ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • House Judiciary Continues Search for Internet Sales Tax Solution

    by Lamar Whitman  | March 14, 2014
    Wednesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee underscored the complexities of determining a solution for the Internet sales tax issue that will allow states to collect sales taxes from out-of-state vendors. While the hearing showed only minor dissent amongst the panelists about whether these taxes are payable to state treasuries, which seemed to be largely a matter of semantics, there was no clear consensus on how this could be accomplished with the least burden for sellers, ven ...
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  • CompTIA Managed Services Trustmark Sets MSP Apart

    by Julie Ritzer Ross  | March 13, 2014
    For some managed services providers, simply presenting a line card of IT products and services and pointing to a collection of manufacturer certifications works to cultivate and retain clients. But for CMIT Solutions of Denver, nothing could be further from the truth. Here, a vendor-agnostic credential serves as a key business differentiator and a linchpin for fostering clients’ loyalty and trust. From Break-Fix to MSP Founded in 2004 by Debi and Phil Bush, CMIT Solutions of Denver is one ...
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  • Immigration Reform, Cybersecurity and STEM Solutions Addressed at TechVoice Forum

    by Michelle Peterson  | March 12, 2014
    A grassroots event to educate the IT industry on tech-related legislation brought out about two to three dozen entrepreneurs, educators and parents Monday morning to the downtown office of the Illinois Technology Association (ITA). The TechVoice Illinois briefing, hosted by ITA and CompTIA, and sponsored by Google, was an informal forum that touched on patent litigation reform, immigration, cybersecurity, taxes and STEM education. The forum was moderated by Andrew Hoog, chief executive officer o ...
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  • Iconic Graphic Designer Susan Kare Inducted into CompTIA Hall of Fame

    by David Dritsas  | March 06, 2014
    Every time you look at the user interface of an Apple product, you are looking at the legacy of the work of graphic artist Susan Kare, one of the latest inductees to the CompTIA Hall of Fame, IT Innovator Wing. In the early 1980s, when Kare was sought out by the then-fledgling Apple Computers, personal computing was pretty much a keystroke-only experience. Steve Jobs and his team wanted to change all that and make it a graphically user-friendly environment. At the time, Kare had just finished Ph ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Boost IT Services Profitability the Old-Fashioned Way; One Step at a Time

    by Brian Sherman  | March 06, 2014
    Can your business be truly successful if revenue remains steady — or even suffers a slight decline? Can your company be in top form when you haven’t hired a new employee in years? Achievement is best judged by those whose blood, sweat and tears went into building the organization, plus of course the stakeholders who’ve helped support the operation along the way. As any business owner knows, revenue declines coupled with cost reduction might actually lead to profit, so if client ...
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  • Channel Media Professional Joins IT Hall of Fame

    by Brian Sherman  | March 06, 2014
    Robert (Bob) Faletra, an active and influential member of the IT channel and 25-year advocate for the industry will be inducted during CompTIA’s Annual Member Meeting into the 2014 class of the IT Hall of Fame. Faletra influenced and supported our industry through a variety of publishing and executive management roles with the former CMP media group. Considered one of the top experts in the indirect technology field, he has advised solution providers, vendors and distribution professionals ...
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  • Reflecting and Looking Forward During Women’s History Month

    by Elizabeth Hyman  | March 04, 2014
    This is Women’s History Month — a time to recognize the often overlooked vision, courage and accomplishments of our nation’s women. To kick it off, did you know that a famous Hollywood actress of the 1930s and ‘40s, Hedy Lamarr, was also a pioneer for women and technology? She co-invented spread-spectrum broadcast communications technologies. There are many wonderful examples —from Hedy Lamarr to Meg Whitman — of women leading the way in technol ...
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  • Ways and Means Committee Releases Major Tax Reform Package

    by Lamar Whitman  | March 03, 2014
    We have noted many discussions over the last few years concerning the need for tax reform. Almost everyone is in agreement that tax reform is needed, as annual additions and edits to the tax code have left us with overly complex and burdensome compliance requirements for individuals and businesses alike. However, once the conversation gets past the general agreement that reform is needed, we come face-to-face with the complexities of crafting real tax reform that can be passed by Congress. Ways ...
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  • House Passes Cell Phone Unlocking Bill — But There’s a Catch

    by Elizabeth Hyman  | February 28, 2014
    This week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1123, “the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.” The text included a last-minute addition that limited the right to unlock a cell phone to the individual purchaser. This was in contrast to a previous version of the bill that CompTIA supported, one that did not have a distinction between the individual purchaser and businesses that wish to engage in what is referred to as bulk cell phone unlocking for resale purpos ...
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  • The Quickening Pace of Technology Adoption

    by Chris Gonsalves  | February 27, 2014
    This sponsored blog entry was submitted by Chris Gonsalves of ChannelNomics. We’re all familiar with the trajectory technology innovations are supposed to take as they move toward mass adoption, that smooth bell curve that may or may not include Geoffrey Moore’s famous “chasm” in the early stages to technology adoption. While the Innovation Adoption Lifecycle curve created by sociologist Everett Rogers in the early 1960s is seared in the minds of technology sellers to thi ...
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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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