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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Lenovo Managed Services for SMBs - Designed to optimize employee time and improve IT efficiency

To meet the managed services needs of the SMB segment, Lenovo has introduced two unique offerings within the Lenovo Managed Services umbrella –

  1. CSP Managed Services - to help manage SMBs’ existing Microsoft-based cloud software and products.
  1. Endpoint Managed Services – to provide deeper levels of endpoint and security management along with Premier Support, or Premium Care, Accidental Damage Protection. It includes CSP Managed Services.

The two offerings cover three important components of an SMB’s managed services lifecycle.

  1. A bundled set of offerings providing full ground cover for employee productivity with M365, end-point management through MS Intune, backup using OneDrive, protection against phishing/malware with O365 Advanced Threat Protection and collaboration using Microsoft Teams.
  1. Right-sized and customizable onboarding solutions with white glove service for configuration using Windows Autopilot including imaging and asset tagging, deployment and file migration.
  1. Full suite of support and maintenance built on Lenovo’s Premier Support solution with end-to-end case management by a dedicated customer success manager thereby removing a significant burden from SMB IT teams freeing them to deliver business results.

Also included in the services are 24x7 Level 1 support via phone, email, and chat – Premier Support or Premium Care for both existing and new Lenovo devices and Enhanced Level 2 support to resolve email access, user authentication, calling or chat, and OneDrive / SharePoint data access issues.

lenovo smb managed services description

Techaisle Take

IT support dialogue is dominated by discussions about time – cost of downtime, importance of uptime, response time and mean time to resolve a technical problem. The SMB user community, from executives to clerical staff, divide time in two: “our time,” which is when technology is used to support their business activities and increase market momentum, and “lost time” – the time that IT spends setting up accounts, configuring devices, changing permissions, upgrading systems, adding different security protections, finding lost data and fixing problems that can range from a forgotten password to a flattened PC. Lost time is seen as an obstacle to productivity, sales and business success. Despite increasing reliance on technology, SMBs are unable to staff for peak support requirements. IT staff needs to ensure that scarce internal resources are able to deliver technology efficiently, supporting innovation and transformation while responding immediately and effectively to lost time requirements and crises.

A recent study by global SMB and midmarket IT research firm Techaisle found that maintenance and support consumes 77% of SMB IT staff time, leaving only 23% of time for transformation initiatives. Nearly half of maintenance and support cycles are dedicated to PCs, making it difficult for staff to respond to issues relating to smartphones and tablets, servers and networks, and software and security systems.

SMBs find themselves in a tight spot when it comes to their IT functions. Their businesses are complex enough to warrant dedicated IT groups, yet lack the resources to manage everything asked of them. Teams are stretched to cover PC fleets, servers, networks, software and security – all while being expected to contribute to business growth, reduce costs and improve employee productivity. More than a decade of Techaisle SMB survey research data shows that only 3% of small businesses have full-time internal IT staff. Even within midmarket firms, average number of support staff is 22 which is 1/20th of an enterprise business.

Regardless of having scarce internal IT staff, SMBs are increasingly dependent on information technology. A Techaisle survey found that 78% of small businesses and 97% of midmarket firms consider technology to be important to their business success, and 37% report that they have become more dependent on technology in the recent past. These SMBs are dealing with an ever-expanding portfolio of increasingly-complex applications and platform technologies. At the same time, these firms are struggling to rein in IT-related expenditures, including staff-related costs. This combination of increased reliance on technology as a key element of business success, burgeoning complexity and cost constraint has created a ‘perfect storm’ for use of managed services.

This is where Lenovo is stepping in.

Lenovo has a come a long way from being a PC manufacturer to an IT vendor to a trusted advisor for the SMB segment. Lenovo’s offering is built on a simple promise: to deliver managed services by making the most of highly adopted Microsoft tools by deploying real solutions for everyday challenges and technology needs. Supporting this promise are three core pillars of Lenovo Managed Services offering:

Improving employee and IT staff productivity. Techaisle’s recent data shows that each year, SMBs experience 545 hours of lost staff productivity due to IT outages with employees spending nearly 30 minutes a week troubleshooting PC issues. An average of 225 hours of productive time is lost due to PC outages reducing IT efficiency.

Digging deeper into Techaisle’s SMB data on time spent on PC lifecycle management, research finds that 57% of time is allocated to deployment and repairs, with an additional 15% allocated to software-related management issues and 9% to OS migrations. Taken together, these statistics indicate that there is very little opportunity for IT to contribute to their time priorities.

