No Consensus

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There are times when conference panels raise more questions than they answer. The “Demystifying Managed Services” session at the CMP Channel Group’s XChange Solution Provider event this month in Atlanta fell into that category.

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The dialogue was intended to debate the very real fact that the term “managed services” is a nebulous, amorphous one that Webster’s certainly hasn’t tackled yet. After all, a survey conducted last month among 260 solution providers by the group’s Institute for Partner Education and Development found that about two-thirds of you feel you already provide some sort of managed services. That’s a higher number than I expected. Many at the conference earlier this month agreed. So, maybe it helps to break the term down a little bit.

The word “manage” could be used to say someone has been successful or they’ve reached a certain goal. As in, I managed to finish this column before my production deadline. Or, it could imply being in charge of something. At the simplest level, the term “services” applies to work performed by one person on behalf of another. In the context of solution providers, it could mean deployment of hardware and software or network integration or custom application development—and everything in between. When you put these two words together, you get a term that suggests infinite possibilities not just for your customers, but for the way you structure your own business. It’s a term much like one we’ve all come to know and use often: solution provider. You define it individually.

Gavin Garbutt, chairman and co-founder of N-able Technologies, which provides a platform for full-fledged managed service providers, observes that the way solution providers think about managed services correlates with how they manage their own business. The adjectives they use to categorize those models are chaotic (ouch!), reactive, proactive and value. You can read complete descriptions of each in the “MSP Maturity Model” white paper on N-able’s Web site.

The point is, before you can expect a majority of your revenue to come from technologies and processes that manage your customers’ IT infrastructure needs, you must first apply new discipline to the management of your own company.

What does the term “managed services” mean to you? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, welcomes your comments at

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