Channel Marker

April 11, 2019  3:02 PM

MSP business model moves toward three key staples

John Moore John Moore Profile: John Moore
Business model, Channel, MSP

An ancient agricultural method and the modern MSP business model wouldn’t appear to have much in common.

Yet there are some interesting parallels between “three sisters” farming, which originated thousands of years ago, and how a number of managed service providers are currently cultivating business. Native Americans planted maize, beans and squash — the three sisters — together in the same field. As the maize grew, it provided a natural pole that the bean plants could climb. The squash spread close to the ground, discouraging weed growth that could hamper the other plants.

The practice, also called mixed-cropping, contrasts with monoculture, where fields of the same crop are grown separately. MSPs also pursue mixed-cropping of sorts. For a growing number of firms, the three sisters are managed services, cloud and security.

This pattern can be seen in recent MSP newsmakers: Logically Inc., based in Portland, Maine, and KSM Consulting, based in Indianapolis. Logically launched April 8, integrating Winxnet and K&R Networks with the objective of building a nationwide service provider. KSM Consulting announced April 9 that private equity firm Renovus Capital Partners had acquired a majority interest in the company. Logically is focusing on managed services, the AWS and Microsoft Azure public clouds, and security. KSM Consulting, meanwhile, provides managed services, Microsoft cloud solutions, and cybersecurity architecture and strategy.

Over the years, the MSP business model has typically been diverse. Companies offered managed services, of course, but a lot of other services as well — including break/fix and product reselling. But MSPs appear to be striving for greater harmonization when they emphasize the foundational offerings of managed services, cloud and security. As with mixed-cropping, the three components of this MSP business mix aim to complement each other.

Here’s how: Managed services, established two decades ago to remotely manage customers’ on-premises IT, provide a pillar of expertise that now supports the growth of the cloud business. As it turns out, cloud-based IT requires as much management as in-house gear. Customers face issues such as workload allocation and cloud cost optimization. MSPs have plenty of room to offer their services.

The need for security, meanwhile, permeates all aspects of IT — whether the technology resides on-premises or in the cloud. It’s no longer an afterthought or something an MSP can ignore entirely. Industry executives are in general agreement that an MSP has to offer cybersecurity services, either on its own or through partnership.

Channel business models inevitably shift to keep up with technology and customer buying patterns. The core elements of managed services, cloud and security, however, could provide some stability.

April 4, 2019  12:33 PM

Single board computing distributor OKdo debuts

John Moore John Moore Profile: John Moore
Arduino, Channel, Consumer IoT, distribution, electronics, Enterprise IoT, Raspberry Pi

Electrocomponents plc, an electronics distributor based in London, has launched OKdo, a global business that focuses on single board computing and IoT.

That focus includes a reseller initiative, but not one populated with the usual channel suspects. Instead of IT value-added resellers, OKdo seeks to do business with partners such as maker resellers — companies that take single board computers such as Raspberry Pi, package them as kits and sell them to downstream customers. Other targeted partners include electronic device retailers, online resellers and industrial OEMs.

While OKdo will target resellers on the B2B side, it will also cover the B2C market. There, the company will sell to industrial designers, educators and individual makers who use single board computing platforms to build desktop PCs, gaming devices and other electronic gear. OKdo’s new electronic commerce platform, live in seven countries including the U.S., provides the direct sales vehicle.

A slimmer portfolio

OKdo offers hardware and software as well as development support and manufacturing services. In single board computing, OKdo said it will build upon existing relationships with Arduino, BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi. The company also cited new partnering arrangements with Arm, NXP, Broadcom, Intel and Seed. Alliances with start-ups such as Zerynth and The Things Industries are also in the mix.

Richard Curtin, global senior vice president, technology, at OKdo, said OKdo departs somewhat from Electrocomponents’ market approach in that its product portfolio is very slim. While Electrocomponents sells half a million products, OKdo will offer less than a thousand SKUs, Curtin said.

OKdo will also offer a global dedicated channel sales team to work with industrial OEMs and resellers.

Electrocomponents’ other electronics distributor brands, Allied Electronic & Automation in North America and RS Components in Europe and Asia Pacific, will continue to offer single board computing and IoT technologies, Curtin said, citing strategic customers as one example. But he noted, over time, some of those distributors’ larger reseller and OEM partners specifically focused on single board computing and IoT will transition into the OKdo business.

