Tech Data Defines MSP Strategy


Through the alliances, Tech Data plans to promote MSP platform vendors whose products it thinks will drive solution provider adoption of managed services. The Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor's approach differs from that of rival Ingram Micro, which is packaging and offering branded MSP components such as hosted managed services, PSA, managed network operation center, and managed help-desk solutions to VARs via its Seismic Platform.

"We at Tech Data feel that we need to be an enabler of the MSP to make sure what they do is both scalable and efficiently deployed," said Bob O'Malley, vice president of U.S. marketing at Tech Data. "We feel like it will put us in a position of leadership and influence in the marketplace."

O'Malley said solution providers from Tech Data's TechSelect partner network have been asking the distributor to define the path it plans to take in the managed services space.

"Much of our leadership from TechSelect has come to us and said, 'Tech Data, we need you to declare on managed services because we need your support as our preferred distributor and the industry needs you to speak out on managed services so that we have a sense of how we should proceed forward together,' " he said.

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MSP vendors, including TechSelect affiliate partners N-able and ConnectWise, also were prodding Tech Data to define its managed services programs, O'Malley added. "They've been asking us to work with them more closely to make sure that what they bring into the marketplace is not just a point solution but is part of the managed services toolkit as such that it can be fully integrated into offerings that the VARs [are putting together]," he said.

For example, Tech Data will be working in tandem with ConnectWise to promote the vendor's PSA offering and to develop open standards for the MSP world.

"Tech Data and ConnectWise are pioneering integration that will allow VARs to place orders, receive those orders, deliver those products and then deliver their managed services and their traditional services in a completely integrated system that is open and allows VARs to have the choice of who they do business with," said Arnie Bellini, president of ConnectWise, Tampa, Fla.

"The cool part is it's an open architecture that anyone can integrate into, including Ingram, because ConnectWise believes in choices," Bellini said. "Anybody that wants to write to this standard is free to do it. If Autotask wants to write to this standard they're free to do it. If Ingram wants to write to this standard, they're free to do it."

For its part, Tech Data wants to be at the forefront of this integration movement as VARs become MSPs and their business models evolve.

"As the industry moves more toward solutions and more toward managed services, this kind of collaboration is going to be critical," O'Malley said. "It's a culture of dealing with customers for life, of dealing with customers on an annuity basis as opposed to a PO or transaction basis, of designing what the customer wants from the customer-in not the manufacturer-out. It's a number of things, all of which talk about a dramatically different business model."

Tech Data then can step in and offer its configuration services, freeing up increasingly scarce trained technical staff to work on higher value-add projects and services delivery, he explained.

"With this model, all participants win. The clients win because they get better, more reliable and more cost-effective service. The VAR transitioning to MSP [gets] better utilization of their critical or constrained technical resources," O'Malley said. "Eventually, we expect Tech Data to win because we will develop much closer relationships with the MSPs. It will be more like a process rather than discrete transitions -- more process-oriented rather than transaction-oriented."

Tech Data's approach is appealing to customers like TechSelect member Angela O'Donnell, managing director of W. O'Donnell Consulting in New York. "They don't take on affiliate relationships lightly, so in a way it's a pre-screening process," she said. "I also think it's important because you can always recommend something, but you don't want to give it your seal of approval at the same time."

O'Donnell said she thinks Tech Data has done a good job of introducing smaller VARs to a variety of products that can help them make the transition from VAR to MSP.

"The resellers that are buying these products are growing their business and buying more from Tech Data in return," she said. "I don't think they can do anything but benefit from it."