ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • CompTIA Honors David P. Smith: ‘A True Visionary for the IT Industry’

    by David Dritsas  | March 31, 2014
    A longtime advocate of the IT industry — a man who built a successful career from humble beginnings — will be presented with CompTIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award during this week’s Annual Member Meeting (AMM) in San Diego. David P. Smith, vice president of field service for CompuCom Systems, will be honored by CompTIA, where was chairman of the board of directors from 2003 to 2004, and was a board member from 2000 to 2005. Smith began his career fixing copiers and had a ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Can Solution Providers Really Make Money with Mobility?

    by Brian Sherman  | March 27, 2014
    New technology doesn’t always translate to a fantastic business opportunity when a new idea is first introduced. It often takes months — if not years — for solution providers and vendors to evaluate innovative new portfolio options. Due diligence is imperative for anyone trying to build a viable technology business practice, but the vetting process for a mobility specialization can be particularly long and arduous. Some attribute it to the complexity of the devices and applicat ...
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  • CompTIA to FCC: TV White Space Benefits Small Business

    by Matthew Starr  | March 26, 2014
    Last Thursday, representatives from two CompTIA member companies, Michael Paynter of Tier3 Technologies and Cameron Camp of ESET, flew to accompany me on a full day of meetings at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to discuss unlicensed use of TV white space spectrum and its value to small tech businesses, which can use it to innovate and grow. We met with staff members from all five FCC commissioners’ offices to make a final push to leave sufficient spectrum available for unlicen ...
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  • Minnesota High Tech Association Works to Further Develop the IT Workforce

    by Bob Moore  | March 25, 2014
    We welcome spring this month with a great conversation with Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president and chief executive officer of the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA). We learned about the successes she has had with workforce development and placement initiatives — including those through the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA. We also learned how advocacy and policy play into workforce development for MHTA member companies. Can you describe the succes ...
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  • Channel Advocacy to Get Boost from CompTIA Advisory Councils at AMM

    by Brian Sherman  | March 24, 2014
    All CompTIA members are encouraged to participate in one or more of the nine CompTIA communities, sharing ideas and providing feedback on the initiatives that are the most interesting to members and their businesses. The lesser-known — but just as critical — advisory councils (Partner, Vendor and Telecom) are literally the think tanks of the association, though they’ve taken on many other responsibilities in the past few years. Each group is made up of senior channel executives ...
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  • Transition to IPv6 Begins Slowly but Surely

    by Pierluigi Stella  | March 24, 2014
    These days, practically everything is connected: smartphones, home security systems, refrigerators. There’s even an annual connectivity conference dedicated to wearable technology, like eyeglasses with lens screens and smartclothing embedded with tablets. We’re browsing with real-time communication and playing with complex connectivity for a population more than double what it was 40 years ago. Wealth, too, has expanded and enjoys more global distribution than before. Today’s 2 ...
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  • Save Room for Intuition: Businesses Don’t Thrive on Metrics Alone

    by T.C. Doyle  | March 21, 2014
    This sponsored blog entry was submitted by T.C. Doyle of Channel Partners. What do Scotchgard, Super Glue and Saccharin have in common? They were all invented by accident. That’s right. The people behind these modern marvels were actually trying to invent something else, but instead stumbled across these now well-known products. Thankfully, they were not deflated by their failed experiments. Instead, they looked at things with a fresh perspective and helped bring these innovations to marke ...
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  • The End-User: the New Center of the IT Universe

    by Seth Robinson  | March 19, 2014
    Recently, I have been focusing on the amount of disruption caused by technology trends such as cloud computing and mobility. This isn’t a unique idea — other organizations recognize this change as well and have introduced concepts such as the fifth era of business transformation or the shift from information technology to enterprise technology. My own thoughts line up closely with IDC’s notion of a third platform, where the first two platforms are represented by the mainframe a ...
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  • Expect to be Amazed at the CompTIA Annual Member Meeting

    by Brian Sherman  | March 19, 2014
    It’s that time of year when a literal who’s who of channel professionals gather to take on some of the industry’s biggest opportunities and concerns. CompTIA’s Annual Member Meeting convenes April 1 in sunny San Diego with a full slate of interactive group discussions, thought-provoking presentations and numerous networking opportunities. Attendees will also get to partake in this year’s IT Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Awards Dinner, as Robert Faletra and S ...
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  • Nobody Cares What Your Cloud Is Made Of

    by Chris Gonslaves  | March 19, 2014
    This sponsored blog entry was submitted by Chris Gonsalves of ChannelNomics. In a bygone era, the little blue “Intel Inside” swirl stood as the tech industry’s version of an Underwriters Laboratories logo: a badge that assured hardware buyers and sellers they were getting leading-edge processor technology. Intel Corp. would like those days back, thank you very much. In this age of cloud, with infrastructure largely decoupled from business computing, the speeds and feeds that ...
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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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