ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • Cloud Opportunities and Disparities Take Center Stage at ITSS Canada

    by Brian Sherman  | December 02, 2013
    Many like to consider Canada and the U.S. as a single entity when it comes to economics and trade, as well as a number of other lifestyle and business considerations. After all, the two countries share similar lineages and inhabit the same continent. Of course, those who have spent time in Canada understand that it has its own strong political and economic identity, not to mention distinct provinces and territories, each with its own unique challenges and opportunities. It’s a beautiful co ...
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  • Patent Reform Legislation Heats Up on the Hill

    by Matthew L. Evans  | November 26, 2013
    Last week, in Congress, the patent reform debate kicked into high gear with the movement of several bills aimed at curbing abusive patent litigation. In the House Judiciary Committee, “the Innovation Act” (HR 3309), which was introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) last month, went through the markup process on Wednesday. The final strong bi-partisan vote of 33 to 5 sent the bill to the House floor. During markup, Goodlatte’s own manager’s amendmen ...
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  • From Buzzword to Maturity: Too Late to Get Into the Cloud Game?

    by Seth Robinson  | November 26, 2013
    You can argue that some of the ideas behind cloud computing aren’t new. Different models such as client-server computing or time sharing have used some of the same concepts. But the cloud model is unique and disruptive, and we have recently witnessed a strong acceleration of this trend toward maturity. In our latest edition of “Trends in Cloud Computing,” we show that today’s cloud has quickly evolved from a hopelessly overused buzzword into a permanent new technology mod ...
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  • IT Workforce Idea Exchange: What’s Happening in Your Backyard?

    by Randi Parker  | November 25, 2013
    On Wednesday, November 20, CompTIA hosted a webinar focused on workforce initiatives that are working. The thinking here is to look at what is not being done, instead of analyzing the successes and whether or not those successes can be scalable. We were fortunate to have three excellent speakers: Angel Pinero, senior vice president at ASI System Integration (and a CompTIA member); Heather Kenyon, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (a TechVoice partner organization); and Eric Lar ...
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  • House Spectrum Hearing Illuminates the Path to Faster, More Robust Wi-Fi

    by Matthew Starr  | November 21, 2013
    After last week’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Challenges and Opportunities in the 5 GHz Spectrum Band,” we have a much better sense of what the future holds for this proceeding. The FCC has heard from dozens of stakeholders on this issue through public comments and meetings and is expected to issue the first set of new rules for the 5 GHz spectrum band sometime early next year. There seemed to be a consensus on some of the less controversial aspects of this ...
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  • ChannelTrends: The Ever-Increasing Value of Top-Notch IT Security Skills

    by Brian Sherman  | November 21, 2013
    Over the past few years, hackers and other cyber-miscreants have managed to create a never-ending list of ways to attack both private and commercial networks and computer infrastructure. Their activities not only slow down systems and disrupt critical operations, but often lead to more serious crimes such as identity theft and corporate espionage. By all indications, the threats are multiplying and becoming much more difficult to neutralize or remove. Of course, those unknowns create more opport ...
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  • Why Are We Still Talking About Security?

    by Seth Robinson  | November 14, 2013
    Security may not be as hyped as other tech trends like cloud computing, mobility or Big Data, but several CompTIA research studies have shown that it remains a top priority for businesses among a wide range of IT initiatives. However, that may not necessarily translate into businesses having a robust security posture or knowing which steps to take as they explore new technology models. CompTIA’s Eleventh Annual Information Security Trends study examines the areas that may need closer atten ...
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  • 5 GHz Spectrum Band Offers Immense Possibilities for SMBs

    by Matthew Starr  | November 12, 2013
    On Wednesday, November 13, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Challenges and Opportunities in the 5 GHz Spectrum Band.” The hearing will look at making an additional 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band available for unlicensed use. If the government makes this spectrum available, it could result in incredible advances in Wi-Fi such as faster speeds, less congestion and availability in more places, all of which could have a significant impact on SM ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Building an Advanced Managed Services Practice

    by Brian Sherman  | November 12, 2013
    With many managed services providers admitting that their technology skills are far deeper than their business acumen, the processes required to create those critical organizational development plans may be quite unfamiliar. The talents essential to build and sustain these IT companies can be quite diverse, so MSPs either have to undergo training to acquire those capabilities or hire new employees with those specific proficiencies. Regardless of the method they adopt, those consistent investment ...
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  • CMIT Solutions Relies on CompTIA Research to Launch New Products