Providing IT security. For 53% of SMBs cybersecurity is a pressing concern; 64% of SMBs experienced a security breach in the last one year and 37% suffered a cyberattack. Through its managed services offering, not only does Lenovo plan to provide a ramped-up level of service and support for various devices but also include automatic enrollment of devices into endpoint management, threat protection, information protection, remote wipe and restoration of devices, as well as OS and application patch management. In addition, Lenovo can help manage licenses, add and remove users, and assign user accounts to available licenses.

Enabling connected collaboration. Collaboration is a priority for 75% of SMBs, 58% of SMBs expect MS Office setup, 56% need data/file migration support, 55% want email and Teams configuration. SMB customers will receive Microsoft Cloud Migration support, where Lenovo teams can help configure online exchange and migrate customer mailbox, Teams application for chat and calling features. Lenovo’s services can also help in migrating files and folders to OneDrive or SharePoint.

Lenovo’s thoughtfully designed SMB-focused managed services solutions aim to deliver real value by helping SMBs increase their productivity by supporting time consuming tasks like Microsoft tenant onboarding, Microsoft Cloud migration, and supporting Microsoft software-based issue resolution, provide security against business-critical threats through real-time threat protection, resolution, and information and data loss prevention, saving SMBs from valuable downtime, and providing peace of mind.

Customer Success Manager & Endpoint Dashboard

Techaisle managed services research data shows that 74% of SMBs expect a single point of contact from their managed services provider. To that extent, one of the most important aspect of Lenovo’s Endpoint Managed Service is the feature that SMBs will be assigned a Customer Success Manager, who works as the customer’s advocate within Lenovo, working to create a truly great customer experience. The Customer Success Manager owns a monthly business review with the customer, discuss device fleet health checks, suggest productivity and security improvements to enhance the SMB’s business operation, and work with technical experts to manage issues escalation.

Lenovo has partnered with Microsoft to develop Endpoint 360° dashboard which provides near real-time visibility of SMB’s device fleet and IT ticket status.

Channel Partner participation

Channel partners are essential in managing an SMB customer’s IT infrastructure. Lenovo’s CSP Managed Services and Endpoint Managed Services are available to Lenovo partners selling Microsoft SaaS products via Lenovo. Partners have a choice:

  • Delivery of services by Lenovo: Channel partner sells and Lenovo provides all levels of service
  • Partner and Lenovo co-delivery of services: Lenovo provides day-to-day endpoint productivity and security management but channel partner acts as the customer success manager and owns monthly business reviews, issue escalations on behalf of the SMB customer. Partner gets access to Lenovo’s Endpoint 360° dashboard Customer Success Manager role, and
  • Partner can deliver all levels of service: Channel partner will get access to additional roles in Lenovo’s Endpoint 360° dashboard providing the partner with information that helps take proactive actions to prevent productivity and security impacts to SMB customer’s device fleet. Lenovo will provide Level 3 technical engineering support for Endpoint 360° dashboard, billing & ITSM platform issue support, and Microsoft platform issue escalation and resolution.
  • Lenovo Cloud Marketplace: Lenovo has partnered with AppXite to deploy an ITSM platform which will allow partners to sell Microsoft 365 offers and Lenovo Managed Service packages, customize look and feel of the platform to meet their own design choices, create their own product bundles that include their own offers with Lenovo offers, manage customer subscriptions and recurring billing, get visibility to customer issues and their real-time status.

As per Techaisle channel partner survey research, 47% prefer delivering all levels of services and 40% believe in co-delivery or support and services provided by the vendor. A majority of smaller channel partners want vendor to provide all levels of service. Smaller MSPs profitability lies in their ability to scale and if are only focused on growth, MSPs lose their ability to develop a consultative practice enabling digital transformation within their SMB customers. Lenovo is bringing pre-configured, pre-packaged solutions that MSPs can offer, and directly provide the service. MSPs can also sell the offers and let Lenovo provide services on a platform with a single pane of glass dashboard, along with a customer success manager. This becomes extremely useful, which will allow the MSP to focus attention on delivering new business outcomes for their SMB customers.

Final Techaisle Take

Lenovo Managed Services checks all boxes for a vast majority of SMBs. Techaisle’s research highlights a list of priority outcomes that SMBs use to plot the best path in deploying managed services within their organizations.

  • Minimize downtime and workforce productivity interruptions
  • Reduce time spent on case management
  • Focus on highest-value initiatives

These illustrate the ways that SMBs can use Lenovo Managed Services to drive better productivity within the IT department and across the entire organization. Remedial support, system failures and security incidents are major sources of ‘lost time’ incidents that can impede SMB business success. However, SMBs can reduce time lost to outages, and focus on ‘our time’ objectives – increased productivity and better collaboration on transformative projects – that deliver accelerated business success.

