Tigerpaw Software occupies a unique position in the ongoing convergence of the IT VAR and telecom services agent channels. Both sets of partners rely not only on its professional services automation (PSA) software to handle the nuts-and-bolts administration of their recurring revenue models, but also on its expertise: a long history of dealing with the tricky telecom community and a vantage point to see what separates VARs who are successful adding business connectivity practices from those who are not.
The Bellevue, Neb.-based PSA specialist, which launched in 1984 with a single DOS-based product, now works with about 1,200 telecom agents and 1,200 IT solution providers, many of them converged companies that do both. James Foxall, Tigerpaw's president and CEO, met with CRN for several interviews around Tigerpaw's National Conference in Chicago earlier this fall to talk convergence and what the channel's going to look like in a few short years.
CRN: Have we reached a point where IT VARs and integrators have to consider a telecom services practice to effectively address their core customers?
James Foxall: Absolutely. At Tigerpaw, we've been beating this drum for years now, and we even made it a focus at our conference last year. Telecoms realize they need to get into data and are working hard to add data services to their offerings. Many items, such as outsourced NOCs, have made this easier than ever. IT VARs/integrators risk losing their clients to these telecoms -- who already have a foot in the door in most of the VAR's client organizations -- if they don't at the very least offer voice. It's honestly reached the point where you have to worry about the [VARs] that aren't looking at it because the train is now leaving the station.
CRN: How is Tigerpaw seeing the shift in its customer base?
Foxall: I think our unique position of automating more telecoms than anyone else combined with being one of the top three in the IT space has allowed us to see this in a unique way; we've not only been seeing it, we've been pushing it. [Here at the conference], we have 33 vendors representing both voice and data, and we've set up classes and discussion panels centered on this topic. It's happening, and the more progressive companies are already there and enjoying the benefits. Many more are trying to get there but are struggling with making it happen.
CRN: Why is the IT channel still so challenged to add telecom/connectivity practices?
Foxall: It's a different product and a different kind of sale. In the "old days," phone systems were very proprietary and required special skills to deal with tip-n-ring technology. Now, phone systems snap on to the network -- you can now sell cloud-based phone systems, for example. An IT VAR/integrator needs to choose a phone partner that not only has great technology, but also has a training program to help the VAR learn to sell and set up the system.
CRN: What's crucial for them to understand about PSA platforms and what do they need most in those platforms?
Foxall: A good PSA application is crucial to running a successful VAR/integrator. Not all are created equal, however, and most can only run just your service center. We encourage you to consider your business as a whole, and choose a solution that not only has top-notch PSA features, but also tools to manage your sales team and inventory as well. Regardless of the solution you choose, you need to make a commitment to implementation, and put in the effort to make the system and your people successful.
PUBLISHED DEC. 3, 2012