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Coronavirus And The Channel: 5 Takeaways From MicroAge's Larry Fulop

While increased remote work has 'definitely accelerated' the move of customers to cutting-edge solutions, a big question is, 'what happens after this wave is complete?' Fulop said.

March is shaping up to be one of the busiest months ever at solution provider MicroAge, according to one of the company's top executives.

Like many in the IT channel right now, MicroAge is operating at breakneck speed to help customers shift to remote-work deployments in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic—a shift that became a necessity virtually overnight.

[Related: Channel Partners Share Tales From The Trenches During Coronavirus Pandemic]

The spike in demand from customers has been “kind of crazy,” said Larry Fulop, vice president of technology solutions at Tempe, Ariz.-based MicroAge, No. 137 on CRN's Solution Provider 500. With the sudden impact to many parts of the economy, “you would almost think the opposite, but that hasn't been the case.”

Fulop, whose company has sales associates around the U.S., spoke with CRN as many communities urged employers to quickly transition to work-from-home to combat the spread of COVID-19.

What follows are five takeaways from CRN's interview with Fulop.

Solutions, Not Products

With the wave of demand for remote-work deployments, "it's more of a solution sale. We're not just selling products," Fulop said. "We're actually helping clients get through this period [with full solutions]. We're actually being part of their teams, and having the opportunity to help them move to a more remote capability, a more virtual capability."

‘The Next Level’

The work MicroAge has been doing for customers has included a major emphasis on videoconferencing; collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx; and Unified Communications as-a-service offerings from the likes of 8x8 and RingCentral.

"It's getting people to that next level very quickly," Fulop said. "We probably would've got there eventually, but I think it's definitely accelerated where people are going."

Closer Customer Engagement

"Because we're having the opportunity to work with our clients and help get to this 'new world,' it's given us an opportunity to really get more engaged with our clients, become more entangled," Fulop said. "We're selling a lot of hardware with that too, which includes the laptops, the monitors, the phone devices, the headsets."

Meeting the Demand

The sudden surge in demand for hardware has created shortages affecting many in the channel, solution providers have told CRN. MicroAge has been finding it "challenging"—but not impossible—to find the necessary hardware, Fulop said.

"I wouldn't say it's been easy, but so far we've been able to get it," he said. "Do I see it becoming a risk in the future? Absolutely."

What's Next

The sudden evaporation of consumer demand in several massive industries—including travel, hospitality and even some types of retail—is bound to have reverberations around the U.S. economy. Action at the federal level to assist hurting businesses is "going to be necessary" to ensure that the entire economy doesn't crumble, Fulop said—something that would make the current boom in demand for solution provider assistance short lived.

"That's the question, that's the fear—what happens after this wave is complete?" he said. "I don't know if anybody knows."

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