Retooling the Technical Department

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By Pam Avila

“Where do we go from here?" still remains the question du jour for channel partners no matter where they began  — as telecom dealers or agents, IT VARs or MSPs, or even traditional video dealers. Given the changes in technology and customer buying behavior, the channel has to change. I'm reminded of cowboy philosopher Will Rogers’ wise observation: “Even if you’re on the right track, if you’re standing still, the train is going to run you over."

In the last three articles, I shared some steps and considerations for evolving your business model and your sales and marketing to stay relevant and successful. In the fourth and final article, I'll explore new strategies for operations and technical teams.

In the “good old days," a telecom technician generally had to know one primary manufacturer’s products and perhaps some secondary products. The technical team for an Avaya dealer, for example, was well trained in all things Avaya-related. In this environment, there were two things you could count on:

  • Telecom technology changed little from year to year, so it was not difficult for a technician to stay well trained and knowledgeable.
  • The proprietary nature of telecom ensured that generally, everything worked together. There were few surprises when installing a new phone system (except of course those minor details that the customer forget to tell you about).

Today, neither of these scenarios is true. Technology is changing at an ever-increasing pace. We’re working in the new world of interoperability where in theory everything works together, but in reality doesn’t even come close to doing that. And when customers are asking for business solutions that often encompass voice, data, video and mobility, it’s not enough for the channel partner’s technical team to be well-trained in just Avaya, Mitel or NEC.

VARs and MSPs face challenges for their technical teams as well, but those challenges are of a different nature. Their technicians are familiar with a world of constant change. They already know that interoperability is still mostly a myth and every implementation will bring new questions and obstacles. Their challenge is knowing little or nothing about voice technology and service commitments where “good enough" isn’t good enough.

Where, then, is the evolution path for a channel partner’s operations department? It begins with assessing the expertise and knowledge of a channel partner’s technicians. Does the expertise match the direction the business is taking? Where are there gaps? Ask yourselves the following questions:

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