Valued Discussions and Solid Backswings: the Canadian IT Business Community Meeting

IMG_1406It’s all a matter of focus. Whether building a new managed services practice or lining up a putt to save par, you have to keep your mind on the ball at all times if you want to succeed. The conversations at CompTIA’s latest Canadian IT Business Community meeting centered on both activities, as members discussed a number of tech challenges and opportunities before heading out for an afternoon on the links. Some chose to enjoy the Royal Woodbine Golf Club’s facilities for a little time away from the office or to catch up with other group members before reconvening for a group social hour.  

The golf may not have been optimal for a June afternoon (cool temperatures and high winds), but there was a lot of energy around the business conversations and networking activities. With a number of new members and visitors in attendance, the Q&A sessions and best practice discussions were quite engaging ̶ and very enlightening. The tableside conversations focused on a range of IT services business challenges and the group offered up many innovative (as well as industry proven) solutions for their peers.

Monetizing IoT

The Internet of Things was one of those topics the community chose to highlight during the meeting. The question often asked is how can channel companies make a business opportunity out of what seems to be a consumer-oriented technology trend? According to Ian Khan, Director of Marketing and Innovation for
Solgenia, the complexity and sheer number of connected devices will drive that demand. Businesses will need their design, implementation and ongoing support to realize their IoT goals. It is, after all, a network-dependent system. Who could be more capable of supporting it all than a well-versed IT services provider?

CITB3golf“Whether we look at the market numbers being tossed about by vendors or by industry analysts, the point to remember is the IoT opportunity is very sizable and expected to grow substantially. Some of those projections are in the ‘trillions’ now and, while the criteria tends to change between organizations, it’s becoming a very sizable market.

The experts suggest that could translate into billions of devices that need to be connected. Perhaps more crucial will be how businesses utilize the massive amount of information they collect. “They’re talking multiple zettabytes of data over the next few years and, if you look at the IDC projections, those estimates seem to be growing with each update.”

If businesses want to harness the real power of IoT systems, they’ll need professionals who can analyze and prioritize all the collected data, and someone to create the solutions that put it to good use. Providers with those capabilities will surely command a premium. “If you look at IoT advanced analytics, the next phase is predicted to hit in 3 years. Security around these solutions is also growing rapidly. Innovation in this space is growing faster than it is with most other technologies, with developer ecosystems and support opportunities expanding just as quickly.”

Khan highlighted a few of the vertical market opportunities for IoT, including energy transportation to monitor and control pipeline operations. These solutions are being used to measure oil flow and monitor weather conditions to better predict maintenance needs. The goal is quite similar to managed services; proactively addressing potential issues before they become real problems. Other usage cases include farming (livestock management), grocery stores (inventory control, temperature sensors) and food and beverage facilities.

Khan shared a video of a “keg house solution” during his presentation as an example of IoT in action. With custom-developed solutions in place, including an RFID-enabled base for containers, a brew pub or bar can ensure each customer receives the optimal beer experience. It can monitor air pressure, temperature, weight and other factors that determine when kegs get switched or require maintenance. IoT can help companies better manage multiple aspects of their delivery and serving processes.  

As Khan pointed out, “IoT is a mindset shift for the channel.” Those interested in pursuing the opportunities will need to invest a significant amount of time and resources to overcome what could be a hefty learning curve. His suggestions for lowering those barriers include:

1.       Evaluate: assess the strengths and weaknesses based on your current situation. Connect with those who can help speed the process, including IoT manufacturers and more experienced peers.

2.       Review options: Research case studies and business applications. Learn from your peers, vendors, distributors and other IoT professionals.

3.       Ask customers: Can an IoT solution address any of their current or future business needs?

4.       Experiment: Develop your own business lab to test out different solutions and devices. Research Kickstarter companies (search under “IoT or Internet of Things”) and connect with locals interested in these technologies. Start building your “thought leadership” credentials.


The Key to Selling Managed Services

After a short intermission, the meeting shifted to a familiar but still challenging topic: selling managed services. Joining in the panel discussion with Ian Khan were Gordon Pelosse, VP of Global Support and Delivery, ‎Hewlett Packard Enterprise Canada; Christopher Fabes, Director of Field Sales at Lenovo; and Chris Groot, VP of Sales & Business Development with LOGICnow.


CITB2golfThe conversation started out with some words of advice for sales professionals who may be new to the managed services space. Groot suggested that, above all else, “honest is the best way to sell things. It may sound simple, but people buy from those they trust. If you deliver value, they will buy into that message.” In managed services, you need to invest in long-term customer relationships to be successful. Without those connections, loyalty and recurring revenue opportunities can quickly disappear.

A good ear helps just as much, as Pelosse noted. “Stop and listen carefully as you ask questions. It’s not always comfortable, but let the customer fill the voids during the conversations over time.” The information you gather may help your company forge contracts and relationships that last decades.

With the move to cloud and managed services, the sales equation has shifted. “Customers are still hesitant to change quickly,” added Khan. “They need to be brought along slowly. The buyers are different today and the issues are more complex.” MSPs have to track the process and conversations, and build on the value they deliver with each new interaction.

CITBgolfThe fact that you have to earn your business every month changes the relationship,” emphasized Groot. “Taking down the barriers is a big part, as is communicating the value you deliver value every month. It’s easier for them to walk away from a monthly service, so don’t monetize every opportunity. Bank some ‘good will’ for when your team has a bad day. “

Interested in attending the Canadian IT Business Community’s future meetings (live or virtual)? Simply register on the group's website to get involved in the conversations.