From The Editor | June 6, 2010

ASCII Summit: Are MSPs Driving Commoditization Of Their Offerings?


By Gennifer Biggs, security, storage and managed services editor

During the ASCII Reseller Success Summit in Chicago, held June 3, one interesting panel conversation revolved around the commoditization of managed services. Featuring a panel filled with industry experts – Jake Carroll, VP channel sales, Autotask; Kelly O'Bray, territory manager, GFI MAX; Danny Obaseki, partner development manager for Level Platforms; and Dave Stufflebean, sales engineer for StorageCraft – and moderated by ASCII member Don Bentz, president of Preferred IT Group, the panel tackled the idea that, just as hardware and software have become commoditized, so could managed services.

One key driver behind that possibility is the lessening of face-to-face time with customers. "As more remote work is done by MSPs, that means less face-to-face time" with your customers, and that is a big deal for a channel built on relationships," says O'Bray. "We've seen you be successful because you are talking to and seeing your customers on a regular basis, so the channel needs some strategy to work around the remote issues."

Stufflebean agreed, adding that by its nature, managed services takes the personalization out of the IT business offerings. "We need to remember to hold on to our personal touch approach, create those relationships with our customers," he says. "Remember, after you have that client on your roster, you can talk to them about more than just keeping their network running. You need to talk to them business owner-to-business owner, about how you can help them run their business better with technology."

The panel also suggested that to battle commoditization means offer more options while keeping your own business lean and mean. That can mean partnering with master MSPs that are reselling their proven solutions, or leaning on backend support, such as the outsourced NOC services just unveiled by SYNNEX under the direction of Amy Luby, former owner of MSPSN, a master MSP. "We are seeing more partners using outsourced NOC and partners to drive down the cost in their own businesses," says Carroll. "That efficiency helps them offer more unique services, differentiating them from others, and avoiding commoditization."

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Overall, the panel recommended this for MSPs looking to remain unique in their field: Reinforce personal relationships through quarterly business reviews with customers, using that time to really talk about business pain points versus new technology solutions. Remember to focus on those business needs every client has and tell them how you can help drive cost out, drive revenue in, and get their business more productive. And one more thing: Lose the jargon. Don't talk about cloud or terabytes or new speedy connection points. Talk about ROI and resolving their problems.