Taking the stress out of IT is an art form, a craft that requires enduring expertise and little, if any, room for failure.
With the margin of error tight, and margins even tighter, technology providers are fighting for relevance on multiple fronts, with competition rife and customer demands heightening.
Perhaps the idea of relevance is a touch clichéd in the world of the channel, and perhaps the very notion of adding value is borderline expressing the obvious.
But nonetheless, an undercurrent of truth exists because as 2018 kicks into gear, partners are at a crossroads.
“We recognised many years ago that in order to survive, we needed to be more than a managed service provider [MSP],” Hotline IT CEO, Michelle Joosse, acknowledged.
Encountering and overcoming challenges is nothing new to the channel however, a channel that has battled for buy-in since the technology industry began — maximising managed services is merely another bump in a long road of obstacles.
End-user appetite is high however, creating opportunities as a result.
“A technology provider needs to be a partner in business,” Joosse added. “Businesses are and should be looking for a long-term relationship with their technology provider.
“The provider needs to be proactive, not reactive in their management of their client’s technology needs. Only through this approach will trust be established and the client will feel they are getting value from that relationship.”
In a market dominated by cloud conversations and security strategies, which are to be delivered at speed and at scale, Hotline IT is playing the long game, aligning to long-term business priorities rather than short-term fixes.
“We look at a customer as a customer for life and really value our customers and work hard on developing and enhancing our relationships with clients,” Joosse said. “It's much harder to acquire new clients than to ensure your customers are happy.
“We feel that the value we offer to our clients — value for money, reliable systems and trust that we care about their business.
“The fact that we are able to look after all our client’s IT needs makes the whole experience much easier.
“We handle their whole IT needs which means that they no longer have to focus on IT, rather on what their business does best.”
Founded in 1994, Hotline IT was originally established by husband, Malcolm, who capitalised on a gap in the market specific to small-to- medium (SME) enterprise IT support.
With Malcolm now focused on product development in a director role, the business continues to operate as a full-service IT management solutions provider, with expertise across cloud, security and communications services and partnerships with Microsoft, VMware, StorageCraft, Veeam and Dell EMC among others.
“I think the value of a strong vendor relationship is often underestimated,” Joosse added. “Vendors, just as technology partners, need to place value in their relationship and work together to offer products and services that meet the market.”
As Australia pivots towards managed services, favouring outsourcing over building in-house expertise, the channel appears well placed to capitalise.
But MSPs should proceed with caution and contingency plans, when assessing key market metrics.
“We’ve turned the needle for the last 15 years towards managed services,” Forrester principal analyst of global channels, Jay McBain, observed. “There was a time when IBM cashed in all its chips thinking that outsourcing was going to be the way of the future.
“During that time, 15 per cent of enterprises outsourced and IBM took home a big chunk of the market and became fat and happy. But then the market hit a plateau and never went above that figure.”
According to McBain, through examining “any basic research” on outsourcing — whether that be across small business or enterprise — providers are learning that the market is not going to grow from 15 per cent across the world to 100 per cent.
“I don’t think we’ve hit the plateau yet, but the market will eventually reach a limit,” he advised. “If you run a flower shop or day-care business, you will be one of the 15-20 per cent that are happy to pay a monthly operational fee because you see value.
“Then there’s the 80 per cent group that perhaps would rather just pay when something goes wrong.”
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