Channel Marker

Jan 28 2008   10:14PM GMT

Attention MSPs: There’s a new online tech support site in town. Interested?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

The exclusive Demo conference held several times each year is usually replete with great Web concepts and technologies that won’t really be relevant for the channel for at least a year down the road. But, behold, this week’s conference boasts at least one major exception in the form of SupportSpace, an online community that (in theory) brings together VARs, resellers and managed service providers focused on providing online tech support.

Yair Grindlinger, the Israeli transplant who is Redwood City, Calif.-based SupportSpace’s CEO, says his goal with the platform is to support a community of tech-support experts who have been certified and vetted according to a set of criteria defined by the community. Mostly, they’ll help you get the word out about your managed services. Providers get ratings within SupportSpace based on prior customers’ experience. People with a problem can search by criteria such as availability, or whether or not someone is online to help them NOW. They can also pick someone based on expertise, price, cases solved, and so forth.

When I spoke with Grindlinger on Monday afternoon while he was prepping for his Demo demo, he said about 200 experts are currently registered (not bad for a company that launched basically a few days ago as I write this), although there are dozens more going through the process. The one thing I’ll give them a big thumbs-down for is that the site only supports Internet Explorer-based support experiences right now. At least that’s the message I got when I tried to engage and play around on the site a bit. Then again, I use a Macintosh, so people like this don’t usually care about me. Nothing new there.

Still, this is a concept that is likely to gain more traction, given the sad state of affairs at most corporate help desks. According to Grindlinger, you’ll see SupportSpace align itself with product vendors, for which it might wind up being a support tool; or with organizations such as Tech Support Guy. The SupportSpace community also has an open source mindset and will encourage companies with online tech support tools to add their applications to the community for experts to use. And, of course, the company wants you — VARs and resellers — to get involved in providing your own services.

I asked Grindlinger to compare his site to OnForce, the marketplace for IT services that has been the subject of much channel controversy and debate since its launch a few years back . The big difference is that OnForce is used to organize on-site engagements of all types. In fact, Grindlinger sees the two marketplaces as complementary. I agree. Likewise, both will continue to inspire loathing among resellers and VARs who fear the commodization of their high-margin services business. Guess we’ll see how both marketplace models play out.

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist and strategic communications consultant with SWOT Management Group. She can be reached at hclancy@swotmg.com.

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