IBM PartnerWorld 2012: MSP Roundtable Provides Direction

At IBM PartnerWorld 2012, IBM's VP of Marketing for Midmarket Ed Abrams hosted a roundtable discussion session for IBM MSPs. If you're an MSP wondering where you should be headed, or simply looking for the pulse on services, read on for the scoop. IBM partnership need not apply ...

Panelists at the discussion included Jim Sullivan, president of Actifio (which once hosted YouTube before Google did) along with Jay Newman, SVP of Peer One Hosting. They and the other MSPs at the roundtable focused on the common themes of what customers are looking for and what MSPs can do to grow their own business while helping other businesses grow. Rather than focus on data analytics and fancy new products, the panel of MSPs offered some insightful straight talk.

Some key trends on MSPs' checklist include:

  1. Offload the problem, provide the opportunity: MSPs have a unique opportunity to start leveraging technology (preferably, IBM's technology) that can take a customer's issues with the Internet -- be they security, web-based accessibility, social media or whatever -- and make them a thing of the past. A key focus for many MSPs was putting their customers' mind at ease, while giving them access to the things they need without the responsibility of having to maintain that access.
  2. Move away from hardware: According to the panel, direct sales of hardware from the MSP is going the way of the dodo. A better approach is to offload key server abilities to IBM's own hardware stacks, providing a unified subsystem for the MSP and an smaller cost of entry for the customer.
  3. Horizontal problems in vertical markets: Specialization marks another opportunity for differentiation in the MSP space. Storage, specifically was brought up, since it's ubiquitous but often easily complicated. Here, MSPs can create unique specialized packages that attack the needs of each vertical market, understanding the complexities of vertical integration and putting a customer at ease. Ease of use coupled with a targeted approach was a universal win.
  4. Offer control: In a world with cloud, hosted services and the rise of MSPs, oftentimes smaller companies may be fearful they're losing control by outsourcing their infrastructure. Ensure customers they can keep a hand on things, especially key assists and applications. According to the panel, the hybrid approach to many deployments has been successful in bridging the need for control with the necessity of offsite heavy-lifting infrastructure.
Tying these four key themes together was the mantra of outstanding customer service and, of course, leveraging IBM services. But even if you're not a fan of IBM, IBM is definitely listening to what its MSPs are telling them, and MSPs are happy to share their success.
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