The value proposition should be about business outcome, not technology benefits.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

November 24, 2020

6 Min Read
Customer first on speedometer

Company Name: DP Solutions
Company MSP 501 Rank: 433
Director of Strategic Operations: Ben Schmerler
Headquartered: Columbia, Maryland
Primary Services:

  • Managed IT services

  • Cloud business services

  • Backup and disaster recovery

  • Security solutions

  • Professional services

Twitter: @dpsolutions_md

For nearly 50 years, DP Solutions has been putting clients first in solving IT problems. An OG in IT, the company started in 1971 as an IBM programming shop working out of the founder’s basement. Its mission was to provide corporations with high-quality technology services to improve their businesses processes.

Fast-forward a half-century. While the mission of DP Solutions remains the same, its scope has grown right along with the IT industry. They’ve evolved from providing server maintenance, application development and data processing to solving IT problems ranging from disaster recovery and cloud business to security and compliance.

Oh, and they’ve moved out of that basement and into three locations in the Washington, D.C., area.


DP Solutions’ Ben Schmerler

Ben Schmerler, the company’s director of strategic operations, likes the fact that the IT channel is never boring. Almost as much as he likes knowing he’s providing a valuable service to clients.

Channel Futures: What is one thing you wish vendors would do that they don’t?

Ben Schmerler: While we don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush, it would be much easier for us as an MSP if vendors focused on our experience dealing with our clients first, as opposed to their product. By that I mean many technology vendors don’t quite have the focus we would like to see. That’s when it comes to both the MSP’s day-to-day operations supporting these clients, as well as the client’s expectation that the MSP is on top of the technology landscape. Often, the vendors’ sales pitches and value propositions for their products (which are generally good) focus on the technology benefits as opposed to the outcome for deploying their products for the clients.

These clients work in industries like real estate, law and financial management. The truth is it matters much less to the layperson how fast a product runs, or the level of encryption it utilizes or even how stable the product is. They’re concerned with things like what compliance standards it addresses; also, how it solves business problems and ease of use for non-technical people. Certainly, the MSP needs to understand the underlying technology and how it works. But we would like more case studies and client-facing literature that discuss other measures of value besides technological superiority.

We find that the vendors who take this approach have better relationships with us as an MSP. They also experience greater product retention and end-user satisfaction.

CP: What new opportunities and challenges came with the global COVID-19 pandemic?

BS: Initially, we had a huge rush of end users asking us to either set up or make sure they were enabled to work remotely. This was right as restrictions and lockdowns started.  We manage thousands of endpoints and users, so this instant demand represented both challenges and opportunities. For some who had not really built a working culture around the idea of staff members doing their tasks anytime/anywhere, it was primarily an engineering challenge. We were faced with coming up with suitable remote access solutions, perhaps to a local desktop in their office, or migrating legacy systems to public cloud infrastructures. Fortunately, the majority of our clients required much less significant pivots. And this increase in demand keeps our team busy and productive which is good for the bottom line.

As it became apparent that COVID-19 would create some changes to how people worked for an indefinite amount of time, clients began trying to establish their “new normal” when it comes to workflow. This includes their relationship with the technology we manage for them. Clients who built out remote working solutions quickly are now having to tweak them to better suit their work-from-home needs. Sometimes that means changing hardware infrastructure. Other times it may mean adding more security tools to address data compliance needs.

Fortunately for us, our challenges have been mostly logistical as opposed to core business challenges.  Many businesses, especially those that are in…

…other service industries, have not been so fortunate during this difficult time in the world.

CF: What do you love about the IT channel? What do you hate about it?

BS: One thing you can never say about the IT channel is that it is boring. Challenges are inevitable and you have to become accustomed to never-ending change. Normally these shifts are for the better both for us and the customer. Plus, being in an industry that does have such rapid change forces us to keep on our toes and become better as an organization as well as individuals. At the end of the day, it is very satisfying to feel that you have personally grown while you are providing a valuable service to your clients.

While I can’t say that there’s anything we “hate” about the IT channel, there are certainly annoyances and aspects of the business that are less than ideal.  For example, it is never fun to take on a new client and discover that their technology in place is problematic to support. This requires a conversation about investment that you know will be painful for them as they have to keep their costs in check just like any other successful business.

This is especially difficult when the issue you have identified is highly technical in nature. That means from the perspective of the layperson, it does not have the feel of a business investment that improves their bottom line. Most decision-makers are happy to spend a little money in order to see a direct benefit to their operation. It’s harder to make that connection when you are asking for money to replace a device or piece of software that is no longer supportable due to vendor end-of-life deadlines.

CF: What was the single biggest technology or business decision that drive your company’s growth in 2019? How did it do so?

BS: In 2019, we made some serious changes to how we deliver our products and services to our clients, particularly our fully managed ones. They required us to reorganize roles and management structure. But we had reached the point where we felt that in order to provide the best possible service and step up to bigger and better opportunities, we had to devote the right resources to our higher-end clients. Each of our fully managed clients received dedicated account and technical resources designed to stay on top of technology standards, including security standards, as well as regular reviews of strategy.  Many MSPs miss out on having business discussions so that the applicability of technology is appropriate. We felt that by making these changes we could have a more attractive service offering to potential new clients, as well as improve retention with our existing clients.

Obviously making these changes to our organization took significant time and energy. But we can see in our numbers, as well as client satisfaction, that we made the right decision. It has allowed us to scale up and grow for the future.  Furthermore, when it comes to future business planning for DP Solutions, we now have a better sense of how many people and with what skill sets will be required as we add new clients.

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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