Intelisys To Partners: Managed Services Is The Next Big Sales Opportunity

Many once-apprehensive IT professionals who believed managed services could impact job security are admitting they're ready to move the more mundane IT tasks off their packed plates.

That means managed services might present the next big opportunity for solution providers right now, according to master agent Intelisys and its partners at the annual Intelisys Channel Connect event in Napa, Calif., last week.

A real-time poll administered during an IT Pain Points panel at the show revealed that nearly 40 percent of solution providers identified staffing as the biggest problem their customers are facing. And while staffing might be the biggest issue, there are several other pain points contributing to the feeling of being squeezed, said Scott Kinka, chief technology officer for Evolve IP, a cloud services provider and Intelisys supplier partner.

[Related: Cloud, Convergence Top Issues For Intelisys Partners At Channel Connect]

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"Things like mobility management and help desk tasks -- all those things are related and add up to the staffing problem," Kinka said.

Companies are recognizing they aren't staffed well enough to deal with the daily responsibilities that crop up, including help desk support, said Andrew Pryfogle, Intelisys senior vice president of cloud transformation, during his keynote at Channel Connect. "Yet they're still using the resources they have to focus on those kinds of [tasks], and that's what they should be thinking about changing," Pryfogle said.

IT organizations trying to accomplish more with less are showing interest in handing off some of their daily chores so they are freed up to focus on more strategic IT projects, he said. This is a departure from the attitudes IT organizations had just a few years ago toward managed services, according to Pryfogle.

Matrix IBS, an Intelisys partner that offers cloud and managed services, believes IT teams are starting to understand what they need and are looking for a partner that can provide the service around those requirements with less fear of being replaced, said Scott Lee, vice president of channels for Matrix.

"The IT [employee] knows they have to become more strategic to keep his job and they aren't afraid to outsource the easy stuff," Lee said. In fact, the tables are turning and customers are starting to ask for the very same thing that Matrix has been pitching for the past couple of years, which is making deals easier to close, Lee said.

"We get on these discovery calls, except we don't have to do a lot of selling now. [Customers] are saying things like, 'We have two [IT employees] supporting 300 end users, and we just really want to focus on ... what's the word? Strategic! Yeah, strategic IT tasks,' " he said. "Most of our deals are around help desk, support and service."

Managed services holds tremendous promise for both partners and end customers, Intelisys' Pryfogle said, challenging partners in the audience with the question, "How are you leveraging technology as a strategic asset for a business in order to drive more revenue for that company?"

But managed service providers (MSPs), also known as "trusted advisers," must always keep their focus on making sure clients have the right business and IT solutions and services they need to be successful, said Michael Drobnis, CEO of OptfinITy LLC, a Springfield, Va.-based MSP.

"While outsourcing can play a role in what we offer," Drobnis said, "these vendors are an extension of our brand, so it is imperative to not only make sure that the service is reliable and seamless, it's imperative that [the MSP] is able to manage the process."

Because interest in managed services is just starting to take off, now is the time for solution providers to get involved and grow a healthy business around these services, said Mark Szotkowski, president of sales for Intelisys partner and cloud service provider RapidScale.

"The customers are buying right now, you just have to figure out what is going to get them over the edge to buy," Szotkowski said.