamlined the user interface so that no matter where users join from, they have a consistent user experience. However, IT managers still need to keep on top of the latest technologies and determine what new features might be beneficial to their users—or rely on a partner to do that on their behalf.

Any collaboration technology decision is based on choosing the right tools, and flexible collaboration plans with usage-based subscriptions allow organizations to move to the cloud at their own pace, turning on new features as the business need arises rather than flipping a switch.

This new flexible collaboration environment has led to the rise of a new role within the industry: the customer success manager. Customer success managers are the bridge between the old world and the new, but then forge a new path, helping not only transition companies from on-premises hardware and software to the cloud, but also helping them capitalize on investing in the best solutions and managing through their lifecycle to deliver the highest ROI and lowest TCO. They’re on top of the latest technologies to understand what new features are right for individual organization at any stage in their lifecycle, training them on how to maximize those tools and features, and constantly helping the customer evolve so they achieve the best ROI.

As all parts of the industry evolve, its more complex for IT managers to stay up to the minute on the changes occurring. Transactional type sales have given way to usage-based subscriptions, technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and vertical market tools also need to be integrated into the solutions mix. Partners that can simplify processes and technology, and consistently help organizations evolve throughout all stages of a product’s lifecycle, are best poised to help their customers succeed.