ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • Rhode Island-Based Tech Association Finds A Model for Promoting Workforce Development and STEM

    by Bob Moore  | January 22, 2014
    Workforce development and STEM awareness — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — are two key success areas for Tech Collective, Rhode Island-based technology industry association that’s leveraging its state’s small size to make personal connections with the legislators who influence the future of these programs. We spoke to Tech Collective Executive Director Kathie Shields to hear about the group’s progress, their victories and her tips on how to make c ...
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  • CompTIA VP Experiences Telecommuting Robot

    by Annette Taber  | January 22, 2014
    Ever wonder what it would be like to have your mind enter a machine’s body? Well I had that experience recently. After recuperating from some health issues, I am still not able to travel. When I expressed to my colleagues that I really wanted to attend CompTIA’s strategy planning meeting at our HQ in Chicago, one suggested I try out the CompTIA robot. Robot? Are you kidding? Well I must say; the experience was surprisingly positive. Is this the next big thing in ...
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  • Microsoft Closes XP Support Door, Opens Revenue Window for ITSPs

    by Len DiCostanzo  | January 20, 2014
    Industry number crunchers estimate 30 to 40 percent of the SMB market runs Microsoft Windows XP and Office 2003. With Microsoft ending support for these products on April 8, there is a short but fantastic window of opportunity for information technology service providers (ITSPs) to build stronger relationships with clients and uncover new revenue opportunities. Here are four ways to make this situation work in your favor: 1. Be Proactive. Whether you use spreadsheets to track client assets or us ...
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  • R&D Legislation for Startups Introduced in Senate

    by Lamar Whitman  | January 15, 2014
    “The Innovators Job Creation Act,” bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), was introduced in the Senate this week. This legislation would promote innovation by making the R&D tax credit more accessible to small startup firms. Under current law, the R&D tax credit can only be offset against federal income tax liability. However, because most startups do not generate net income in the early years, they have no fe ...
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  • A Look at the Big Trends at International CES 2014

    by Seth Robinson  | January 14, 2014
    The beginning of a new year always brings with it a ritual for everyone who keeps a close eye on technology: the International CES, produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). First held in 1967, this year’s show featured 3,200 exhibitors and more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, making it a premier location for exhibiting new technology and innovation. With so much on display, there are obviously many different themes on the radar. The Internet of Things was pegged ...
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  • Smart SMS Strategies for MSPs

    by Mark Sondergaard  | January 13, 2014
    If you’re searching for ways to improve the technical services you offer your clients, look no further than the mobile phone. More than nine out of 10 American adults own one, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, and while only half are smartphones, nearly all have the capability to receive text messages. In contrast to overlooked email blasts and fliers, text messages grab eyeballs: Research by UK-based mobileSQUARED, which interprets and analyzes mobile research and data ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Four Questions to Ask Yourself to Set a Plan for Successful Channel Navigation in 2014

    by Brian Sherman  | January 06, 2014
    Whether 2013 brought you record-setting success or presented significant challenges to your business, or ended up somewhere in between, it’s time to reflect on past results and kick off the strategy for the next twelve months. Most IT companies have probably already assessed the past year’s outcomes and made some adjustments to their operations and business practices. But just because January 1 has already come and gone, it doesn’t mean every change companies need to make to be ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Four Ways to Streamline and Refine Your Way to Higher Profitability

    by Brian Sherman  | January 03, 2014
    IT industry entrepreneurs can understand their clients’ business challenges better than their own and typically work faster to resolve any emergency or major concern – as long as they get paid. Of course, that’s common regardless of the industry or geographic region solution providers operate in. Many business owners follow the philosophy that 100 percent of their attention must be focused on their customers and can fail to set aside time to properly plan for future growth and ...
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  • Dept. of Labor to Award $100 Million in Grants Supporting STEM

    by Tim Jemal  | January 02, 2014
    This guest blog entry was contributed by Tim Jemal, CEO of Jemal Public Affairs. The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that it will award approximately $100 million in grant funding, divided among 30 to 40 recipients, to support education and training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. The grant funding comes from user fees paid by employers to hire workers in the H-1B visa category. According to the Seattle Times, since 2001, nearly $1 billion from H1-B fe ...
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  • Classic Holiday Film Shows Value of Relationships

    by Charles Eaton  | December 23, 2013
    Like many of you, I’ve been reflecting during the holidays upon the year that passed, taking stock of what I’m grateful for and re-watching some classic holiday movies. In one, the main character goes through trying circumstances, almost dies, and is reminded that life is all about relationships and family. Nope, not It’s a Wonderful Life. I’m talking about another great holiday film; Die Hard. Yep, Die Hard. Besides being the greatest action movie ever made, it’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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