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10 Channel Partner Predictions for 2020

The new year (and decade) provides an opportunity for assessing the business of the channel: what has shaped the channel in the years leading up to 2020, and what we expect to see in the coming 12 (or in some cases, 24 or 36) months. Here are 10 key areas where change is afoot based on our extensive global channel partner studies leveraging our network of 250K channel partners.

1. Channel partners will become navigators in plotting customer digital transformation strategies.

To help customers expand their focus to ‘the art of the possible’, innovation-focused partners will proactively explore new technologies and educate their customers on potential benefits and related business process changes. Partners will, in short, become navigators plotting customer digital transformation strategies. Techaisle’s urgency and importance ratings showed that this was not ‘top of mind’ for channel partners in 2019 – but it will be important on the strategy radar, as partners will build plans (integration, migration, architecture & orchestration for digital transformation) for viability into the next decade. By the end of 2020, percent channel partners delivering DX will grow by 80%.

2. The NEXT Channel (Networked, Engaged, Extended, Transformed) will emerge.

Channel partners will begin to abandon ingrained behaviors and move to new approaches that will enable NEXT (Networked, Engaged, Extended, Transformed) channel businesses. The core changes in the demands on different areas of the channel business are critical and challenging, but they can be seen as more effect than cause. In all aspects of channel business, long-held business tenets will be replaced by an emerging reality that has been ushered in by the move to cloud and amplified by other trends – changes in buyer behavior, management and process changes, evolutions in service/technology delivery, how technology is being acquired and used.

3. Pure-play MSPs will drive (or attract) M&A activity.

Traditionally, MSPs have offered customers advanced and highly-efficient solutions to current problems, but MSPs do not tend to customize offerings for individual customers – doing so undercuts the efficiencies at the core of their business models. This model doesn’t perfectly address DX requirements, which begin with a vision of business rather than technology outcomes. During 2020, 40% of MSPs will foresee mergers and/or acquisitions in their 3-year plans. With the market valuing MRR-based businesses at a high multiple vs. firms based on product transactions, MSPs will appear to be in the best position to attract outside investors.

4. P2P collaboration and ecosystem alliances will move from opportunistic to strategic.

Solution packaging is a customer choice issue – and customers are choosing to move from turnkey systems to hybrid environments that can be aligned with their evolving needs. This will require an accelerated frequency of partner-to-partner collaboration, not opportunistically but strategically. Pursuit of this ecosystem business approach will require changes in go-to-market strategies and in the ability to integrate around data rather than physical system components. This escalating requirement will expose vulnerabilities of channel partners in meeting customer expectations. Ecosystem alliances and P2P collaboration will become non-optional. By end of 2020, 70% of partners will collaborate frequently for sales (not as much for deployment, support) with an average of 3.5 partners.

5. Influence of IT consultants, CSBs will increase for professional services.

IT buyers are relying much more on consultants as they look to shape strategies that are aligned with current and emerging opportunities for greater IT leverage. This trend will have a ‘trickle-up’ effect: IT consultants and CSBs will become more specialized to deliver insight on vendor and technology options, technology compatibility, architecture, deployment and management. By the end of 2020, 25% of channel partners will consider their business models as “Consultants”. However, these partners will need to incorporate unique intellectual property (IP) into their processes and offerings as they will be unable to fund their operations with margins from acting as middlemen. They will structure their businesses to deliver professional services - billable in one form or another – to address customer needs for strategy, planning, onboarding/training, integration and support.

6. Market will reward channel partners who flexibly deliver multi-vendor solutions.

Toolkits and not hammers. The “law of the hammer: if the only tool you have is a hammer…everything [you see] is a nail.” Channel partners have tended to concentrate on a limited number of core platforms – typically, those that they have invested in, via certifications – and looked for opportunities to build around these platforms wherever they engage. Successful channel partners will tailor multi-vendor solutions that address customer business requirements, layer in support and integration, and land on a position that offers a platform for repeat business and healthy margins. Single-vendor solution providers will most likely be focused on promoting features which will lead to reduced profitability because single-vendor solutions are easy to comparison shop (leading to discounting). By the end of 2020, 50% of partners will be experts in assembling multi-vendor-best-of-breed cloud options.

7. Value creation will start with the customer and not from vendor out.

Traditionally, the notion of ‘value add’ in the channel is referred to a reseller’s ability to demonstrate that they augment the base product with some combination of technical and/or logistical support. Technology is generally sold on the basis that it will help businesses to cut costs, accelerate cycle time or expand reach and revenue, once a transaction is complete, the onus for realizing these objectives rests with the customer. Cloud and its pay-as-you-go model will impact this balance, and the inexorable twinning of IT solutions and business processes / outcomes will further disrupt mainstream business expectations. Channel partners will innovate in value creation for customers and will gain more durable advantages than those who continue to focus tightly on new technologies. As a result, in 2020, channel partners will go ‘deep’ rather than ‘wide’ specializing and clustering around four segments.

