article

PARTNER CHANNEL: Got IT?

Posted: 5/2003

Got IT?
Solution Provider Alliance Debuts

By Khali Henderson


Russell Morgan

This month marks the debut of a new
alliance of information technology solution providers. The Information
Technology Solution Providers Alliance is a nonprofit trade association, but its
charter is not to network and lobby regulators like so many industry groups. It
instead seeks to educate and sway end users — small and medium-sized businesses
to be specific — about the advantages of using solutions providers to source
hardware, software, connectivity and managed services.

Think "Got Milk?," the
dairy industry’s slogan, or "The Other White Meat," the mantra of the
National Pork Board.

The ITSPA hopes to create a similar
branding campaign for vendors’ trusted channel partners — a nonhomogenous group
that it calls "solution providers."

In a late March interview, the
group’s executive director and founder, Russell Morgan, a former president of
AT&T Texas, told PHONE+ that ITSPA already is working with Gartner Inc. on
standardizing nomenclature for the types of solutions providers and is engaged
in its first meetings with a Dallas-based ad agency to discuss the branding
campaign. A "mini" magazine also is planned as an insert into
mainstream business publications in an attempt to reach out to nontechnical
"C-level" executives that Morgan says typically control the pursue
strings at SMBs.

He
says among the messages ITSPA hopes to communicate how technology can improve
the way a business works and that the best way to source technology is through a
solutions provider. "It’s about talking to technology as a business
solution," he says.

The idea for ITSPA came out of a
consulting engagement last fall between Morgan’s Dallas-based consulting
company, Change Agent, and client Hewlett Packard — a company that relies on
its channel partners to reach SMBs. "It’s very difficult for SMBs to find
solution providers that can handle their specific problems," he says,
noting that they can be under many headings in the Yellow Pages. "We want
to put in their minds how technology works and who to go to to get it."

Not surprisingly, Hewlett Packard
signed on as a founding sponsor for the group, committing just shy of $1.5
million for a two-year sponsorship. Sustaining sponsors pay less than $750,000
for the two-year period, and supporting sponsors pay less than $300,000 for the
two-year period.

Morgan says that HP so far is the
only committed vendor, but by May, he expected to have secured the support of
others. Most companies that view channels as their primary means to SMBs see the
value in awareness campaign and recognized that no one is in a position to fund
it alone, he says.

The money will go to support the
branding campaign, which will run from September 2003 to May 2004 and again from
September 2004 to May 2005. It also will fund creation of the magazine and a Web
site that will provide general information and will sort leads obtained from the
ads among its solution provider members. Solution provider members will pay a
nominal registration fee (not more than $250) in order to be enrolled in the
lead-generation system.

A core staff of four is managing the
efforts of the group. Besides Morgan, there is a public relations manager, an
editor and a Web master. An advisory board of solutions providers assists them.
The board is expected to grow to 10 or 12, but now includes seven members: Don
Peters, executive vice president, managed services, Fujitsu Technology Solutions
Inc.; Darren Spohn, president and CEO, Spohn & Associates Inc.; Mike Haines,
principal analyst, Business Strategies Group, Gartner Inc.; Robert Moroni, vice
president, sales, Oculan Corp.; Glen Jodoin, president and CEO, GreenPages; Rick
Allen, director, enterprise solutions, SARCOM Inc.; and Andrew Levi, president
and CEO, Aztec Systems Inc. Levi also serves as the ITSPA chairman.

The group also is seeking additional
solution provider members as well as vendor sponsors. Interested parties should
visit the Web site at www.itspa.net.

LINKS
Aztec Systems Inc. www.aztecsystems.com

Change Agent www.changeagent.net

Fujitsu Technology Solutions Inc. http:// www.ftsi.fujitsu.com/services/

Gartner Inc. www.gartner.com

GreenPages www.greenpages.com

Hewlett Packard www.hp.com

Information Technology Solution Providers
Alliance www.itspa.net

Oculan Corp. www.oculan.com

SARCOM Inc. www.sarcom.com

Spohn & Associates Inc. www.spohntraining.com


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