Carolinas IT Finds Success in Life Sciences Vertical

How one MSP 501er leveraged vertical expertise to create competitive differentiation.

March 20, 2019

3 Min Read
Medical Researchers, life science

By Rachel Williams

Analysts and channel experts increasingly proselytize the value of developing a vertical specialty in order to compete in indirect sales, where end users are searching for a service provider that can speak to their specific pain points and business goals. It isn’t always easy to develop such a niche specialization, but one Raleigh, North Carolina-based managed service provider (MSP) has proven that if you listen to your customers, it can be done.

Carolinas IT provides support to pharmaceutical, medical-device and increasingly, life-sciences companies. As a SOC 2 cloud provider, their team provides security, compliance, and control over the data that falls under the regulatory compliance umbrella.

Carolinas IT chief executive officer and founder Mark Cavaliero says the MSP fell into the vertical after a former client referred them to a life-science company that needed help adhering to the notoriously stringent constraints surrounding FDA compliance.

“We developed a plan to provide them with hosting and support and it was a great fit with our staff and expertise,” Cavaliero says.

He says he realized the promise of this market after seeing the value of investing in developing expertise around compliance and operating standards required to meet regulatory needs. This would narrow the competitive landscape, he thought. And he was correct.


Carolina IT’s Mark Cavaliero

“Companies seeking success working in the life-sciences vertical have to make some substantial investments in time and training,” Cavaliero explains. “Once we made the investments, it was a logical move to expand our client base.”

Carolinas IT, number 329 in this year’s MSP 501 rankings, took its first deep dive into life-sciences regulatory compliance in 2011. Since then it’s learned lessons — some the hard way.

“We learned the importance of putting our own operation under the same controls the client is under,” Cavaliero says.

CIT had to develop a full system of SOPs and put them under formal change control.

“This was an enormous task for our company,” he says, “but it was definitely worth the investment.” The company also learned how to manage servers that are covered under a validation.

The market has changed over time, and by necessity, so too has Carolina’s offering. Cavaliero cites the availability of venture capital to provide funding to its clients as an example of such evolution. The companies he works with now have a sharper acumen, which translates to heightened standards when selecting an MSP provider.

“The clients are more sophisticated now; they know the questions to ask to see if an MSP has the experience they desire in a partner,” he says.

Life sciences presents a specialized set of challenges for service providers. Successful MSPs, Cavaliero says, must display a thorough understanding of the nature of their clients’ industries. This is especially true when patients’ health is potentially at stake.

“Drug trials and tests can not only make or break a client’s business, they can have real and lasting impact on patients. There is not a lot of room for error in this environment,” he says, adding that solid procedures, training, and documentation are crucial — all the fine print must be understood by the whole support team.

While some may envision mad scientists wearing lab coats, Cavaliero says the typical buyer is a seasoned, no-nonsense, tech-savvy operational executive who knows what they want.

“They don’t have the time or inclination to reinvent processes or hear excuses,” he says.

The projects are high priority with high stakes.

“They need information technology,” says Cavaliero, “to be an enabler in the process.”

Carolinas IT has 75 full-time employees. Last month it ranked among the fastest-growing companies in North Carolina’s Research Triangle as part of the Triangle Business Journal’s Fast 50 List.

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