ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • Southwest Region Goes From Worst to First in Overall Revenue Growth

    by Robert Dutt  | November 05, 2013
    This guest blog entry was written by Robert Dutt of Channelnomics. What a difference a year makes. In the 2012 Ingram Micro SMB 500 tally, solution providers in the southwest region were last in terms of overall revenue growth. The region still grew at 173.53 percent over 2011, but that number was the lowest regional growth rate around the country for partners in the Ingram Micro SMB 500, a program facilitated by The 2112 Group. A year later, the southwest region – Arizona, New Mexico ...
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  • U.S. vs. UK: A Tale of Two MSP Markets

    by Larry Walsh  | November 04, 2013
    This guest blog entry was written by Larry Walsh of Channelnomics. The U.S. managed services market is more established and mature than our cousins in the UK. However, the British channel is taking a more balanced approach to the evolution of managed services, according to a new study. “The State of Managed Services” study conducted by The 2112 Group and CRN UK finds solution providers in the British Isles are about two to three years behind their U.S. counterparts in the adoption an ...
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  • Congress, CompTIA Continue to Consider Tax Reform

    by Lamar Whitman  | November 04, 2013
    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has again noted his support for tax reform. In a statement released on October 30, Baucus emphasized the need for corporate tax reform, citing examples of companies that have re-incorporated in lower tax jurisdictions such as Ireland. He stated that he would work on parallel tracks with both the newly formed Budget Conference Committee, as well through the Finance Committee. Similarly, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has continue ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Crowdsourcing is an Innovative Way to Finance Business Expansion

    by Brian Sherman  | November 04, 2013
    Building a successful IT services business isn’t easy. But perhaps it shouldn’t be or everyone would be doing it should it, further commoditizing the market and reducing revenue opportunities. Some of the most skilled technology professionals have seen the organizations they worked so hard to get off the ground fail after just a few months (or, if they’re lucky, a few years). The root cause for those misfortunes is rarely traced back to a lack of IT capabilities, but more often ...
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  • Promote Computer Science by Hosting an Hour of Code Event

    by Emily Matzelle  | October 31, 2013
    Knowledge of computer science (CS) is likely to help you get a job, but the actual numbers behind this are even more encouraging: New programming jobs are growing three times faster than the number of students entering the field. More than 50 percent of all math and science jobs are for computer scientists. Computer science jobs are the highest-paying jobs for new graduates. Software powers our economy, but less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a CS degree. That means there a ...
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  • Vendors, Partners Give Mediocre Grades on Channel Performance

    by Larry Walsh  | October 31, 2013
    This guest blog entry was written by Larry Walsh of Channelnomics. Vendors and solution providers give critical areas of channel operations and performance mediocre grades in the inaugural Channel Perceptions: Vendors vs. Partners Report by The 2112 Group, finding the channel to be an underperforming go-to-market system for sales and technical support. Vendors and solution providers have strong opinions about the value and performance of the channel. Vendors see solution providers as an int ...
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  • Burnt Partners to Vendors: We’ll Make You Pay for Channel Conflict

    by Larry Walsh  | October 30, 2013
    This guest blog entry was written by Larry Walsh of Channelnomics. Generally speaking, solution providers understand that conflict with their vendor’s direct sales teams will happen occasionally. But, poor channel conflict management that makes the problem chronic will cause them to take actions that ultimately cost their vendors money, according to the Second Annual Channel Conflict Report by the 2112 Group. One-third of solution providers say they will drop a vendor that poorly manages c ...
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  • Why EU Privacy Laws Should Matter to U.S. Tech Companies

    by Matthew Starr  | October 29, 2013
    The European Union’s movement towards stricter privacy rules has the potential to affect any American company involved in data collection and storage, even those that have no connection to Europe at all. Last Monday, the EU took the next step towards strengthening its data protection laws when the Civil Liberties Committee voted to approve new, stricter privacy regulations on how companies collect, store and share data on European citizens. The full European Parliament is expected to vote ...
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  • How Can Crowdfunding Raise Capital for My Company?

    by Lamar Whitman  | October 28, 2013
    Please join us on Wednesday, November 6, at 2:00 p.m. ET to learn more about the new crowdfunding rules just released by the SEC. These new rules will implement the crowdfunding provisions of the “JOBS Act,” which permits a company to raise up to $1 million during a 12-month period. Generally, investors who have an annual income and net worth under $100,000 would be allowed to invest the greater of $2,000 or 5 percent of income during a 12-month period. Investors who have either net ...
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  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework Continues to Evolve

    by Randi Parker  | October 25, 2013
    After a slight delay due to the government shutdown, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a draft cybersecurity framework that sets voluntary standards and guidelines. As you may recall, this framework was required under the President’s “Executive Order on Cybersecurity” that Obama issued in February 2013. The framework is the result of four different workshops that were held around the country in which NIST consulted with industry and governme ...
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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

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