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Are Partners Equipped to Be Their Customers’ Virtual CIOs?

CIO

For decades, the channel has served as end customers’ outsourced IT department, handling basic IT infrastructure needs like networking, storage and software updates. But to thrive in today’s channel, partners have to go beyond being a “trusted IT adviser.” Today’s customers are demanding more, and savvy partners know they need to evolve in order to meet those demands.

That trusted-adviser role has grown into something much bigger and more complex than ever before. Managed service providers (MSP) are being asked to weigh in on business decisions, not just IT decisions. Every company in 2018 is a tech company, and every business strategy hinges on having the right tech solutions in place for organizations to build upon. MSPs aren’t just the IT manager quietly keeping the computers running anymore. They’re serving as their customers’ chief information officer, sitting with the big dogs and helping to shape their clients’ businesses.

AvePoint's Scott Sacket

AvePoint’s Scott Sacket

But are partners ready to take on the role of virtual CIO (vCIO)? Not quite yet, says Scott Sacket, senior vice president of business development at AvePoint. Service providers are still figuring out how to fill those big shoes. The learning curve is steep, and tech is advancing so quickly that MSPs have to get up to speed fast.

At the upcoming Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, April 17-20, Sacket will sit on a panel of experts to discuss how the role of partners has evolved, where MSPs are struggling and what opportunities the vCIO trend is opening up to the channel. “The Ultimate Service Provider: How to Become a Better Virtual CIO” will cover what it looks like when MSPs, instead of merely managing customers’ systems, data and applications, actually take responsibility for them.

Channel Partners/Channel Futures sat down with Sacket to get a sneak peek at what the panel might have in store for attendees.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Channel Partners/Channel Futures: What’s happening in the market right now that’s making partners step up their game to fill the CIO role?

Scott Sacket: The interesting part of this topic is diving into the trends in the market. We as a vendor see it from a different perspective maybe than the partner, who acts as the boots on the ground. We’re getting conversations from MSPs or end customers who say they’re interested in applications they’ve never been able to take advantage of before — the Office 365s and Azures of the world. Those apps were always considered enterprise-centric because you had to invest heavily in infrastructure and hardware.

Now SMBs have affordable access to these applications, but they’re asking, “How do we even manage this?” From the end-customer perspective, they’re looking for that trusted adviser, but it’s a new kind of trusted adviser — not just consulting. It’s, “How do we outsource this to an MSP that lets us take the best possible advantage of this technology that we never had before?”

From an MSP perspective, they now have a chance to create recurring revenue. Before, it was just an outsourced IT support or break-fix type of partner. It’s really evolved into a brand-new business model for both sides. Customers can take advantage of technology that previously wasn’t accessible, and for the MSP, it’s an opportunity to …

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