3 Ways to Build Momentum for 2019 and Beyond

For success, MSPs must work toward the key pillars that contribute to partner success and profitability.

December 17, 2018

5 Min Read
Three, 3

By Himanshu Verma

The pace of technological innovation puts unique pressures on value-added resellers and managed service providers. New technologies, the growth of cloud services, and budget and resource limitations are driving businesses to rely more heavily on their trusted channel partners for support. While this is good news for those VARs and MSPs, it also means they have to stay on the cutting edge of the industry to continue to provide value to their customers.

How can VARs and MSPs support the needs of existing customers and acquire new ones, while maintaining and improving profitability in an ecosystem in flux? There’s no simple answer – but during my experience at WatchGuard I have seen three key pillars that contribute to partner success and profitability. In this column, I’ll cover these pillars as they apply to the IT solutions providers I’ve worked with specifically, but keep in mind that these focus areas extend to all segments of the IT channel.

Here are the key areas channel partners need to focus on for a more fruitful 2019:

Innovation at Speed

Gone are the days when IT solutions providers could wait months or even years to realize the tangible gains from new vendor technology. These days, IT solutions providers need near-immediate results, as the success or failure of new products and services depends on their ability to quickly bring value to the market. Today, it’s all about agility. It’s about reducing the time, resources and costs associated with deploying a new product or service that solves real-world customer requirements – from envisioning to developing, testing and launching. Succeed or fail fast. Iterate. Repeat.

This means IT solution providers need to respond quickly to the needs of their customers, and work with vendors who share this agile, fast-paced approach. IT teams today face dramatically different challenges than they did 10, or even five years ago, such as more complex IT environments, more demanding end-user needs, and a security threat landscape that continues to evolve at a faster rate. If the products and services you’re offering haven’t evolved along with your customers, you’ll be left behind.

Take the security market, for example. Ransomware was a major focus for cybercriminals in 2016 and 2017, so in response, IT solution providers incorporated technologies and services that addressed customers’ urgent need to prevent, detect and remediate these cyberthreats. As the threat landscape continues to shift and transform, we’ll see attackers use advanced tactics such as packing, polymorphism and more to design even better ways to disguise attacks, infiltrate networks and avoid detection. With the constant stream of emerging threats bombarding organizations of all sizes, it’s critical for IT solutions providers to constantly look ahead, anticipating potential customer challenges and how to proactively address them. IT solution providers who quickly integrate cutting-edge technologies, like machine learning and artificial intelligence-enabled defenses, for instance, provide significantly more value for their customers.

Embracing New Business Models

The traditional channel business model of shipping, delivering and providing technical support for products also is evolving rapidly. While businesses are achieving success with traditional operational models, leadership across IT solution providers must take a step back and consider if they’re bringing the greatest value, customer engagement, and profitbability by adopting new approaches.

For example, look at the managed-service-provider model. Unlike organizations who function solely as resellers or distributors of security products, MSPs earn additional recurring revenue by …

… managing the solutions for their customers. Managed service providers that provide value-added security services to their offerings, such as deployment, configuration, remote management, managed detection and response, risk mitigation and security awareness, and monitoring and reporting, to name a few, can become a full-fledged managed security service provider (MSSP). This type of strategic addition helps small and midmarket customers easily subscribe to services they wouldn’t have the budget or expertise to manage in-house. In return, this model provides ongoing value for the customer and greater profits for the IT solution provider.


Last, and possibly most important of the three pillars, is differentiation. It’s no secret that today, many vendor solutions offer similar capabilities. So most channel partners end up offering the same or similar products and services, making it challenging to distinguish themselves from the competition. Fortunately, this common obstacle can be overcome by leveraging one of two effective approaches.

The first is specialization. IT solution providers can differentiate themselves by specializing in areas like security, vertical markets, customer size or deployment models. Second, channel players can seek out innovative products that offer capabilities that others can’t match. Building strong relationships with leading vendors and building expertise in technologies that solve problems more effectively than the competition is a great way to stand out from the pack.

Just take a look at the Wi-Fi and network services market. Wi-Fi is an incredibly well-known and mature solution category, wherein most vendors offer highly similar products – which often, collectively, provide about the same set of capabilities as the next comparable option. For this reason, it has become increasingly difficult for IT solution providers to meaningfully differentiate themselves in the wireless services arena. In response, I’ve seen IT solution providers differentiate themselves by tackling the issue of security in networking and Wi-Fi. Offering a wireless network that’s not only fast and scalable, but also secure, helps differentiate IT solution providers through an offering that ensures differentiated business continuity for their customers.

Setting Up a Successful New Year

The ever-evolving technology landscape demands that partners constantly re-examine their businesses. While customer needs, technologies and challenges may change year in and year out, maintaining the ability to innovate at speed, the openness to adopt new business models, and the drive to differentiate will ensure partners are best positioned to be successful in 2019 and beyond.

Himanshu Verma is a director of product management at WatchGuard Technologies, with a primary focus on delivering WatchGuard products and solutions to the managed security service provider (MSSP) market. Prior to WatchGuard, he held product management roles for the enterprise authentication-as-a-service division of SafeNet (now Gemalto). During his time at SafeNet, Himanshu helped transition the enterprise authentication business from a traditional on-premises product to a successful SaaS solution. He has extensive experience in in-bound and out-bound product management, engineering and R&D for information security and data protection technologies. Follow @watchguard on Twitter.

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