IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

From Turning Screwdrivers to Strategic Consulting

IT service providers who learn to reframe customer relationships by offering vCIO and other strategic advice to advance business goals reap more enduring rewards. By Colleen Frye
Reader ROI: 
PROVIDING TECHNOLOGY-RELATED business consulting services deepens customer relationships and can lead to more profitability.
SOME DEGREE OF INDUSTRY KNOWLEDGE is typically required, along with the soft skills to communicate at the executive level.
HONE IN ON a few industries and start by creating touchpoints such as regular meetings to discuss non-technology issues.

CHANNEL PROS who provide technology-related business advice, rather than just transactional, technical support, can drive business growth for both themselves and their customers. Done right, offering virtual CIO (vCIO) or strategic consulting services may even get you a seat at the C-level table too.

“Having a strategic consultant/vCIO benefits both the MSP and the client,” says Joanna Sobran, CEO at MXOtech, an IT services provider in Chicago. “A strategic consultant has the expertise to make recommendations on line-of-business applications, bring in resources from third-party vendors, and make operational technology recommendations.” With right line-of-business (LOB) applications, for instance, customers can save time and increase production, she says. “These strategic initiatives result in additional project revenue for the MSP.”

Joanna Sobran

Just a few years ago, these higher-level services were differentiators, but today they are more of an expectation, according to Jeff Dennis, CEO of Trnsfrm, a managed services provider in Westlake, Ohio. “Everybody puts virtual CIO on their website,” he says, adding that his firm incorporates it into every client’s IT support package and rarely sells it as a standalone service. However, Trnsfrm calls it out because “we want to make sure that people understand that there is this high-level piece” that goes beyond keeping the network running and making sure users can print.

Exactly what “high level” means can differ from MSP to MSP and from client to client. For Anchor Network Solutions, it includes budgeting, planning, lifecycle management, and technology roadmap advice, with the goal of helping customers “achieve business goals that leadership defines,” says Vince Tinnirello, CEO of the Denver-area MSP. Anchor offers these services through its client success department, which Tinnirello prefers to “vCIO,” a term he says often connotes business process improvement services that require industry expertise and LOB application knowledge.

Trnsfrm, by contrast, does offer business process improvement advice on matters such as departmental workflows or how the learning curve for a new technology platform may impact the business in terms of productivity, for example. “I think those are some of the key elements that are missed sometimes when we’re just doing a technical implementation,” Dennis says.

The bigger value for the client, he stresses, “really comes when we’re offering something where we are directing the business, helping them generate revenue, helping them minimize operational costs.”

For instance, Trnsfrm sits in on executive meetings as a C-level representative of the IT department. The company also participates in vendor meetings and has an in-house developer who can work alongside LOB vendors to customize implementations for clients.

About the Author

Colleen Frye's picture

Colleen Frye is ChannelPro's managing editor.

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