November 2017 Office Technology

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Managed IT Services Leveraging the expertise of a labor partner by: Brent Hoskins, Office Technology Magazine

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n recent years, many have advised office technology dealers to pursue managed IT services in order to add new recurring revenue, thwart competitors, diversify their offerings and best prepare for the future. Some dealers entered the fray, fumbled and later exited. Some are waiting on the sidelines, perhaps apprehensive about the road to profitability. Others, however, have fully embraced the opportunity and, it appears, are doing well. We all know about the three options for those dealers interested in moving forward with IT services — build, acquire or partner. The third option can be pursued in two ways. First, the dealership can partner with a local managed services provider (MSP) or, second, partner with an IT services company like a Master MSP that provides remote network monitoring and helpdesk support. Three of the companies in this second group — All Covered (owned by Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. Inc., and, so, for Konica Minolta-authorized dealers only), Continuum Managed Services and Collabrance LLC (a GreatAmerica Financial Services company) — are quick to express enthusiasm for the dealer channel’s potential in offering managed IT services. “It has so many synergies with the dealer’s core, which has always been hardware for a monthly payment,” says Michael Amiri, senior director of dealer services at Continuum. “Now, it’s IT services for a monthly payment. It’s not going anywhere and is only going to expand, especially as security becomes so much more in the forefront of what the average customer needs. I truly believe that the dealer channel is perfectly suited to become the next generation of what customers are going to want from a quality IT services vendor.” How is the dealer channel perfectly suited for managed IT services? “Office technology dealerships have the perfect qualities to succeed,” Amiri says. “They have ‘brand names’ in their communities. They have earned trust in advisory roles and they have hundreds, if not thousands, of customer

relationships that can serve as backbones to becoming trusted IT advisors. I believe that by the end of 2020, dealers will be seen as ‘one-stop’ resources across the network for their customers, as long as they do it the right way, select the right kinds of business partners and keep their eyes on their labor costs to ensure profitability.” Greg VanDeWalker, senior vice president of IT channel and services at Collabrance and GreatAmerica, cites a sobering reality that may cause some dealers to take a second look at managed IT services. “If you look at the pot of money the typical end user spends on IT versus print, I have seen ratios from Computer Economics Inc. that are about 97-to-3,” he says. “So, customers are spending a lot more money on IT. There is no reason office technology dealers can’t get some of those dollars.” The key offerings of companies like Collabrance, Continuum and All Covered are the technology they utilize and the personnel they have on board to provide support to the partnering dealership in the form of remote network monitoring and remediation of most IT-related problems at end-user locations. “Today, Collabrance is remotely remediating more than 95 percent of all help-desk tickets,” VanDeWalker says, citing the ratio of Collabrance in particular, which he says is the result of its standardized “technology stack” (a combination of specific hardware and IT services, such as utilizing Datto Inc. for cloud storage) for dealers to offer to their IT customers. “That means only 5 percent of the tickets, or technology issues, in end-users’ IT environments are kicked back to the dealer partners.” Amiri expands on the value of what he refers to as the “labor partner,” citing similar numbers. “A labor partner is going to do what can be done remotely,” he says. “In the IT world, as much as 90 percent of the heavy lifting can be done remotely. But, like with MFPs and printers, every once in a while, you need to go turn a wrench or wiggle a wire. The dealer needs to be positioned for that other 10 percent, where there is a need to be met physically at the device.”

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