Long Answer Follows
With the recent ConnectWise acquisition of Continuum, one of the largest Master Service Providers, I thought it was the right time to share some thoughts regarding IT services and the Imaging Channel.
It is approaching ten years; where's the momentum?
It has been nearly a decade since Master Service Providers started courting the Imaging Channel in an attempt to assist the Channel in delivering IT services to their print services clients. Unfortunately, in this last decade, there seem to be very few success stories.
There must be a better way
Is it time for better options? Is there a better solution for the Channel than hoping the current Master Service Providers can help dealers move up-market to higher-end clients and gain more control over their SLA's? Is it time for a new hybrid approach? I think it was time five years ago.
When does the Channel recognize the failure to deliver? The inability to gain momentum in the Imaging Channel should cause both the Channel's dealers and the Master Service Providers to question the lack of success - and the future.
Most of the Imaging Channel is far behind the target of 30% plus of their overall revenue represented by a profitable IT services business. It's important to note that those Channel dealers who appear to be performing well in IT services are doing so without the help of a Master Service Provider. Dealers should listen with caution - or even skepticism - and question those who are recognized as leading the pack in the IT services deliverable.
Who and by what measurement are they leading?
Can Dealers succeed in the IT Services Deliverable? Yes, they can, and I am honored to have worked with an MSP who continues to raise the bar on their extremely successful Managed Service and Security platform. #ImageQuest headquartered in Nashville, TN. Led by Milton Bartley
It simply takes leadership
Until a dealer is ready to invest and hold themselves accountable to the growth of the IT Services deliverable, they will never gain enough traction to achieve a meaningful percentage of revenue needed for diversification.
Dealers don't need a babysitter directing them or controlling their IT deliverables. What dealers need is a rock-solid leader with courage and a proven ability to build something. The dealers need to put their minds to the IT deliverable. Maybe the Channel should adopt this as their motto.
"Putting our minds to IT"
Who in the Channel remembers the Master Copier Service Provider? Right! There never was one. Instead, some dedicated entrepreneurs transitioned outdated deliverables or built companies from the ground up that sold products and serviced the products they sold - profitably. These pioneers were determined leaders. I expect none of them hired babysitters.
Like the dealers they are courting, the Master Service Providers are focused on their growth. As they gain dealers, they grow, even if the new dealer is only marginally successful. And there are too many marginally successful dealers in the Channel to honestly call the past decade a success as it relates to IT services.
I can't be alone in thinking that Master Service Providers are stifling the individual dealer's operational maturity. As those dealers become increasingly dependent on the Master Service Provider, they fail to develop the critical skills internally, increasing their reliance on the Master Service Provider. It's a vicious circle.
Conversely, when you look at the dealers who have found success in IT services, you see little or no dependence on Master Service Providers. These successful dealers have a uniqueness to their IT service deliverable - a boutique quality if you will - that Master Service Providers cannot emulate as they build platforms to maximize the commonality among their dealers and their clients.
What's good for the Master is not good for the dealers and MSP's
Successful IT service providers clearly understand that yes, there must be a commonality among their clients - a consistent stack and a similar belief in the value of the service they are receiving. The problem for the Master Service Provider is that the most successful MSPs will define their deliverable, standard stack, and ultimately their ideal customer profile without regard to the Master Service Providers.
The successful MSPs are building boutique business models. It's this uniqueness that separates them from their competitors and ultimately makes them unlikely to engage a Master Service Provider.
The Channel's business leaders are smart enough to explore options on their own, and now is the time for them to start looking for other options. The current approach isn't working. It's time to take the bull by the horns and find your success in IT services; it's time to look in new places.
The Channel must avoid commonality which leads to commoditization
The dealers who have aligned themselves with Master Service Providers have helped to create a commoditized, albeit watered-down, IT services deliverable.
Recently I published an article on how I believe Master Service Providers are commoditizing their IT Services deliverable. Here's a link to that article if you want more background on my thoughts in this area. (article link)
My friends in the Imaging Channel, maybe it's time to look for alternatives in your IT services plight. Will the Channel spend another ten years doing the same thing and expecting a different result? We all know that spells insanity.
Instead, I suggest that the dealers who find themselves stuck with little or no movement reach out to the MSP community - outside the Imaging Channel - and talk with those service providers inside the channel who figured out how to be successful without relying on a Master Service Provider.
Yes, there are a few who are successful using a Master Service Provider, but we intelligent minds can agree they are the exception and not the rule.
Tough conversations - both internally and externally are required to create improvement and real change. That said, the Imaging Channel has to start having these tough conversations. It's a disservice to the Channel's reputation as one of innovation and growth to continue avoiding the realities of the marketplace.
"Status Quo is the Killer of all that will be Invented, don't get stuck in Status Quo."
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