ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • CompTIA Appreciates Aaron Woods, its First African-American Board Member

    by Matthew L. Evans  | February 26, 2014
    This Black History Month, CompTIA notes the contributions of Aaron Woods, director of U.S. solutions providers, relationship and partners at Xerox and the first African-American member of the CompTIA Board of Directors. Woods is an ardent supporter of TechVoice – CompTIA’s public advocacy grass roots network – and the IT industry. “Being the first of anything usually brings with it some concerns as to how you will be viewed by others,” Woods said. “As it ...
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  • CompTIA to Offer Testimony During Tax Legislation Hearing

    by Lamar Whitman  | February 25, 2014
    This week, CompTIA will urge the prompt enactment of H.R. 2992, “the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2013,” legislation that modifies the way states can collect taxes from out-of-state businesses. CompTIA submitted its testimony for the hearing by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. Also known as BATSA, the legislation sets up a “physical presence nexus standard” for businesses: In order for a state to tax busi ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Most Channel Companies Won’t Survive Without Virtual Skills

    by Brian Sherman  | February 21, 2014
    In the IT channel, the term reseller may still be alive and well, but it has undergone significant transformations in the past five years. While many providers still count on PC and other infrequent hardware sales to top off their coffers, many industry experts believe the bulk of new channel revenue now comes from the cyber world. When mobility solutions are factored into the mix, it’s hard to see how companies that rely heavily on the traditional reseller model will remain competitive. T ...
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  • New Needs and Models Are Driving Changes to Communications

    by Seth Robinson  | February 19, 2014
    While communications is not a new topic for most companies, new trends in technology and changes in workforce dynamics are forcing many businesses to re-examine their strategies. Thirty-one percent of end-user firms cite communications as a high priority, and they are clearly driving demand here since 36 percent of channel firms believe their clients place a high priority on communications. Cloud computing and mobility are giving companies new options and possibilities for communications infras ...
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  • Business Process Automation Set to Become an Area of Opportunity

    by Seth Robinson  | February 18, 2014
    Business process automation (BPA) may be a second-tier IT topic behind trends like cloud computing, mobility and Big Data, but that may be set to change, as this comprehensive discipline combines those popular trends to produce tangible business value. CompTIA’s study on the state of business process automation sheds some light on practices and outlook for this area. Automation begins with technology-enabled business processes. While large firms (500 or more employees) are the most likely ...
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  • Capitol Hill Speakers Discuss Data Breach, Broadband Spectrum, Cybersecurity

    by Lana Sansur  | February 13, 2014
    Day two of the 2014 D.C. Fly-In kicked off at the Cannon House Office Building with speakers who delved into data breach, broadband spectrum and cybersecurity. These included Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.); FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel; Adam Sedgewick, senior information technology policy advisor at the National Institute of Standards Technology; and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). Pryor discussed cybersecurity and data breach issues currently being considered within their committees, including th ...
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  • Channel Prospectors Catch Health Care Fever, With Mixed Results

    by Brian Sherman  | February 12, 2014
    In the managed service space of the IT channel, there’s been a touch of health-care fever. With the U.S. government’s electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) initiatives and directives in place, doctors’ offices and medical facilities have looked like goldmines for value-added resellers and managed service providers. Health care was said to be primed, willing and ready for the IT channel to upgrade and support their thriving practices. Like the fort ...
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  • Encourage Congress to Pass Legislation for a Federal Data Breach Notification Law

    by Lisa Fasold  | February 12, 2014
    There is no national standard for how a company must notify its customers in the wake of a data breach. Instead, companies must navigate a complex web of 47 different, often conflicting, state data breach notification laws in the aftermath of a breach.  It can be nearly impossible for companies to determine which state laws apply when a breach occurs. Small businesses suffer from an immense financial compliance burden trying to comply with all these laws, and the tangled web of laws also d ...
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  • How Can We Drive STEM Success in the U.S.?

    by Lisa Fasold  | February 12, 2014
    During the TechVoice D.C. Fly-In yesterday, David Dimmett of Project Lead The Way presented this eye-opening statistic: Nine out of every 10 high schools in the country don’t offer computer science. With that in mind, a panel debated how the IT industry can help drive STEM success in the U.S. Project Lead the Way prepares students for the global economy. With five programs of study for kindergarten through high school, the company trains teachers. Grades K-5 participate in the la ...
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  • D.C. Fly-In Highlights Key Tax Issues Impacting Tech Startups

    by Lana Sansur  | February 11, 2014
    Our second 2014 D.C. Fly-In panel this afternoon delved into how federal tax provisions – including tax reform efforts – can help new, small, nimble tech companies grow, hire more qualified workers, and provide new and innovative products and services. We learned how “the Startup Innovation Credit Act” and other tax provisions directed to small startup companies can create better opportunities for starting and growing tech businesses in the U.S. Panelists Rick Morgan, pol ...
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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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