A Midsize Partnership

A solution provider uses its talent, skill set to put a customer at the forefront of its industry

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Administrative Partners Inc. (API) knows the midmarket.

Founded in 1998, approximately 75 percent of the solution provider's customers fit into the midmarket space, and it is with these midsize companies that API has been able to launch itself into the world of managed services while still keeping relationships strong with long-term customers such as Hill, Ward and Henderson, a midsize law firm based in Tampa, Fla.

Since the beginning of the VAR-customer relationship in 1999, API has helped Hill, Ward and Henderson create an extensive infrastructure that puts the law firm at the forefront of its field in terms of adopting technology.

"They've embraced IT, which is kind of rare for law firms, and they've realized that computers can really be a differentiator for them. They're willing to spend the money to have very good systems in place, but they also expect that the systems are going to run very well," said Greg Pierce, director of technology services and one of the principal owners of Tampa-based API.

The law firm first purchased a billing application that API then customized. That exchange blossomed into the solution provider working for the law firm on a word-processing software integration and a Microsoft Outlook conversion.

By the beginning of 2005, although API still had two on-site employees working at Hill, Ward and Henderson, the firm's IT needs had grown so great that it hired a full-time IT manager, Jase Phillips.

Thus far, Phillips said he has been pleased with API's continued presence and support as the firm's technology provider.

"They provide personnel to do everything we need them to do over here. They also serve as a reseller for us for software and hardware needs and also as a middleman for leasing our equipment," Phillips said.

Phillips added that API's expertise is an immensely valuable asset, "They're a good group of people both personally and in their breadth of skill set. Some of the guys we have here are not up to things we need technically speaking, but they have other guys on the API team that we can tap for special needs."

API's 24-hour help line is still available to the law firm's almost 300 employees, even though Phillips carries a cell phone and is on-call for the staff.

Hill, Ward and Henderson is a typical customer for API.

"A lot of times, companies have gotten to a point where they've grown, and a lot of times it's explosive growth. Maybe they had some kind of IT infrastructure support that was in place—[maybe] a friend or somebody recommended—but it hasn't grown with the company. They look around and computers aren't doing what they're supposed to do, so they start looking for computer consultants," Pierce said. "That's where we really come in, and either we supplement the IT support they have in-house or we completely take over."

To beef up its portfolio, API now is offering managed services using Ottawa, Ontario-based N-able Technologies' MSP platform.

Pierce said he thinks API's managed service offering is a good fit for the solution provider's midmarket customers. API's offering ranged from strictly monitoring to a complete managed IT infrastructure.

"It's one of those things that you can take care of where IT doesn't want to on the lower side of that midmarket. A lot of times they're still outsourcing all of their IT needs, and in that case, it puts us into that proactive mode," Pierce said.

API now has 10 managed services customers but hopes to have about 50 as it moves into the first quarter of next year.

"I think what we're going to end up seeing is that basically all of our customers will be on some kind of managed service because it just makes sense for them and makes sense for us. We can do things cheaper and provide better service," Pierce said.

In addition to its managed services offering, API also uses management tools from Tampa-based Persystent Technologies to help keep users' desktop and laptop computers in sync and up to date on the system. The Persystent Enterprise software checks when a machine is booted on the network to make sure it is correctly configured, freeing up the solution provider's 22 engineers to work on more complicated projects such as disaster recovery.

"It saves us a lot of time. The reason we started looking at it for our enterprise-level accounts [is because] as they were growing we were just adding engineers to take care of things," Pierce said. "We've been able to eliminate 90 percent of low-level help desk calls using this software. Those issues are taken care of much better [now] than they were before."

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