Over the last two months, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a plethora of managed service providers (MSPs) and MSP platform vendors across the US, Europe, and Asia. The experience has provided me with an inside view into the fastest-growing technology channel today, but it has also provided me with a clear understanding of the evolutionary path MSPs must take as they attempt to reach a new level of maturity (and profitability).
For those tech vendors hoping to cash in on the budding billion-dollar managed service opportunity, it is critical to first understand where the movement began in order to understand where it is headed. The figure below (from my most recent report, Managed Service Providers, Part 1) highlights the three unique stages of MSP development:
Past (pre-1997): solution provider model. Up until the end of the 1990s, SMBs employed their own internal IT systems, supported by a small IT staff or local consultant. They purchased from and had their IT systems installed by VARs, and got their phone systems from telecommunications providers. An IT solution provider (most often the VAR or consultant) provided reactive break-fix support and maintenance for their hardware and software. For SMBs, this model represented a heavy capital investment (capex) for their IT systems and a heavy operating expense (opex) for labor, all executed on-site.
Cisco’s annual partner marketing conference, Partner Velocity, wrapped up in Las Vegas last week. Two hundred and thirty-five partners from 24 countries were in attendance to witness Cisco’s recently appointed VP of global partner marketing, Amanda Jobbins, sing her heart out during the closing ceremony. I can confidently confirm that she passed her trial by fire with flying colors and her future at Cisco (or Glee, if she decides to pursue that path) is fully secured.
I had the pleasure to sit down with approximately 15 partners over the course of the three-day event. Here’s what the event looked like throughthe lens of partners’ marketing professionals:
“As a member of a tiny marketing team, I have a lot of responsibility and very little support. Velocity helps bring me up to speed on the latest-and-greatest marketing trends and best practices.”
“The marketing experts that speak at Velocity are top-notch. The only thing more valuable is the peer-to-peer network that the event cultivates. Cisco sure knows how to bring the marketing community together.”
“I’d like to see Cisco create marketing education-for-dummies and align it more specifically to my business.”