By Kevin Hiebert
The Canadian IT channel is making its move toward managed IT services and cloud, and bidding adieu to break/fix engagements. The transformation isn’t happening overnight, but it is happening and solution providers need to take notice and take action.
The Simple Truth about Small Business IT
Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) want more flexibility, performance, security and accountability – all of which managed services and the cloud deliver. So, whether they know it or not, cloud and managed services can help SMBs access enterprise class technology while controlling business and IT expenses and increasing worker productivity. And, because Canada is home to more than 1 million SMBs, the opportunities are everywhere for solution providers to bring it all together.
Of course, there are some general challenges, as well as others unique to the Canadian market that service providers must overcome in adopting cloud models. These include:
· Switching Streams. The recurring revenue models associated with managed services, cloud and SaaS (software as a service) require solution providers to retool their businesses. Solution providers must figure out how to manage their revenue streams to ensure profitability, and that means pricing services to build in enough margin without scaring customers away. It can be a tough transition, but it’s not one you have to go alone. Distributors, remote monitoring and management (RMM) providers, industry coaches and professional services automation (PSA) vendors are standing by and eager to help.
· Data-Privacy Concerns. Canadian SMBs want to protect their data sovereignty, putting the onus on cloud service providers to ensure their data stays in Canada. To address this head on, a number of solution providers have built their own cloud-based data centers. Others have partnered with vendors or other solution providers to avoid the expense and work to assure clients their data will not cross the border into the U.S. where it may become subject to the Patriot Act.
· Location. The cloud and remotely managed IT services in general certainly help solution providers meet challenges posed by Canada’s vast geography. Servicing the large population centers along our major cities is straightforward enough, but providing the same level of service to remote areas with underdeveloped infrastructure is a challenge that can be met using the cloud and RMM technologies.
· Co-opetition. Cloud-based solutions make it possible to deliver service levels in remote locations consistent with those in urban areas, but in some cases you still need field-based professionals. Solution providers can achieve this partly by teaming with peers in different geographic areas to service each other’s customers when necessary. Rather than paying to send a technician to a distant customer site, a provider could simply tap a local partner. This so-called co-opetition may be especially beneficial in cases involving companies with locations in French- and English speaking areas. Partnering with a provider who knows the local language, culture and laws may make more sense than trying to set up shop in unfamiliar locations.
To help Canadian solution providers seize SMB opportunities in an evolving market, the CompTIA Canadian IT Business Community recently announced plans to expand its reach beyond resellers, service providers and traditional manufacturers, to also include distributors, channel-friendly vendors and channel associates.
Kevin Hiebert is the CompTIA’s Canadian Community Chair & Independent Consultant at The Print Package Inc.