Managed Service & Support – Getting it Right and Why it’s So Hard

by Kevin Price on August 23, 2011 · 1 comment

in AIDC,Barcode Printing,Business,Cloud Computing,Management,Mobility,POS,RFID,ScanSource POS & Barcode,Technology,Wireless

The managed service movement has been changing the way information technology is acquired, consumed, and managed for some time. However, so far it has had little impact on enterprise mobile computing, AIDC, or POS technology sectors. Today it is most commonly applied to servers, desktops, storage, and networking. The customers that have embraced it are doing so for a lot of reasons but at the heart of it all is predictability. They want to know what it is going to cost for a working, supported and managed device. They want to pay for the outcome and not the pieces and parts.The economic upheavals of the past few years have stirred the winds of change. More and more we are finding customers that are looking for managed service propositions for the mobile enterprise, AIDC, and even POS technologies. They want guaranteed outcomes at predictable costs and if at all possible they would like the flexibility to scale them up or down as needed.We have seen a few attempts at managed services for this sector, but so far, at least by my standards, we have not seen a scaled and successful proposition. A couple of the major OEM’s in the space are talking about managed services. These talking points, new product offerings, and even recent acquisitions, speak to the timeliness of this topic and help point out some of the challenges of solving this problem for these technology verticals.

AccuCode’s own managed service business is growing rapidly and at a little over three years old has about 120,000 devices under contract. That is still relatively small in comparison to the market. There may be others out there who have a much larger MSP (managed service practice), if so I’d love to hear from them and the lessons they have learned in getting there.

What are the challenges? Why is profitability a challenge for a seemingly scaled MSP offering? Why is it so hard to scale and execute the MSP model for these technologies? Can we as a sector figure it out before someone else does?

I don’t have the answers to all of these questions. As usual though, I have a working theory on everything.

AccuCode’s own MSP business is profitable. Part of the reason is our investment into automation. If you look at the successful MSP offerings for servers, desktops, and other mainstream IT components, the MSP providers have invested heavily into tool-sets to allow them to remotely manage and support the technologies, as well as proactively maintain the device with software updates and preventative maintenance cycles.

That is one of the biggest things missing in our sector. There really is no MSP platform available in the space. There are pieces of it for certain mobile devices from some manufacturers but nothing multi-vendor, multi-technology or designed to facilitate a multi-tenant service and support ecosystem. So technology automation is a key missing component. AccuCode has addressed this by building its own service and support work-flow automation portal that allows us to drive a unique service and support process by customer, device, and site. Because it’s web-based it can be shared by the customer, the MSP, the ISV, the OEM, and an entire ecosystem of service and support partners. I’d love to hear from our peers and partners as to how they are addressing this and if there might be opportunities for collaboration.

Some of the larger OEM’s in the sector are offering MSP programs. However, from what I’ve seen so far they are not an attractive proposition for either the customer or the channel partner. By design, they have been tailored for only the largest of customer. I don’t know about you, but my largest customers are the least interested in MSP. They already have resources to manage and support these technologies. It’s my small and medium sized customers that are most interested in and in need of managed services.

Multi-vendor is another issue. Much like equipment repair services, the customer really wants a unified service plan. They don’t want a separate contract, with a different vendor for every device population and most certainly not on every device (as many OEM’s do today). No, they really need a unified MSP proposition. We need to be able to deploy, service, support, and maintain all major mobile, wireless, and AIDC populations and need to be able to do so on a national or global scale. Oh and as part of the proposition they really want unprecedented visibility of their technology resources, cost of ownership, their condition, usage, performance, and issues.

So automation, enabling technologies, conflicting industry models, and operational scale are the high-level areas of challenge as I see it. I’m sure there is more and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. What are your customers asking for?

I don’t believe that any single OEM, VAR, or distributor can adequately address the full scope of what is needed in order for this industry to deliver a fully recognized managed service proposition.  It think it will require an ecosystem based approach. I would love to hear some ideas of how that ecosystem would work together. As a sector we don’t have a very good history of collaboration but I suspect that may change a bit in the years to come. Especially if the winds of change continue to pick up.

Kevin Price, AccuCode

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Kevin Price is the founder and CEO of Accucode. At 19-years old, Accucode is one of the largest privately held companies in Colorado, with customers all over the world. Today, in addition to its' original VAR business unit, Accucode includes three commercial Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product offerings, a nationwide professional services practice and a managed services division. Kevin is a true entrepreneur. He loves technology, business, science, finance and just about any other nerdy topic you can think of. He believes that within every problem there is an opportunity. He’s spent 19-years refining the art of bootstrap entrepreneurship and loves to share his insights with pretty much anyone willing to ask or listen.

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