At some point in the not-too-distant future (which we can only hope is more near-term than the opposite), businesses will resume operating at some level of normal. While the definition of “normal” may undergo a metamorphosis during the ensuing months, purveyors of managed IT solutions will be tasked with responding to whatever evolution their client base may be experiencing now or three to six months down the road.
As we close the book on July’s State of the Industry focus on delivering managed IT, we asked our dealer panel to share their insights as to what it will be the key for dealers to gain momentum on the back end of the pandemic.
For Jeff Loeb, senior vice president of technologies at Prosource of Cincinnati, the primary difference in the talking points between before and after the pandemic boils down to perspective and anticipating the next obstacle to doing business as a given rather than a possibility. He sees a growing need for, and continued adoption of, cloud solutions, remote work, business continuity and disaster recovery, hosted voice, and security.
“Everyone has always been interested in security, but we’ve had more momentum with security solutions over the past couple of months even before because people see and understand the risks now,” Loeb said. “They’re getting all of these phishing emails and they recognize that home users can expose networks to new threats. This situation has opened their eyes to the risks that exist and the many ways they are vulnerable to security breaches.”
Prosource recently launched its managed security solution, which Loeb feels “puts a flashlight inside your network, and if someone gets past your defenses, we’re going to catch them.” Previously, many SMBs operated under the assumption that they were too small or insignificant in the eyes of cybercriminals. However, there have been many reported (and obviously untold) incidents in which “smaller fish” have been caught in the nets of bad actors.
“The crisis has opened people’s eyes to how dependent they are on their information technology and the impact on their business when their IT is not accessible or not working,” Loeb added. “This experience has also squashed the ‘it’s not going to happen to me’ mentality.”
Execution is going to be the key to delivering for clients as business continues to flourish, notes Chas Arnold, vice president of managed IT services for Novatech, headquartered in Nashville. Mobilizing customer service and technical support will position the dealer to leverage situations in which prospects find their current providers drop the ball, which (fortunately for Novatech) is a frequent occurrence.
“People that we’ve done a great job of connecting with over the last two months have been telling us, that their current provider hasn’t been able to help them get connected,” Arnold said. “They don’t know anything about Teams and that kind of technology. When people come back, our phone is going to be ringing a lot, and we’re ready to help people.”
Stephanie Keating Phillips, director of solutions for Advanced Imaging Solutions of Minnetonka, Minnesota, points out that since the dealership partnered with All Covered for its IT platform, client conversations have evolved from a device-centric nature to discussing how they can achieve their technology goals through better management of information and more effective collaboration.
“Part of our work-from-home strategy has been education and training, and each hardware rep goes through the same training as an IT sales rep would go through,” Phillips said. “We have utilized our own real-world experience of switching our infrastructure and shared experience in moving from a familiar-for-years MPS provider and phone company to All Covered managed voice and IT offerings. We have the knowledge of speaking about the pros and cons of the experience and can help guide clients in a direction depending on needs and wants that are based on real-world applications and situations.”
Leveraging past data regarding client needs and deferred decisions will be critical to getting a quick jump on the back end of COVID-19, notes Calvin Wanner, director of IT sales for Verticomm, the managed IT division of Denver-headquartered All Copy Products. Wanner sees the importance of staying in front of businesses that lack the resources to be scalable or redundant in their infrastructure.
“For clients who haven’t considered the cloud or are scared of it, you can almost guarantee that they are now probably thinking they need to change the way they’re doing business,” he said.
Wanner pointed to an older client, a law firm that had previously not expressed an interest in moving to the cloud. When the shutdown went into effect, the firm reached out to Verticomm, needing to work from home, and not having a phone system and infrastructure to facilitate it. The cloud held the key to being able to scale business, grow and enjoy redundancy.