    by Emily Matzelle  | November 05, 2013
    When you’re responsible for not only understanding the problems that plague small businesses but also identifying solutions, where can you turn to for dependable data? Cindy Phillips, director of product management for CMIT Solutions, turns to CompTIA research. CMIT Solutions – a CompTIA member since 2010 – protects small businesses by proactively managing what matters most; the technical infrastructure that keeps business running. “Ask any small business owner what happe ...
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Remote monitoring and management tools have been available to channel companies for quite some time. Just last week, a friend of mine sent me a link to the first article I ever wrote on managed services — from almost a decade ago — to congratulate me on 10 years of covering this industry-changing topic. Though it was just a brief mention from the former Gartner System Builders’ Summit and VARVision show, the Business Solutions magazine piece reminded me just how much the channel has changed since my conversations at that event.

Early MSPs often emphasized the unique technological traits of managed services software and typically highlighted the automated features specific to each client application. Of course, today’s solution providers are more apt to leave out a lot of the speeds and feeds of their services portfolio and concentrate more of their customer discussions on addressing specific business needs. While the tools are perhaps an even more important part of the equation, the real money comes from helping clients address more of their long-term organizational challenges and goals.

Managed services have forced channel companies to undergo a major transition, encouraging traditional VARs to upend many of their former practices to better serve their customers. The proactive nature of remote monitoring and management contrasts significantly with the reactive response of a break-fix model. Where the latter often depends on the customer to report problems or determine when they need upgrades, the MSP has to be more engaged in their clients’ daily operations. Networks, applications and computing equipment are no longer the central focus. Process improvement, compliance and security have taken over the conversation and providers must be capable of engaging in those types of discussions to survive. If an MSP doesn’t have what it takes to create solutions that meet or exceed their customers’ current and future business needs, their long-term viability is definitely questionable.

Whether it’s an IT services company or a small-town restaurant, every organization has to adapt to change or its chances for survival will diminish measurably. That’s the principle reasoning behind many of CompTIA’s initiatives over the past few years, and the CompTIA Managed Services community has championed a significant number of projects to help providers adapt to the changing business landscape. The group has played an instrumental role in developing resources and training programs designed to improve MSPs’ organizational best practices. The Managed Services community has a laser-like focus on business skill development, strengthening the foundation that providers need to close more sales and to forge deeper, enduring customer relationships.

Managed Services Businesses: A Look to the Future

Continuing with that tradition, the group recently reached out to current and former members to learn more about their business and professional interests, and to gather suggestions for future initiatives. Based on the online survey responses, managed services professionals would like to focus more of the community’s efforts on operational management, sales and executive management topics. Each was ranked number one by 18 percent of respondents, with marketing (13 percent) and customer service (10 percent) not far behind. Contrast those results with technical operations, which only received 5 percent of the first place votes. While MSPs are highly dependent on their computer and networking skills, the survey validates need for greater IT business education and support.

Which topics are most valuable to managed services professionals? Based on the survey, 73 percent would like more help nurturing opportunities with long sales cycles. More than half of the respondents would like to discuss ways to improve their sales appointments and how to create more effective proposals. In the age of solution selling, those are both critical skills for any MSP.

On the marketing front, 82 percent of the respondents would like to discuss general advertising and promotional concepts, as well as website best practices. Again, MSPs indicate a greater need for business preparation and skills development than technology enablement. That theme was prevalent throughout the community’s survey. From building a customer service culture and improving project management capabilities to developing a win-win relationship with vendors, managed services professionals recognize the organizational talents they need to prosper.    

That’s a big part of the motivation behind most of the nine collaborative CompTIA communities in the U.S., Canada and the UK. While the Advancing Women in IT group has a slightly different mission — empowering women with the knowledge and skills necessary to help their pursuit of successful IT careers — the others are strongly dedicated to business-enhancement. Surveys such as the one completed by the Managed Services Community help members validate their current initiatives and give them a greater incentive for creating new ones. Most of all, these activities keep them focused on the task at hand: collaboration for the greater good of the IT industry.

If you’re interested in getting involved in a current managed services initiative or just looking to learn more about the latest resources and programs for IT services, get in touch with the CompTIA community team. There are plenty of great ideas to be had.

Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.

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