Resellers. Value added resellers (VARs). Managed service providers (MSPs). Trusted advisor. These are chief among the terms commonly used to describe a vendor’s channel partner. These partners work with small and mid-sized business (SMB) customers and provide a range of IT services, including deploying and maintaining Unified Communications (UC) phone systems. Now, there’s a new term that has emerged in an attempt to better describe the changing partnership between the SMB and the reseller: ‘Strategic Service Provider’. Is this a better way to capture the value that a reseller provides to that SMB customer?
The Rise of the Strategic Service Provider
In the past, technology solutions utilised by SMB customers often came together by working with multiple companies (or partners) specialising in specific areas. One partner would typically handle the data infrastructure, another the telecommunications, and another the desktops and laptops, etc. Many different IT partners were needed to support the technology needs of a business, often creating confusion with SMBs that may not necessarily have in-house technical resources.
Today, with the increasing number of options offered from the Cloud, the different services listed above are easily consolidated and provided by fewer partners. With this consolidation of services, some channel industry experts are saying it’s time to re-evaluate how partners are classified and start adopting the Strategic Service Provider (SSP) moniker.
How did we get to the idea of a SSP? The rise of value added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) started the shift toward consolidation of the IT service offerings by a single partner. Telecommunications is a prime example. Traditionally, this service was provided by a separate reseller from the data infrastructure partner. Now, most voice services are carried over the data networks using VoIP. Any data integrator/reseller can add this service to their portfolio and eliminate the need for a separate specialised provider.
The SSP Advantage
In the ever-evolving technology channel, the Strategic Service Provider plays a critical role in delivering a new type of information technology service to SMBs. The basic premise of a SSP involves getting to know a business’s current processes, problems, and overall business goals before executing and implementing a solution. You may be thinking that is what the MSPs, VARs and traditional resellers of today are doing.
The main difference is that the SSP provides all the IT services for a business with a cloud and services model combined with an in-depth understanding of the business. The solutions are no longer in isolation, such as selling and integrating only a phone system. The SMB can now leverage the business process and technology expertise of the partner (or SSP) to provide a complete solution for the entire business. Such a solution could, for instance, involve deploying a hosted Unified Communications system integrated into a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), delivering VoIP QoS networking and robust yet easy-to-use data reporting. The main advantage for a business when choosing to work with a SSP is utilising a model of service that delivers all the IT services tailored to the business’s needs at one fixed monthly price.
Becoming a Strategic Service Provider
Many factors are driving the shift to SSPs: ever-changing technology fuelling the race to the Cloud, the shift to a recurring revenue model for resellers, and the customer’s desire to have a single advising partner with solid business acumen for all their IT needs. Consolidation of services and payment combined with solid business operations knowledge is an attractive model for the present and future SMB.
As an existing reseller, if you don’t already offer a complete IT package of services/solutions (including Unified Communications) based on one monthly price, it’s time to consider moving to this model. It offers the customer the convenience of a single partner to call when there’s an issue (a resource that fully understands that business) and a single bill for all services.
For resellers already implementing this model of service, are you on board with the industry trend of calling yourself a Strategic Service Provider to better position your company as a strategic partner?
Ready for the move to the SSP model?
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