In this column last week, I discussed the divisive issue of distributors offering managed services to users on behalf of resellers. ARN's online poll during the past week saw just over 60 per cent of respondents claiming they should not be dealing with users, while the remainder viewed their presence as a valuable resource that levels the playing field. Whatever your views, I feel confident in predicting it is a trend we will see more of in future rather than less.
Eventually, I believe the IT industry will broadly adopt a telecommunications model where users pay for the environment they run on a monthly services contract; all hardware will be leased and software-as-a-service will become the norm. For now, those wanting to get into managed services have two options - develop the capability internally (which is easier said than done) or find a partner they can trust.
Managed services (like value-added distribution) can mean different things depending on who you talk to. But in its purest form the customer pays a fl at monthly fee for all hardware, software and services supplied as part of a single contract. When something goes wrong, constant remote monitoring should mean there will be somebody there to fix it quickly (quite possibly before the customer knows anything is wrong).
These are great ideals but obviously very difficult to deliver in a real world environment. If they weren't, everybody in the industry would be doing it. That is why I was so interested in the model Baden Wright has built at Sonnet.
He claims it is one of the only companies in the country that has successfully integrated network management systems with service desk to provide end-to-end managed services. Winning an outsourcing deal with Jetstar and providing white label managed services for two of the largest technology vendors does nothing to hurt his credibility.
But now he wants to push that white label model into the tier-two integration community and it will be interesting to see how that is received. Let's not forget that Sonnet's heritage is as a hardware reseller itself and there are bound to be some who will view the company as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
The only way to counter this perception will be to get some partnerships up and running.
Leading Solutions has already signed up and it looks like exactly the kind of symbiotic partnership that will increasingly be adopted. Leading will concentrate on the hardware side and offer white label managed services so customers don't even know (or care) that these are being provided by another organisation.
When Sonnet customers need hardware, Leading can supply it more efficiently than its managed services partner ever could.
It is impossible to be all things to all people as a reseller and still do a good job, so why not concentrate on your strongest areas and hand over responsibility for anything outside the comfort zone? That way the customer gets a better service and everybody wins.