IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Help Wanted: Business Transformation Professionals

New CompTIA research shows why channel firms must take a greater advisory and operational role in their clients' businesses.

The business community is redefining IT support. While organizations become increasingly more dependent on technology to improve and help manage their operations, their expectations and preferences are changing. The “on demand” generation is more comfortable pushing the limits with innovation and have fewer boundaries when it comes to buying and implementing their own devices and applications.

In other words, businesses may appreciate the support channel companies provide, but the value of many of the services they deliver is diminishing. SMBs can procure and provision email, security, and many of their critical business applications today with minimal hassles. SaaS and cloud applications, along with chat and on-demand video support, have simplified those tasks, even for technologically naïve business professionals.  

Those are a few of the transformative forces at work in the channel, according to the 2018 CompTIA IT Industry Outlook report (download a free version here), with many of the latest trends requiring providers to step outside their comfort zone. That is if they wish to expand and prosper.

In fact, many of the changes relate more to the customer mindset than new technologies. For example, the democratization of IT is forcing services providers to develop broader and deeper relationships with their clients. Department heads and end users taking a larger role in their companies’ technology procurement decisions today. That requires sales and marketing teams to expand their target audience and approach ̶ forcing them to consider virtually everyone a prospective decision maker.

The Value in Tech No Longer Will Come From IT

Advances in cybersecurity and innovative new fields such as Artificial intelligence(AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), drones and augmented reality (AR) are key to the channel’s future. Unlike past growth markets, the opportunities for MSPs and solution providers are expected to focus more on design, consultation, and ongoing support than implementing the technologies.

Complexity gets much of the blame. Few SMBs have the knowledge, resources, and people to implement the increasingly advances schemes and systems required to keep businesses running today. It may require months if not years of preparation before a company is ready to purchase its first IoT component or application, and twice as long to bring it online.  

CompTIA’s report shows a growing demand for business transformation, and though 80% of respondents have one or more full-time IT professionals on staff, most don’t have the talent to support the needed changes. The channel can help fill that gap.    

The value of tomorrow’s solution provider, MSP, cloud provider or whatever label they choose to use, will come from helping their clients see the “big picture.” Those channel firms must understand their customers’ goals, operational needs, and compliance requirements, and be able to design solutions and services to address it all.   

Advanced technologies are part of that strategy. Will IoT or AR help fulfill a client’s long-term objectives? If so, how and when should it be implemented? Those strategic conversations are exactly what SMBs need ‒ and will rely on even more in the future.  

Make the Leap

Today’s technological and business environments require a new type of provider: professionals who embrace change and develop wider strategic partnerships to address the escalating needs of their clients. Digital transformations can be quite complicated, and the SMB will undoubtedly be looking to MSPs to move them into this “as-a-Service World.”

All those changes are already affecting how the channel does business. Scores of providers have shifted away from or lessened their dependence on hardware sales and commoditized services. Rather than taking part in pricing wars, they’re leveraging partners and distribution to take on tasks that consume too much of their time or talent with little return.

MSPs must continue making those kinds of transitions. They should be dedicating more of their time to assessments and client consultations and delivering lucrative services such as advanced cybersecurity, strategic systems design and virtual-CIO types of support.

That portfolio may be delivered entirely by an MSP or through a network of qualified partners. When customers receive quality support, and everyone involved in the value chain makes a fair profit, nothing else matters.

MSPs must remain relevant to their clients if they wish to grow profitable new business practices. A strong commitment to change is a necessity, no matter what route they choose.


About the Author

With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.

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