North American focus

The OKdo launch also involves a greater focus on the North American market, in which Allied mainly pursued automation and control technology. OKdo offers a different strategy and focus geared to single board computing customers, noted Claire Doyle, global senior vice president, commercial, at OKdo.

“North America is a very key market for OKdo and one we believe has a lot of potential,” she said.

The OKdo executives declined to identify any of the business’ resellers due to contractual arrangements. But Curtin outlined three types of reseller partners:

  • Maker resellers — typically small, local and regional companies that offer customized single board computer kits under their own brand. Companies in this category sell online and also create content and blogs to inspire makers to do more with their products.
  • Larger resellers — partners in this category tend to have more of a national scope and may design their own circuits to include in their kits. They also sell online.
  • Retailers — these large companies sell through brick-and-mortar stores with physical inventory as well as the web.

As a global business, OKdo “can only go so far in a region,” Curtain said. “Resellers provide the critical last five miles into the customers,” Curtain said.

Selling through the electronics distributor channel is becoming more important in fragmented markets such as IoT, since distributors can pull together components from multiple suppliers under one roof. ON Semiconductor last year reported that it broke the $1 billion mark in quarterly channel sales. The company said distributors offer a way to target the mass consumer market, while also generating demand in market segments such as IoT, industrial and cloud computing.

March 29, 2019  3:45 PM

Keep a digital transformation strategy humming with these practices

John Moore John Moore Profile: John Moore
Change management, Digital transformation, managed serverices, systems integrators

The earliest days of a client’s digital transformation strategy can be the make-or-break time for the entire initiative.

Projects under the digital transformation banner may call for a company to reinvent its value proposition, drastically change its business model and overhaul its technology infrastructure. Such jobs are complex endeavors that engulf customers and partners alike and are easily derailed. Overcoming a bad start is likely to prove tremendously difficult, given the high project failure rate some industry consultants have cited.

Insight Enterprises, a systems integrator based in Tempe, Ariz., recently recognized a handful of clients who have met with success on their digital journeys. The companies capturing Insight’s Evolve Awards include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Ardent Health Services and Banner Health.

The companies’ projects vary in focus. Anheuser-Busch’s effort involved developing a global platform for applications DevOps, a UX/EX design system and an AI- and augmented reality-based bottle counting offering. Ardent’s LHP Hospital Group, meanwhile, modernized its data center infrastructure, with Insight providing managed storage and professional services. Banner Health, meanwhile, focused on transforming its IT supply chain processes.

Yet, the projects share a few things in common: they applied key principles to get their digital transformation strategies off the ground and moving in the right direction. Here’s a closer look at five practices:

  • Understanding, refining and mapping a client’s vision

Stan Lequin, vice president and general manager of digital innovation at Insight, said understanding the client’s vision at the beginning of the project is crucial. And, along with that, there must be an understanding of the business outcomes the client is hoping to achieve.

Early on in a digital transformation initiative, Insight meets with a customer’s business, IT and security representatives in an ideation session. As the “connection point” linking those teams, Insight helps refine the client’s vision and create a project roadmap.

“We help them map out the art of the possible,” Lequin said.

  • Creating a minimum viable product

The next key practice of a successful digital transformation strategy is translating the customer’s vision into a minimum viable product, or MVP. AN MVP is part of an iterative process that lets customers get an early glimpse of what a particular digital innovation — a new application, for example — is going to look like. An MVP could be a wireframe of an application, for example.

“It is something that proves out, without a massive expense, the use case of what they are trying to do and lets us refine it and enhance it,” Lequin said. Projects that use the MVP approach to quickly demonstrate what the customer has in mind are the ones that “move ahead in a big way,” he added.

  • Securing executive sponsorship

The ability to secure executive sponsorship is another common thread among successful digital transformation projects and a characteristic of the award-winning Insight customer initiatives.

“Every single one has had a sponsor,” Lequin said. “This is one of the most critical things.”

Some projects had CIO sponsors, while others had leaders from the business side of the enterprise, he noted.

  • Managing change

A successful digital transformation strategy also calls for change management. Organizations committing to such projects are typically not just building new systems but redefining themselves as digital businesses. It’s a process that requires careful guidance.

“We have manufacturing clients who are turning into software companies,” Lequin said. “It’s a huge change that happens when you move from analog to digital.”

