Five partner pillars for managed services success

In a recent CDN webinar on how solution providers can offer more value through managed services, participants heard from IDC, Dell and Intel how the channel can earn stable, ongoing revenue and provide more value to their clients by becoming managed service providers (MSPs).

According to Sebastian Ruest, vice-president of services research with analyst firm IDC, the IT department is in crisis. And in that crisis there’s opportunity for MSPs.

“In my opinion, the IT department is in crisis. Not just from a financial perspective but from a complexity perspective,” said Ruest. “And how IT departments are responding to this crisis is really reshaping the services industry into several trends.”

CDN’s Managed Services Webinar

Listen to the Webinar

For a limited time only you can listen to a replay of CDN‘s webinar on managed services. The webinar provides insights into how providers can develop higher value IT services to customers, while helping them lower costs. The hour long session features three top experts in the field of Managed Services.

Hosted by CDN editor Paolo Del Nibletto, presenters include IDC analyst Sebastian Ruest, Dell’s Todd McKendrick and Intel Americas’ Eric Townsend. Find out how solution providers can offer more value through managed services.

Ruest sees a new services model emerging based on virtualization, the integration of software and service, and the breaking-up of formerly monolithic business processes into components that can be delivered over the web.

The transformation is being driven in part by the increasingly challenging environment IT managers are facing, which includes economic pressures, a more global business world and overlapping regulatory requirements.

At the same time, Ruest said business priorities are changing. IDC surveys showing cost savings is no longer the primary driver for IT investment, but now ranks behind centralizing and integrating information systems and migration from older technologies to new platforms.

Increasingly, he said, IT departments are frustrated by an inability to get away from day-to-day IT operations to innovate around more strategic IT business initiatives.

“Managed services offer business agility without forcing customers to make continuous investment in people and technology,” said Ruest.

According to IDC research, the key factors for engaging managed services include a lack of in-house skills, improving operational efficiency, reducing cost and focusing on core competencies.

Some 41 per cent of firms said they expect their managed services spend to stay the same over the next 12 months but 40 per cent expect their spend to increase. Networking management, applications management, storage and security services management were identified as priorities for future expenditure.

“Economic conditions and a shortage of skills will accelerate the need for the outsourcing quadrant,” said Ruest.

According to Todd McKendrick, an account executive with Dell Managed Services (NASDAQ: DELL), there are five key pillars to success for partners when it comes to developing a managed services program.

“Managed services is here to stay,” said McKendrick, who added Dell has the resources and programs in place to support channel partners as they seek to develop an MSP business.

The first partner pillar is a good remote monitoring tool that gives you a proactive look into the client environment. It needs to be scalable and designed to reduce labour, while generating reports for customers. Managed services can make IT service delivery seem routine, said McKendrick, and less visible to the client, so it’s important for partners to be able to prove their value.

“You no longer run into the burning building and put out the fire and get all the accolades,” said McKendrick. “You’re doing so much behind the scenes proactively for the customer, it’s important for you to be able to show them what you’ve done.”

The second pillar is a service and help desk. The partner needs to be able to triage user calls, as well as capture complaint data to be able to detect and proactively address wider issues.

The third pillar is recurring IT support services.

The fourth pillar is lead demand and generation. A lot of companies don’t have a strategic model here, but McKendrick said it’s crucial for MSPs to have a marketing plan, adding Dell can help partners understand customer needs by market segment, as well as forecast service demands to ensure the infrastructure is in place to scale-up.

The fiifth pillar is recurring onsite visits. There will still be a need to go onsite when problems can’t be solved remotely, and this is also an opportunity to deliver reports and meet with customers. Leveraging limited face-time is critical to a successful managed services relationship, said McKendrick.

Among the various areas of managed services, McKendrick said Dell sees services around e-mail continuity, anti-spam, storage, VoIP, spam, security management, managed print services as particularly strategic and important as either wedges or part of a comprehensive menu of available services.

“It’s critical to understand where these services fit into play based upon the market segments you serve, the locations of those customers and the types of pain-points they have,” said McKendrick. “We spent a lot of time training our partners upfront to understand what questions to ask to do an evaluation not only from a bits and bytes perspective, but from a business valuation perspective.”

In the webinar, Eric Townsend, manager, digital office, Intel Americas (NASDAQ: INTC), outlined how Intel’s vPro technology can be a key competitive differentiator for MSPs.

By allowing remote access into a system even if the PC is powered-down or the OS is inoperable, Townsend said vPro allows MSPs to offer higher service level agreements at a lower cost, which means higher earnings for the partner. Without vPro, he said PCs must be left on at night to do maintenance and service or users must be interrupted during their daily work, making remediation more labour intensive for the partner and disruptive to the client.

“It makes you more efficient,” said Townsend.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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