By Pete Engler
When small to medium businesses (SMBs) shop for partners to help with their technology needs, they want expertise, dependability, trust, convenience - and one-stop shopping. In the past, technology solutions utilized by SMB customers often came together by accessing a collection of multiple companies (or partners) specializing in specific areas. One partner would typically handle the data infrastructure, another the telecommunications, and another the desktops and laptops, etc. Many different IT partners were needed to support the entire technology needs of a business. Today, the different services listed above are easily consolidated and provided by fewer partners. With this consolidation of services, some channel industry experts are saying it’s time to re-evaluate how partners are classified. As a partner or reseller, that means it may be time for you to consider becoming a Strategic Service Provider (SSP).
How did we get to the idea of a SSP? The rise of value added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) started the shift toward consolidation of the IT service offerings by a single partner. Telecommunications is a prime example. Traditionally, this service was provided by a separate reseller from the data infrastructure partner. Now, most voice services are carried over the data networks utilizing VoIP; a data integrator/reseller can add this service to their portfolio and eliminate the need for a separate specialized provider.
In the ever evolving technology channel, the SSP will play a critical role delivering a new type of information technology service to SMBs. The basic premise of a SSP involves getting to know a business's current processes, problems and overall business goals before executing and implementing a solution. You may be thinking that is what the MSPs, VARs and traditional resellers of today are doing.
The main difference is the SSP provides all the IT services for a business in a cloud and services model with an in-depth understanding of the business. The solution is no longer in a silo, such as selling and integrating only a phone system. The SMB can now leverage the business process and technology expertise of the partner (or SSP) to provide a complete solution for the entire business. Such a solution can be cloud, premises or a hybrid mixture of theses components. The main advantage for a business when choosing to work with a SSP is utilizing a model of service that’s delivered at one monthly price and includes all the IT services tailored to fit the needs of that business customer.
Many factors are driving the shift to SSPs: the ever changing technology fueling the race to the cloud, the shift to a recurring revenue model for resellers, and the customer’s desire to have a single advising partner with solid business acumen for all their IT needs. Consolidation of services and payment combined with solid business operations knowledge is an attractive model for the present and future SMB.
As an existing reseller, if you don’t already offer a complete IT package of services/solutions based on one monthly price, it might be time to consider moving to this model. It offers the customer a single resource to call when there’s an issue (a resource that fully understands that business) and the customer only has to pay one bill for all services. For resellers already implementing this model of service, it’s a matter of whether or not to go with the industry trend of calling yourself a SSP to better position your company as a strategic partner.
Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.