ChannelTrends: Tackling the Challenges and Opportunities of Managed Services

  • New York Technology Council: a Young Tech Council Making an Impact

    by Bob Moore  | December 20, 2013
    TechVoice spoke with Erik Grimmelmann, executive director of the New York Technology Council (NYTECH), to learn how a small, young and rapidly growing technology council navigates its way through today’s challenging policy and regulatory environment. What are some of the advocacy efforts you’ve been involved in? Our involvement in advocacy is relatively new. We’re a young tech council; just four years old. In the past, we’ve attended several of the TechVoice D.C. Fly-Ins ...
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  • Target’s Recent Data Breach Highlights a Wider Business Concern

    by Scott Barlow  | December 19, 2013
    Target disclosed earlier today that it experienced a major security breach that could compromise upwards of 40 million credit card and debit card accounts. Between November 27 and December 15, cybercriminals appear to have broken through the data protection measures in the company’s point-of-sale systems across the entire retail chain; with the exception of its online catalog operations. With access to Target customers’ PIN information, thieves could withdraw money from customers&rsq ...
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  • Wireless Companies Endorse Cell Phone Unlocking, Now Congress Must Act

    by Matthew Starr  | December 19, 2013
    Last Thursday, CTIA, a trade association that represents the wireless industry, announced that five of the nation’s largest wireless providers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon) have agreed to a voluntary set of principles that promote the rights of consumers to unlock their cellphones and tablets. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it should only be viewed as a first, and certainly not a final, step towards allowing consumers to use their devices a ...
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  • 2013 Tech Agenda Glass Holds 50 Percent Water

    by Liz Hyman  | December 19, 2013
    The age-old question of whether the glass is half empty or half full does not have a simple answer this year when it comes to the federal tech policy agenda. On the half-empty side, in 2013 we experienced a 16-day shutdown of the federal government, a near miss of the most recent debt-ceiling deadline and the fewest bills ever signed into law during a Congressional session. Congress’ approval rating is below 10 percent and the president is not fairing much better. With the center of both p ...
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  • CompTIA Files Comments with NIST On Cybersecurity Executive Order

    by Randi Parker  | December 18, 2013
    This October, after months of workshops and meetings all over the country, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a preliminary framework for voluntary cybersecurity standards for owners and operators of critical infrastructure. As you may recall, this framework was created following an executive order from President Obama in February 2012. A link to the preliminary framework can be found here.  NIST has been a forthright and open leader in this process and in t ...
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  • ChannelTrends: Five Fast Growing SMB Markets for Savvy Solution Providers

    by Brian Sherman  | December 10, 2013
    Of all the solution providers I have had the pleasure of speaking with over many years in the IT channel; relatively few have ever claimed to specialize in one specific vertical market. Even those considered retail VARs often build additional practices focused on hospitality or other complementary industries. After all, diversification is a great hedge for any business, allowing them to shift resources when economic conditions or other challenges affect one particular market harder than other bu ...
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  • CompTIA’s Advisory Councils Present Key Issues at Planning Meeting

    by Annette Taber  | December 10, 2013
    During CompTIA’s 2014 Council Planning Meeting in Miami last week, the Partner Advisory Council (PAC) shared three key issues. Cloud infrastructure’s impact on the data center and OEMs, and of course the impact on the product and service businesses of our partners. The impact of hosted apps and OSs on legacy premise environments. The consumerization of IT and its impact on resources, especially in the area of transforming existing product sales champions to trusted business architec ...
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  • Vendors to Partners: Get to Know Your Customers

    by Larry Walsh  | December 09, 2013
    This guest blog was written by Larry Walsh of Channelnomics. A vendor saying that solution providers need to engage in selling solutions is nothing new. But when the channel marketing heads of SAP’s Business One program talk about solution-selling, the conversation is more about building customer personas and solving common business needs. Sona Venkat, vice president of SAP marketing, and Alain McHugh, director of SAP Business One marketing, are looking at solution selling through the chan ...
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  • CompTIA’s Advisory Councils’ 2014 Planning Meeting Considers Future of Channel

    by Nancy Hammervik  | December 09, 2013
    CompTIA’s Advisory Councils held their 2014 Council Planning Meeting in Miami last week. I attended this meeting, and while the beautiful weather outside was certainly a perk, it was the conversation inside that made the trip most enjoyable and inspiring. We kicked off the meetings with a round table discussion led by CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux. Participating were the chairs and vice chairs of our Vendor, Partner and Telecom Advisory Councils, all senior channel executives w ...
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  • Supreme Court Allows New York Amazon Tax Decision to Stand

    by Lamar Whitman  | December 03, 2013
    Last spring, we reported on a New York Court of Appeals decision that required non-resident sellers offering products through a New York-based website to collect New York sales taxes on sales made into the state. That decision will stand, as the U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of the case.  According to the initial state court decision, out-of-state sellers are required to collect New York sales tax even though the seller has no presence in New York, except for listing products and se ...
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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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