Supporting Channel Growth Through Superior MSP Experiences
By Jason Bystrak, Vice President, Modern Solutions, D&H Distributing
There’s been an acceleration of cloud and digital services in the business community since the advent of the more permanent hybrid workplace. The way organizations consume technology has changed, the same way their means of collaboration and communication have changed. Digital services are the future, and many of the products involved in equipping the new hybrid workplace are tied to solutions with digital components. Therefore, the ability to accommodate transactions that include services, software, and hardware is truly a key play in helping to facilitate digital transformation.
Distributors tend to make big investments into digital platforms and marketplaces, outfitting these offerings with existing logistic capabilities to support the evolving hybrid world, and embracing the combination of cloud-based services and legacy on-site equipment to help support channel partners. Add to this the fact that most solutions involve multiple vendors as well, and that no two manufacturers – or end customers, for that matter – operate the same way. This amounts to an IT landscape far more complicated than ever for MSPs and VARs.
D&H is seeing more projects than ever leverage digital investments. The collaboration category is a top example. Workers were forced to standardize their collaborative practices during the pandemic, utilizing apps like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom. Those same businesses are now implementing powerful new videoconferencing systems to extend these solutions into conference and huddle rooms to support hybrid work. Many companies are replacing or augmenting the initial investments they rushed to deploy back when most of the workforce was conducting business from end-points that were hastily relocated into their bedrooms and kitchens. In the process, companies are migrating to monthly subscription-based purchases to accommodate these hybrid solutions, as opposed to the large, one-off capital expenditures of the past.
Due to this, digital services will require standardized automation processes to support the accompanying increase in transactions. MSPs will be invoicing end-clients monthly instead of every three to four years of a refresh cycle, representing a huge jump in the frequency of billing. Automation to accommodate this increase will be critical to reducing touch costs, delivering total solutions, managing cash flow, and most importantly providing a quality customer experience — for the end customer, and for the MSP that’s managing all these offerings.
Prioritizing Ease Of Doing Business
The channel needs to focus on creating great experiences for the users of the technology we sell. Vendors and distributors also must develop policies that create superior experiences for the MSPs themselves, creating environments and platforms that make it easier for these solutions providers to aggregate, market, and implement all this complex technology across a multitude of clientele. The objective should be to standardize operations with integrated transactional systems, create cutting-edge platforms to support cloud and digital services, offer flexible financing solutions, and scalable services to supplement MSP capabilities, physical logistics, and inventory management.
As demand for subscription and consumption-based solutions has increased, we’ve seen cloud-oriented distributors act as the aggregation point to bundle multiple vendors and services into a scalable operational model. In this environment, channel partners should look for distributors who can offer multi-vendor solutions, allowing solutions providers to bundle and operationalize their products and services in an easily branded, managed, and even billed way.
Leveraging Automation And Marketplace Platforms
A partner marketplace offering should automate the MSP’s ability to select and manage what services are delivered to which clientele. More than that, an effective platform should integrate seamlessly with vendor marketplaces and commonly-used MSP automation platforms. As a best practice, distributors need to function as part of a larger solution stack in an as-a-service model. They need to cater their offerings to the MSP and align to whatever standardization is taking shape in the market. For instance, partners should be able to purchase solutions and services from a Microsoft Azure-based marketplace and bundle those with other products, all while receiving a single invoice.
The data generated by such aggregate platforms also can help drive natural cross-sell and service-attach opportunities. For example, D&H recently implemented a new “AIM” sales methodology focused on helping MSPs select appropriate services to attach to turnkey solutions. An acronym for “Assessment, Implementation, and Management,” AIM refers to the detailed assessment and review of an end-to-end solutions stack, and the implementation and management of complimentary services that add significant value to that overall project.
Services can be provided by either the partner, the end user, or the distributor, depending on what’s most cost-effective for the end customer and profitable for the MSP. But in almost all cases, MSPs can add compelling value and enhance their margins by attaching some level of service to a turn-key solution, such as offering a site survey when upgrading a Wi-Fi network or providing 24-hour help desk services.
Adding professional services like HDaaS (Help Desk as-a-Service), integration projects, or data migration can offer considerable advantages for MSPs and VARs. It can augment the partner’s capabilities and allow them to capture ongoing revenue they may not have been able to accommodate otherwise in the same time frame. All this while adding valuable elements for the end customer, covering anything from enhanced security management, to White Glove and Google Zero-touch enrollment, to laser etching of individual devices with custom logos.
The Value Of Partnership Is Evergreen
With every new technology trend, some people claim that distribution will be disintermediated. The fact is that with each new market development, the value proposition of distribution tends to strengthen since channel partners will always need support in navigating the industry as it transforms. Distribution has transitioned beyond logistics and financing to become a solution orchestrator, bringing together disparate components to help MSPs offer flexible consumption models. The partnership will maintain its value as long as those distribution and vendor partners cater their offerings to the actual needs of solutions providers in the field, however rapidly those requirements rearrange themselves. Capabilities and services in the channel should be flexible and purpose-built to support those thousands of channel partners to deliver world-class business experiences — and, in turn, to serve an exponential number of end customers.