As seen on CRN

By Mark Haranas

With hybrid work here to stay, NWN Carousel CEO Jim Sullivan explains five hot customer buying trends, needs and strategies that are driving hybrid work sales.

Cloud communications and hybrid work all-star NWN Carousel is approaching $1 billion in revenue as annual sales have continued to grow at a double-digit rate over the past several years thanks to the vision of Jim Sullivan.

“The six offerings that we’re driving in North America represents a $100 billion market,” said Sullivan, president and CEO of NWN Carousel in an interview with CRN. “I see the best companies performing in a balanced hybrid work route.”

“The major trend is really hybrid work over remote work or full-time back in the office,” Sullivan said. “When COVID happened, I sort of viewed everyone working from home and get people set up was almost like a triage situation for several months. Then what we’ve seen over the past few years is everyone architecting new systems. We’re still really early in this hybrid work infrastructure deployment, which includes cloud communications and cloud solutions around that.”

NWN Carousel

Before jumping into some of the hottest hybrid work and cloud communication trends Sullivan is witnessing in the market, it’s important to note that NWN Carousel is a top-notch national cloud communication service provider focused on transforming the customer and employee hybrid work experience.

NWN Carousel has won various vendor partner awards including several Cisco Partner of the Year awards as well as Microsoft Teams partner of the year in 2022. The Waltham, Mass.-based company made CRN’s prestigious Elite 150 list that identifies industry-leading solution providers in North America driving growth and innovation for the channel with a forward-thinking approach in areas such as managed services. The over 5,000-customer strong company provides integrated unified communications and collaboration, cybersecurity, contact center, managed devices and networking—all powered by NWN’s proprietary Experience Management Platform (EMP).

CEO Jim Sullivan has nearly three decades of experience in the IT industry including holding executive roles at EMC and IBM, as well as being president of software data management pioneer Actifio, which was acquired by Google.

In an interview with CRN, Sullivan talks about hot trends in the hybrid workforce, cloud communications and new security launches that businesses of all shapes and sizes should know about.

Productivity Is Key To Hybrid Work Decisions

Sullivan said one of the biggest trends in how businesses select a hybrid work strategy revolves around how to successfully drive employee productivity.

“Businesses need to attract and keep the best employees. People really drive employee engagement so they can have healthy relationships and the right focus. So not everyone’s off working on an island isolated, which is not that productive and not that healthy eventually,” said Sullivan.

“I think the best companies are really trying to have the balance of hybrid, for the sake of you’re trying to get people together,” he said. “So it may not necessarily be coming into the office. It might be meeting at customer sites, company events, industry events, but trying to have people together. I would recognize, and I think a lot of people would recognize, that everything is more productive when people are together. People work really well together.”

However, it’s also productive to eliminate unnecessary in-person visits and to cut down traveling.

“It’s also really productive to eliminate two-hour commutes, eliminate unnecessary meetings, eliminate unnecessary time and travel, where we can all be much more productive working in a hybrid situation,” said Sullivan.

“I see the best companies performing in a balanced hybrid work route,” he said. “To bring people in five days a week for the sake of, you just want them in the office, is not that productive either.”

Hybrid Work More Common Than Fully Remote Or Full-Time Office

With over 5,000 predominantly enterprise customers across the U.S., Sullivan says most businesses are currently implementing a hybrid work strategy versus a fully remote or full-time back-in-office approach.

“Right now, the major trend is really hybrid work over remote work or full-time back in the office,” Sullivan said. “When COVID happened, I sort of viewed everyone working from home and get people set up, was almost like a triage situation for several months. Then what we’ve seen over the past few years, is everyone architecting new systems. I think we’re still really early in this hybrid work infrastructure deployment, which includes cloud communications and cloud solutions around that.”

Sullivan points out that his company’s portfolio mix and offerings has shifted to accommodate this customer trend of hybrid work versus fully in-person or remote.

“Our solution mixes have grown really well,” he said. “Our pipeline has grown. Obviously, our revenues have grown.”

Companies With A Hybrid Workforce Flock To The Cloud; On-Prem Capabilities Need To Be Correctly Replicated

NWN Carousel has witnessed an “acceleration of solutions moving to the cloud” including for hybrid work, communications and for contact center.

“There was a lot of software capabilities and business capabilities that resided on-premise. Now that these technologies are moving to the cloud, but for capabilities that were required—like analytics, and fault correlation, and business analysis of my environments and different environments—that capability needs to be replicated the correct way in the cloud,” said Sullivan.

NWN Carousel’s CEO said businesses are searching for a one-stop-shop and single pane of glass view of all their cloud analytics and analysis, which is why the company’s Experience Management Platform (EMP) is gaining “incredible” market adoption.

“So you’re in the cloud and you have all these different environments, different technologies,” he said. “A customer right now wants to have that single pane of glass that they can leverage and use.”

One Single Pane Of Glass Drives Hybrid Workforce Sales, Customer Success

As more businesses select cloud communication solutions and work in a hybrid model, customers are begging for a single pane of glass solution for visibility and analytics to solve their business needs.

On top of its products and services, NWN Carousel has developed its own Software-as-a-service (SaaS) management platform, dubbed EMP, which manages all environments for a customer.

“With all the vendor products out there, the most important thing is it’s all seamless to the customer. The customer just wants one full solution across everything,” said Sullivan. “Because it’s all coming back into our EMP platform, we’re managing and deploying heterogeneous solutions for them. So it’s a security solution for them—whether it’s in the endpoint, going to the network on top of telecommunications, to everything that we’re really deploying. That’s why having one management platform across all these technologies, in security and an infrastructure, is critical.”

NWN Carousel doesn’t see itself as a traditional channel partner anymore.

“We’re almost more like a SaaS, technology-enabled services company than anything like a channel partner company,” he said. “From all the technologies that we’ve developed as part of these overall solutions and in how we’ve moved our model.”

Cybersecurity Is Critical

Another big trend in hybrid cloud is just how much customers are focused on cybersecurity protection as many employees work from anywhere on their laptop or other devices. Securing hybrid workforces across independent environments and all domains and technologies, is critical to customer success.

“Security is so important to everybody as everyone’s kind of going into these next generation systems in the cloud, and also having to adapt to where employees with a device could be anywhere. So then the network could be anywhere,” Sullivan said.

To drive sales and customer success, NWN Carousel launched this month a new Secure Hybrid Work Assessment to provide customers with the ability to understand and improve their levels of protection against cyber threats. The company also launched its Next-Generation Firewall Services to provide customers with additional levels of network security as they enable employees to work from anywhere.

“Someone’s only going to be as strong as their weakest link. So if you have the devices secure, but then it’s going into a different or unsecured network, it’s not going to work for you. People can be at home, they could be in the office, they could be anywhere,” said Sullivan. “We’re very focused on security for the applications and environments that we are deploying.”