8. Cloud application deployment and delivery to mainstream customers will come into sharp focus.

With the notable exception of Microsoft, most of the primary cloud suppliers (hyperscalers – notably AWS and Google – but also SaaS suppliers) have lacked deep experience with the channel, and haven’t developed effective programs or coverage strategies. There will be an increased investment in staff training, certification to increase professional services revenue with a focus on containers (Kubernetes), microservices, open source, agile development to deliver cloud apps for customers’ customer facing apps as well as apps to support customers’ internal processes and operations. However, channel partners will be challenged due to legacy integration issues, missing APIs, lack of development/QA skills and inability to conduct extensive security testing. Regardless, by the end of 2020, slightly more 50% of cloud partners will have one or more cloud app development capabilities and MS Azure will be the hyperscaler of choice. AWS VMWare solution at the edge, a recent addition, will be of interest to channel partners. Red Hat Ansible for automation will find a footing within partners.

9. IP-led solutions and solution development funds will be key elements of success.

A successful cloud channel partner’s desire to keep its own IP front-and-center in the solution will be rooted in several wise channel objectives. By end of 2020, 60% of channel partners will rely on sell-to and sell-with sales models. And for 45% of partners, solution development funds will be among the top 2 preferred vendor incentives. Historically, the hardware vendors had several levels of compensation and though software suppliers and the hardware vendors started in different places relative to partner compensations, they are now getting to a similar model. By the end of 2020, 25% of established channel partners’ cloud revenue may be attributable to products that they have built internally, their own IP, on top of vendor products.

10. Channel empowerment will align “customer-in” rather than “product-out”.

Channel empowerment (as opposed to channel enablement) will feature into vendor program requirements. Channel partners have looked to vendors for information on technology directions and the dependence will grow more acute because of structural industry change. Vendors-channel partnership approaches, however well intentioned, often ends with the channel partner being positioned as a type of vendor sales agent. The channel’s greatest opportunity is in meeting buyer needs – and that requires that the channel partner plot a path that is attuned to buyers rather than vendors. In 2020, successful vendors will build programs that empower channel partners to maintain vendor presence in complex solution environments – not sales agents. These programs are unlikely to arrive fully-formed; they will evolve as needs and success paths become more clearly understood. In 2020, look for leading vendors to provide empowerment approaches that focus on business outcomes and shared risk partnerships.

 

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Digital Transformation and the future of Reseller channel

The past 15 years have been tough for traditional resellers. Digital transformation will benefit the reseller channel. Today, the IT industry is abuzz with discussion of digital transformation. Unlike smartphones and cloud, however, DX may actually provide upside for traditional channel members. In this document, Techaisle, in its latest white paper argues in favor of the proposition “DX will deliver new opportunity for traditional VAR businesses”. VARs are best positioned to scale “the twin ladders” to deliver digital transformation technology building blocks and the Interwork platform helps the channel position digital transformation initiatives in successfully navigating through and across digital transformation delivery stages.

In many cases, channel organizations that describe digital transformation to prospective clients are really talking about digitization, or some combination of digitization and digitalization. This is particularly true of MSPs or cloud (SaaS, IaaS) suppliers who are positioning their infrastructure management offerings – which are, for the most part, vehicles for augmentation – as a means of achieving DX. However, in its transformational end stages, DX is defined not by supplier delivery but by customer processes and objectives.

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Techaisle study reveals top 3 channel partner managed services success inhibitors

Inability to balance product resale and services revenue, inability to adjust to a customer-centric approach and inability to align recurring and non-recurring revenues are severely holding back the MSPs. Since 2008 Techaisle has been conducting managed services studies, both demand side within SMB & Midmarket segments and supply-side within the VARs, MSPs, SIs, SPs, Consultants offering managed services. Each year Techaisle (latest report deliverables are here) has been quantifying what separates the successful and unsuccessful managed services channel partners. And there are several data-evinced barriers to entry and success factors. To understand barriers to entry, it is important to first define the characteristics that are important to success as an MSP. There are many but let us discuss three that always percolate to the top:

  1. The ability to sell services independently from product sales (while maintaining the ability to sell products to customers as well).
  2. The ability to package and efficiently deliver standardized services to multiple customers, growing by expanding portfolios of discrete services rather than by simply agreeing to address sprawling customer requirements on a ‘one-off’ basis.
  3. The ability to align internal processes and costs/cash flow with a recurring revenue (rather than transactional) approach to the business.

Techaisle research substantiates the importance of each of these key characteristics.

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