For the last few years, it’s been clear that digital transformation will leverage managed services. What’s not been clear is how managed service providers (MSPs) will exploit digital transformation. That’s changing.
With each passing month, IT service providers are creating new practices around “digital transformation,” often referred to as “Dx.” As they do, they build new revenue streams for their organizations, and redefine what a channel company can be to end customers.
Take SWC Technologies of Oak Park, Illinois. In a recent blog entitled, “How Can Managed Services Enable Digital Transformation,” Brad Ellison, director of managed services client engagement, says limiting the expectations of your MSP to simply "keep the lights on" misses “the real opportunity to build strength and endurance in a marketplace where competitive advantage is fleeting.”
“In the past, managed services [were] created to help support server-room equipment. Today, [an] MSP with leading-edge solutions can help make a major impact in all areas of the business, including output and revenue,” says Ellison.
Amid that backdrop, I reached out to another MSP, InterVision, for its perspective. InterVision is a 25-year old IT services company that helps customers with everything from security to cloud to hosted collaboration, backup, virtualization and more. It’s a big partner of Nutanix, Cisco, AWS, and VMware, among others. Based in Chesterfield, Missouri, which is just outside St. Louis, the company last made headlines when it acquired DRaaS provider Bluelock.
InterVision this week unveiled its Digital Transformation Solutions (DXS) practice. A blend of strategy development, technology design and change-management capabilities, the new practice was formed to help customers wanting to increase agility, accelerate growth, improve efficiency, embrace innovation and empower their employees, according to InterVision.
For insight, I turned to Victor Tingler, vice president of digital transformation at the company. Here’s what Tingler, an industry veteran who has spent time at Savvis, Lightstream Commuications and Trace 3, had to say about the company’s new practice and how it epitomizes the way some MSPs and IT services providers are pushing the boundaries of business consulting.
The Doyle Report: Why this new practice now?
Victor Tingler: This was really driven by our customers’ needs. Across the spectrum of our clients, almost all are struggling with the question, “How do I operate in a digital world?” To satisfy our clients’ needs, we had to transform ourselves. So we put together a team that focuses on digital transformation. We start with a consultative, solutions-first approach.
DR: But aren’t your roots in selling equipment?
VT: Yes. This June we celebrate our 25th year of being in business. But when we look across the landscape, we realized that just being a VAR isn’t going to provide the services that our customers are looking for today. We need to be more. And that’s helping customers understand what their business drivers are, what they are looking to solve and figuring out how technology can help enable them to operate in a new way.
DR: Doesn’t an expansion like this require new people, processes and possibly even a new culture? That’s a lot to take on ... what’s the spark?
VT: There are a couple of things. We decide to grow the business. I don’t mean just organically, but through M&A. InterVision bought Netelligent, which brought along a whole portfolio of managed services. Then it bought Independent Technology Group (ITG), which provided data-center capabilities. And most recently, it bought Bluelock. As we bring in these other services capabilities that expand the portfolio, it was just a natural evolution to look at how we provide digital services to our clients. It’s no longer a question of, “Can I fulfill your order?" but instead, "Can I fulfill your business need?” When you have these types of conversations with your clients, it really changes the game.
DR: Does this new practice help you sell to line-of-business buyers?
VT: It absolutely does position us to have those conversations. Now, that being said, digital transformation requires a holistic approach. It needs to be a partnership between business and IT. If you try and drive it from either direction, you are typically setting yourself up for failure. A business unit can go off on its own and bring in new technology, but after six months when it goes into production, it’s left wondering who is going to support it, operationalize it and secure it. Conversely, when IT says, “I’m going to do the next, new shiny thing,” it may not satisfy the needs of line-of-business owners. This has to be a joint effort.
DR: You’re known for selling Cisco, Aruba, Nutanix and more. Now you’re opening up this arm of the organization. It looks more like Accenture, McKinsey, etc. But these are very different people than your typical Cisco CCIE. How do you ramp this? Do you recruit new people? What?
VT: It changes a lot of things. One of the reasons I was brought on is because I have built these types of consulting units elsewhere. I came on to enable not just our sales people to have these conversations, but also to talk to our engineers, solutions architects and the people who will actually be delivering digital-transformation solutions. When you start talking about the back end of this, obviously there are new partnerships that have to be forged, and new vendor relationships. We also have to figure out how to plug a lot of these consumption models into our managed services so we can offer a complete suite of capabilities to our customers.
DR: How much of the company can digital transformation services be? 10 percent? 20? A third?
VT: I think it could easily be a third.
DR: How does this increase your competitiveness and differentiation in the marketplace?
VT: It completely changes the game. A lot of the VARs that play in our space will give lip service to the fact that they take a consultative, solutions-first approach. But when it comes time to deliver in that manner, most of them do not have the skill sets or capabilities. So for us, this is a huge competitive factor.
DR: Talk about how this changes your organization internally. You have a lot of techs that may suddenly feel that they aren’t the cool kids any more; it’s all these new consultants.
VT: Sometimes you do have individuals that don’t want to change and you will lose some. But most look at this as an opportunity. Most of us who have been in technology for years understand you always have to embrace the new thing or the next-gen capability that comes out. This is no different. Going from selling just widgets, parts and hardware to consulting, while it seems a little foreign, is actually something people embrace and actually look forward to.
DR: Whom do you need to partner with to make this work?
VT: We have customers that are interested in applications transformation. They want to rewrite their code bases, in other words. We will leverage partnerships to make that happen. So we will work with those that specialize in writing code … or partnerships will evolve into as-a-service and software-based vs. just hardware.
DR: This means you’ll be doing some of your own intellectual property development?
VT: For sure. We have to break out of a mold and get or customers to see us a solutions-first company. To us, it’s worth any discomfort to make that transition.