Channel Convergence Debate Offers Up Fireworks

Convergence panel CPE 2019

(Pictured above: TBI’s Corey Cohen (center) moderates as panel members (left to right) TQI’s Michael Bremmer, Pax8’s Andrew Pryfogle, Datto’s Rob Rae and Rad-Info’s Peter Radizeski debate channel convergence.)

CHANNEL PARTNERS EVOLUTION — To say IT/telco channel convergence is a hot topic would be an understatement.

Convergence was the subject of a lively debate Tuesday at Channel Partners Evolution in Washington, D.C. And judging by the audience’s response, convergence isn’t happening anytime soon.

On the “yes” team were Michael Bremmer, CEO of TQI, and Andrew Pryfogle, Pax8‘s chief market development officer. And on the “no” team were Rob Rae, Datto‘s vice president of business development, and Peter Radizeski, Rad-Info‘s president and founder. Corey Cohen, TBI‘s vice president of marketing moderated.

Bremmer said convergence is definitely happening as agents are evolving their conversation from how much they can save their customers to asking them about desired business outcomes. And all of the deals he’s done in the past year involved very little telco and instead focused on solving problems.

“When I think about convergence, the focus is on the end customers,” Pryfogle said. “They don’t wake up thinking I have this tech issue … they wake up and think who do I trust who can solve this for me. What’s converging is the type of partners, the lines are blurring between labels, with MSPs playing more of an agent role, and agents playing more of an MSP role. The convergence is happening, and accelerating.”

However, Rae said convergence is like a unicorn: It doesn’t exist. All efforts to push convergence in the industry have “amounted to nothing,” he said.

“It’s like teaching a cat to walk on its hind legs — it’s not going to happen,” he said.

MSPs are the first to get called, and who bill every month and provide 24/7 support, Rae said. He doesn’t see an MSP relationship in traditional telecom.

The MSPAlliance has been trying to convert VARs into MSPs and has drawn very little interest, Radizeski said.

“I know two master agents that became MSPs in the past year and there was an enormous capex,” he said. “We’re not going to see that much convergence of people moving from one model to another.”

MSPs are mostly focused on SMB, while agents have been making strategic moves to bigger deals, Pryfogle said. And those larger customers still need a trusted adviser, and are going to agents and asking for their help with solving problems, he said.

“The labels don’t matter anymore,” he said.

Both channels are evolving, but they’re actually moving further apart, Rae said. And telecom agents are trying to find business because they’re losing business to MSPs, he said.

“Not one MSP you find is worried that an agent will take business from them,” he said. “The end user wants one throat to choke, that single phone number I can call, one guy I can touch, feel and choke if things are wrong. The touch of what an MSP offers today … they are there to help them with everything … and that includes, as time goes on, telecom.”

Agents may be selling more MSP stuff, “but you’re not becoming MSPs,” Radizeski said.

“Whether they buy from an MSP or me, what’s the difference?” Bremmer said.

The future is “incredibly bright” for MSPs and agents if they stay relevant in their conversations with customers, Pryfogle said.

“If they continue to focus on what end customers want and provide holistic solutions, that’s convergence,” he said.


  1. Avatar Charles Houser September 11, 2019 @ 1:26 pm

    I’m 100% with Rob on this one. There might be some agents with the knowledge and balance sheet to start offering managed desktops, but i can probably count them on one hand. VARs are desperately trying to convert to a monthly recurring model and we are seeing some do this with modest success, but its still very early. Agents selling XaaS to an end user does not constitute them being called an MSP.

  2. Avatar Celia Weaver September 13, 2019 @ 12:06 pm

    If I may correct the record; MSPAlliance doesn’t make a practice out of converting VARs to MSPs. We are an accrediting and certifying body for existing MSPs. Great debate though and very timely 🙂

  3. Avatar Peter Radizeski September 18, 2019 @ 11:21 am

    the MSP Alliance point was that for quite a few years orgs were trying to help VARs convert their business model to an MSP model – migrate from break/fix to a managed IT model. It is not an easy conversion.

    One other point missed is that forcing a business model change on a partner business is not always successful. If an agent has a transactional business, it will be hard to convert that model to Solution Selling. Heck, even the carriers are still in the push product mode.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The ID is: 127323