ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • D.C. Fly-In Sees Updates from the Hill on Patent Reform

    by Lana Sansur  | February 11, 2014
    This afternoon, we kicked off our much anticipated 2014 D.C. Fly-In, organized by TechVoice, the partnership of CompTIA and the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), with an important panel on patent reform. Vishal Amin, majority senior counsel, House Judiciary Committee, discussed how the costs associated with abusive patent litigation are a considerable burden for small- and medium-sized IT businesses trying to get on their feet and compete within a $3.2 trillion global industry. Durin ...
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  • How Are Big Tech Firms Enforcing Their Own Training?

    by Lisa Fasold  | February 11, 2014
    During CompTIA’s Colloquium conference in Washington, D.C., today, executives from over 30 leading IT training companies heard from some of the largest tech companies on how they’re training their own staffs. How are they setting an example for their partners? How are they inspiring their employees to continually learn and improve their skills? CompTIA Executive VP Terry Erdle led off the conference and gave a quick rundown on the core education trends: Personalization. User control ...
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  • Is 2014 Finally the Time for a Federal Data Breach Notification Law?

    by Matthew Starr  | February 11, 2014
    In the wake of high-profile data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, among others, Congress held three hearings on data security and data breaches last week. The first, held by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, dealt with specific financial sector issues related to data breaches, but the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings looked at data security and data breaches from a number of different angles. Following the hearings, there is ...
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  • Three Lessons from Lenovo’s Big Buys

    by Seth Robinson  | February 10, 2014
    In the middle of a bitterly cold winter, Chinese tech giant Lenovo has become very hot news. In a single week, the company best known for its solid line of laptops spent $5.3 billion acquiring two new product lines. The first move was made on January 23, when Lenovo purchased IBM’s x86-based server business for $2.3 billion. Six days later, Lenovo extended its reach in the other direction, picking up Google’s Motorola Mobility unit for $2.91 billion. The deals drew attention from all ...
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  • Learn How CompTIA Helps Collabrance Master Managed Services

    by Matthew Stern  | February 06, 2014
    When Lindsay Dick first dipped her toes in the IT channel, she expected — in fact, invited — the challenge. Her professional expertise wasn’t geared toward information technology, but what she lacked in a formal technical background she made up for in pluck. But when it came right down to it, the initial experience turned out to be a bit more overwhelming than she’d imagined. Luckily, Dick had the good fortune to connect with Lori Berry, an executive council member of Com ...
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  • North Carolina Tech Group Uses Events to Advance its IT Policies

    by Bob Moore  | February 05, 2014
    TechVoice recently spoke with Brooks Raiford, president and CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA) and one of the recipients of the 2014 TechVoice Champion Awards. NCTA leverages events to advance its policy agenda, as well as links member companies with public sector contracts, fostering growth and opportunity for the North Carolina IT sector. What are some of the initiatives you’ve implemented that have advanced NCTA’s policy agenda the most? Back in 2008, whe ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Making 2014 the Year of Security

    by Brian Sherman  | January 29, 2014
    Add Neiman Marcus to the growing list of retailers that have announced information systems breaches over the past few weeks: In a company statement, the Dallas-based department store chain reported compromised servers, a hack that gave outside access to customer payment information. On the heels of Target’s holiday debacle, the news fueled the IT security discussion and elevated consumer angst. This should be a call to arms for solution providers, vendors and distributors. No business will ...
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  • The Trends and Anti-Trends Shaping 2014

    by Tim Herbert  | January 29, 2014
    Crystal balls and tea leaves have been in heavy use of late; as IT industry prognosticators prepare their predications for the year ahead. With so much innovation in the tech space, there is certainly no shortage of material for trends lists. The temptation, though, is to overhype the future, while understating the present. Trends take time to progress through the stages of adoption — often taking longer than many expect. The year ahead will certainly feature its share of surprises, but re ...
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  • The State of the Union: Why IT is a Key to Addressing Economic Opportunity

    by Liz Hyman  | January 27, 2014
    Tomorrow, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union speech, an opportunity to set forth a theme that will guide his administration’s agenda for the year. It is widely anticipated that the president will speak to the topic of economic opportunity and how to close a gap between those at the bottom of the economic ladder and those at the top. The IT sector has always had a role in this important discussion. The industry is a driver of the economy, with a steady stream of inno ...
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  • Thoughts on the D.C. Circuit’s Neutral Net-Neutrality Ruling

    by Matthew Starr  | January 23, 2014
    On Jan. 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned two of the three net-neutrality rules initially passed by the Federal Communications Commission as part of its 2010 Open Internet Order. Despite what some have said, this ruling does not give carte blanche for ISPs to run roughshod over their customers. That’s because the overturn overshadowed perhaps the more important aspect of this decision: The court found that the FCC now has clear authority, under S ...
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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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