ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • Do You Understand the New Decision Makers’ Needs?

    by Brian Sherman  | April 23, 2014
    Society and technology are evolving faster than our ability to adapt. That point was strongly emphasized by Bob Humphreys in his presentation that helped kick off the recent CompTIA IT Services and Support Community meeting in Woodbridge, Ontario, just north of Toronto. The leader of Demand Programs and Digital Strategy for IBM Canada underscored how technology has become the most important external force that impacts today’s businesses. Back in the day, most businesses used IT for process ...
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  • Freeing up More Unlicensed Spectrum Would Benefit Consumers, Companies

    by Cameron Camp  | April 22, 2014
    As a wireless internet service provider (WISP) in a rural, sawmill region of Oregon, IV Data Center is the last frontier when it comes to serving areas other ISPs can’t or won’t serve. We help bridge the digital divide for the most underserved customers in the country. Our company, also known as Illinois Valley Data Center, serves Josephine County, Ore., which consistently ranks as the second poorest county in the state. The small lumber mill region has seen its industry decimated o ...
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  • CompTIA Premier Members Make a Good Showing on IT Best-Of Lists

    by Michelle Peterson  | April 18, 2014
    The annual PCR Brit List features the 50 most influential people in tech, from directors to CEOs, retail buyers to doctors and even a few celebrities. The list by PCR – a universally read UK IT publication – includes people who are inspiring innovations, evolutions and progression in the IT channel. This year, CompTIA’s membership was represented among the movers and shakers in the IT world, first with our own Vaughan Shayler. Shayler, CompTIA’s director of channel strate ...
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  • CompTIA Supports New Net Neutrality Rules to Protect Small Businesses

    by Matthew Starr  | April 18, 2014
    Recently, CompTIA filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal for new net neutrality rules. CompTIA believes that transparency, no-blocking and nondiscrimination rules are essential to protect and promote the interests of small businesses operating online. Without such rules, broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) could charge any business operating online for access, or prioritized access, to an ISP’s customers. Small busines ...
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  • The Women and Men of the Channel are on a Mission

    by Jim Hamilton  | April 16, 2014
    At the CompTIA Advancing Women in IT (AWIT) meeting at AMM in San Diego this month, community staff leader Cathy Alper welcomed attendees by announcing “In other CompTIA communities people say they want to join. In AWIT they say they want to get involved.” Get involved they did! I had the pleasure of watching over 50 professionals participate passionately in concrete initiatives designed to encourage and help women of all ages establish fulfilling careers in IT. In addition, the comm ...
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  • Use These Three Es to Develop and Assess Your Channel Relationships

    by Matthew Stern  | April 15, 2014
    Building a solid foundation with your channel partners will help your business go down countless avenues in the future. For a vendor, finding the right channels to sell cloud services can play a key role in expanding business and reaching new, untapped markets. Local markets and others formerly out-of-reach for a cloud provider can open up with the right partnership. But the prospect of forging partner relationships can be intimidating. PartnerPath has created a helpful three-step process that d ...
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  • Patent Troll Demand Letters a Growing Concern on the Hill

    by Matthew L. Evans  | April 15, 2014
    Last week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing titled “Trolling for a Solution: Ending Abusive Patent Demand Letters.” The hearing focused on the regulation of demand letters sent in bad faith to businesses by patent trolls or patent assertion entities (PAEs). There has been an upswing in the number of issued demand letters, which many times are vague, misleading and deceptive. The recipients, who are often smal ...
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  • The Key to Managed Services Adoption is Clear Messaging

    by Carolyn April  | April 09, 2014
    What value does your company add? It’s a perennial business question, one that channel firms face each and every day in interactions with customers, vendors and other partners. In this era of cloud computing and ongoing business model upheaval, everyone is looking for a way to stand out, especially to the customer. If you can’t answer the fundamental question – Why do we matter? – your business is at a disadvantage. The managed services model is one example of a channel b ...
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  • Get CompTIA’s Strategies for Cloud Service Success

    by Matthew Stern  | April 08, 2014
    There’s no denying it: cloud is growing. IBM just announced an aggressive expansion of its cloud services, and TheInfoPro’s “Wave 5 Cloud Computing Study” predicts a 36 percent compound annual growth rate for cloud into 2016, according to Forbes. Moreover, 69 percent of enterprises with cloud budgets in 2013 are expecting to increase them in 2014. These expanding market projections also mean expanding budgets for cloud computing, so if you’re not in the game already ...
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  • A People Person Finds her Niche in IT Channel Recruitment

    by Matthew Stern  | April 08, 2014
    Pat Martin, a national account manager at SmartSource, spends her days with her two dogs — her “big babies,” she calls them — developing business relationships for her company and recruiting IT staff from the comfort of her own home. Martin’s two-pronged role gives her plenty of satisfaction. She’s been at it for about three years now, after a mutual contact put her in touch with the owners of Illinois-based SmartSource Inc. “It was just love,” Mar ...
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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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