ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • Begun, the Cloud War Has

    by Seth Robinson  | April 08, 2014
    Earlier this year, CompTIA’s 2014 Outlook predicted that cloud wars would intensify, with public cloud providers fighting on price and differentiation and private cloud systems fighting to get a foothold. After just one quarter, that prediction holds true; several companies have announced new ways they are pushing this model into new territory. Late March was a game changer, as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all held events to share updates to their cloud offerings. As expected, price was a ...
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  • A TechVoice Win: Startup R&D Tax Credit Added to Senate Extenders Bill

    by Lamar Whitman  | April 07, 2014
    Last week, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment adding legislation supported by TechVoice – the “Innovation Credit Act of 2013” – to the tax extenders bill currently being debated in the Senate. This is an important milestone for TechVoice. Adding this TechVoice-supported legislation to the extenders bill is a major step on the road to its eventual enactment into law. Next up, the extenders bill, which now includes the startup R&D tax credit, will be voted on ...
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  • Get Mobile or Die, CompTIA Mobility Community’s Third ‘Rumble in the Mobile Jungle’ Concludes

    by Daniel Margolis  | April 04, 2014
    There was a little friendly competition going on in the Mobility Community meeting at CompTIA’s Annual Member Meeting at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, Calif., this week. The meeting featured the “Rumble in the Mobile Jungle” (the community has hosted such a debate twice before, including at ChannelCon last year; click here to read all about it). This rumble was moderated by Ryan Morris with Ryan Morris with Morris Management Partners, who also served as host of the rumb ...
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  • How IT Businesses and Their Customers are Changing Focus of Power Talks at CompTIA’s Annual Member Meeting

    by Daniel Margolis  | April 04, 2014
    A shift in the IT customer and IT businesses themselves were the themes of two Power Talk sessions held this week at CompTIA’s Annual Member Meeting at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego. The theme of the first was “Power Talk: The New IT Decision Maker,” hosted by Carolyn April, director, industry analysis, market research for CompTIA. The four panelists were Paul Cronin, senior vice president and director with Atrion Networking; Leonard DiMiceli, general manager and channel ...
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  • Twin Cities IT Apprentice Program is a Win-Win for Medica

    by Eric Larson  | April 04, 2014
    When IT-Ready Program officials approached Medica about offering post-graduation apprenticeships to adults entering the information technology field, the company’s senior IT leaders were receptive to the notion. After all, Medica already had an internship program in place for high school students, so its employees were accustomed to working with individuals who didn’t have a lot of past IT job experience, said David McPhaul, IT Services manager at Medica. “We saw this as a ...
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  • Channel Firms at AMM Encouraged to ‘Be the Disruption’

    by Steven Ostrowski  | April 03, 2014
    IT channel companies in search of the next big disruptive force need look no further than their mirror, a longtime industry observer opined Wednesday at the 2014 CompTIA Annual Member Meeting. “You are the disruptor,” Chris Gonsalves, vice president, editorial, for The 2112 Group,  told an audience of IT channel partners, vendors and distributors. “If you’re not making someone uncomfortable, you’re just trudging along in the status quo,” he continued. &ld ...
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  • AMM Keynote Speaker Lauds Productive Passion as the Key to Creativity

    by Steven Ostrowski  | April 02, 2014
    The dynamics of creativity demand passion from individuals and teams to produce brilliant work, a top-selling author told attendees today at the 2014 CompTIA Annual Member Meeting. “Don’t short circuit the creative process just to get something done,” author Todd Henry told his audience. Rather, he encouraged them to be both “productively passionate” and “fiercely curious.” Henry led the interactive keynote session on “Passion, Collaboration a ...
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  • MSPs Advised to Take Fresh Look at Contracts, Pricing

    by Steven Ostrowski  | April 02, 2014
    Managed services providers (MSPs) must routinely and regularly examine their customer contracts and pricing strategies if they intend to maximize profitability. That message was delivered Wednesday by several industry experts during a meeting of the CompTIA Managed Services Community. The session was part of the CompTIA Annual Member Meeting taking place this week in San Diego. “I think as an industry we leave a ton of money on the table,” said Frank Picarello chief operating officer ...
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  • Use Your Customer Satisfaction Data to Make More Than Just Money

    by Steven Ostrowski  | April 02, 2014
    The vast majority of companies in North America measure their customer satisfaction performance — nearly 90 percent of all businesses, according to one recent survey. Yet just half of those companies take their customer satisfaction data and share it with their employees. Even fewer — a mere 8 percent — close the loop with customers to let them know how the company has responded to their feedback. The lack of action on customer feedback can result in missed opportunities for mo ...
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  • Job Site Opens the IT Channel to Returning Vets

    by Michelle Peterson  | April 01, 2014
    There are one million service members transitioning from military service to civilian life, and many of them need jobs. Moreover, they need help translating their military experience, which teaches things like leadership, team-building and a strong work ethic, into a resume that will jump out at a hiring manager in the civilian world. U.S. Tech Vets is a great tool in this arsenal. Through a partnership between and the country’s top technology associations, U.S. Tech Vets is co ...
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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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