Tech Industry Missteps Could Spell Trouble for Channel Practitioners
… they have in many instances acted as ‘sellers.’ And those sellers typically aren’t seen as being engaged in protecting their customers, but rather either trying to grow at the best case or just get money from [customers] at the worst case,” says Schijns, a 2018 Channel Partners Influencer award winner.
A better way? Offer managed services that position your company in a different light.
“When you have – and I’ll use our solution as an example – a virtual CIO that comes out and checks what you have and looks at your needs and sees your abilities and says, ‘Hey, you’re not protecting your customers’ data enough, you’re not protecting your associates, you’ve got risks here [and so on].’ Then the channel gets seen as the ‘solutioner’ — the person who protects them from whoever on the tech side is exploiting these customers. Should they ignore it and continue to just try to sell more and more technology, [solution providers] will be lumped in with the exploiters.
NetGain Technologies, a Lexington, Kentucky, provider of managed services to small and midsize businesses, is one of many MSPs hoping to avoid that pratfall; in fact, many of NetGain’s customers rely on it to serve as the virtual CIO that Schijns describes. NetGain helps with cybersecurity, data integrity and business strategy, among other things. Regardless of what its customers think of social-media giants, data-mining companies or disruptive tech upstarts, they view NetGain as a source of good, says Jason Jacobson, company CEO.
Ransomware, Jacobson adds, is a big reason why.
“A few years ago, when we met with our top clients, they were saying, ‘I don’t want my data in the cloud because I don’t think it is secure’ or ‘I don’t want to put my data into Microsoft because I am worried who might have access to it,’” says Jacobson.
Then security breaches began to mount. Since the rise of ransomware and other forms of malware, customers have changed their views. Most realize that sooner or later one or more of their employees will click on something they shouldn’t or neglect to upgrade something that they should. As their thinking has evolved, customers have warmed to the idea that putting things in public and hybrid clouds is a sound idea, and relying on an independent third-party channel provider to help them is an even better one.
But this notion, like it or not, is under more scrutiny today given the excesses of big tech companies. This is especially true as partners recommend and implement more advanced technologies such as AI and IoT innovations, which raise new and often unanswered questions regarding security, regulatory compliance, employment and more.
Tim Curran, the retiring CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC), says channel companies should start to formulate answers to tough questions from customers, especially when it comes to data security, customer privacy and regulatory promise. They may even wonder if it makes sense to promote their own companies on social media and in other forums. But they still appear to heroes to most of the companies they serve.
As for other tech providers, he has mixed feelings.
“I still think social-media companies and others provide enormous value to the market,” Curran says. Many, he adds, have been unfairly treated. But being a little bit more upfront with users on data usage and tracking, he adds, “would have been a better business move.”