Strategic service providers don't just sell technology, they use information technology to solve problems for their customers. That means the installation and break-fix skills that solution providers traditionally offered just don't cut it anymore.
"You have to have the technology chops to solve the customers' problems," said Bay Young, president and chief operating officer at vCORE Technology Partners, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based solution provider and MSP, in an interview with CRN. "Our value to our customers is that we have that enterprise-class skills set. If you can't bring that technical expertise to the customer, you'll become irrelevant."
Businesses and organizations today are looking for solution providers with deep skills in the technology IT products they sell to ensure they derive the maximum business value from those technologies.
That's why training and certifications are so critical. As solution providers evolve into strategic service providers, they must continuously maintain and raise their skill sets to meet their clients' demands. Training and certifications are also crucial for ensuring that solution providers' engineers and technical sales specialists are up to date on vendors' rapidly evolving IT product portfolios.
CRN's annual Tech Elite 250 list honors an exclusive group of North American IT solution providers that have earned the highest number of advanced technical certifications from leading IT vendors.
vCORE, for example, has developed expertise around five core areas: converged/hyper-converged infrastructure, network engineering, cloud computing, security, and data storage and protection. That expertise is supported by high levels of certification from many of the solution provider's IT suppliers including Dell EMC, Cisco, VMware, F5 Networks, Palo Alto Networks and others.
vCORE's Young says the initial training and certification is critical for developing the skills and expertise around vendors' IT portfolios that customers expect from their strategic service providers today. And ongoing training and certification is critical for making sure those skills stay sharp as IT rapidly evolves.
Groupware Technology, a Campbell, Calif.-based solution provider, makes a point of having the highest level of training and certification with every one of its vendors that it deems strategic to its business. Among Groupware Technology's several dozen IT vendor partners the company maintains top certifications with Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel and Microsoft, among others.
CEO Mike Thompson acknowledges that can be costly, both for the training and testing itself, as well as the opportunity cost of taking high-salaried engineers and technical sales people away from customers.
"It is a big commitment for [Groupware] to maintain certification levels," Thompson said, noting that he even has a team that's assigned the job of tracking and managing the company's certifications.
But Thompson says maintaining high-level certifications with strategic vendors has benefits beyond being able to field a highly skilled workforce. It signifies Groupware Technology's commitment to those vendors, creating a bond that provides Groupware with access to more vendor resources – and faster access for problem resolution.
Thompson specifically points to Groupware's ability to obtain demonstration products from vendors for use within its proof-of-concept labs and early access to new products that provide Groupware engineers with hands-on expertise.
"It's time to market, it's speed and it's success rate," he said of the benefits that high-level certifications bring. "It's an investment, from our perspective."
This year 101 of the companies on the Tech Elite 250, just over 40 percent, did not appear on last year's list. The 2018 Tech Elite 250 account for more than 25,000 technical positions in North America. And over 23 percent of the solution providers making this year's list had annual revenue greater than $100 million.
The 2018 Tech Elite 250 Complete Listing
CRN presents the full database of North American solution providers, recognized on this year's Tech Elite 250 list.
Sharpening Their Skills: The 2018 CRN Tech Elite 250
The Tech Elite 250 is comprised of solution providers in North America who have the highest partner levels from AWS, Cisco, Dell EMC, Google, HPE, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce, Verizon and VMware.
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