To help customers deal with change, Insight provides training on DevOps concepts and new ways of using cloud technologies, for example. The training leads into organizational change management. Insight helps clients develop a plan to drive culture change with the enterprise.

  • Providing ongoing management

A digital transformation project never quite ends. Organizations must continue to adapt and evolve amid new customer demands, emerging competitive threats and changes in the regulatory environment. In time, the initial application will need to be expanded and new applications built.

Lequin said many customers will move into a managed stage to keep the digital transformation strategy moving forward. Insight, for example, offers DevOps as a managed service, helping customers roll out their next applications using DevOps concepts. The company also provides application development services.

Conclusion: Don’t start with technology

A digital transformation strategy goes through a number of phases. The actual steps may vary somewhat, but they shouldn’t start with technology. Digital technology is the enabler, but not the objective. The business vision comes first.

“We don’t get to the architecture or technology discussion until we work through building out that vision,” Lequin said.

March 22, 2019  9:21 PM

Dell EMC partner strategy stays the course for FY20

Spencer Smith Spencer Smith Profile: Spencer Smith
Channel partners, Dell EMC, Partner programs

Ahead of its 2019 global partner summit, Dell EMC isn’t veering from its core channel priorities.

Since the formal launch of the Dell EMC Partner Program in 2017, the company’s channel strategy hasn’t seen any significant overhauls. In February, which marked the start of Dell Technologies’ fiscal year 2020, Dell EMC revealed it would introduce a handful of partner program updates. Changes included simplification to the program’s tier requirements and market development fund processes.

“The overall framework and structure of the program is very consistent. We actually feel like our strategy is working when you see the overall results that we have,” said Cheryl Cook, senior vice president of global partner marketing at Dell EMC, in an interview.

Cook pointed to several areas within Dell Technologies’ fourth-quarter and fiscal year gains where partners played an important role. “From a channel perspective, if you look at our overall business in Q4, the channel grew 14% year on year, and for the entire fiscal year that’s up 17% year on year,” she said.

The company’s distribution business continues to be its fastest route to market, outgrowing the rest of the channel, Cook noted. She said distribution grew by 16% for the fourth quarter and 21% for the fiscal year.

Dell EMC partner companies brought in about 16,100 new customers in the fourth quarter. That caps off the fiscal year of about 63,200 total new customers, Cook said.

Additionally, deal registration volumes increased by 14.5% in the fourth quarter. “We had a little bit over 121,000 deals approved in the quarter, and, for the [fiscal] year, we had over 487,000 deal registrations,” she said.

In terms of the portfolio, Dell EMC server orders were up 21% year over year for the fourth quarter and 32% year over year for the fiscal year, Cook said. “It’s clear that we are hitting an opportunity in the market where customers are investing and modernizing their infrastructure, and, as the market moves to software-defined offerings, we have the market-leading franchise in the compute offering.”

Storage orders weren’t as strong. Orders increased 3% year over year for the fiscal year, Cook said. The company, however, maintains an optimistic storage outlook. “I think all of those efforts [we have made] seem to be paying off. We have returned [our storage] business to growth, so that is going to be an important area of focus for us,” Cook said.

Meanwhile, Cook said the VxRail business is growing at triple digits, “an expression of the opportunity of aligning VMware and Dell EMC and how we can bring the power of these strategically aligned businesses together.”

Since merging with EMC, Dell EMC has touted the cross-sell opportunities for its partner base. The vendor continues to encourage its partners to sell more than one line of business. “That is an area that we continue to reinforce and to point to for partners,” Cook said. She noted that the number of Dell EMC partner firms selling more than three lines of business were “up significantly this year.”

Partners are realizing that there is a “natural opportunity” to sell across multiple lines of business, she added.

The Dell EMC Global Partner Summit 2019 will be held in conjunction with Dell Technologies World from April 28 to May 2 in Las Vegas.

March 13, 2019  6:23 PM

Synechron demos asset tokenization on blockchain

John Moore John Moore Profile: John Moore
Blockchain, consultants, Emerging technologies

Synechron, a consulting firm focusing on financial services, is applying emerging digital strategies such as asset tokenization in the rapidly growing wealth management industry.

The New York-based company earlier this month launched its Wealth Tech Accelerator program, which aims to marshal technology, data science and analytics in support of wealth management firms. The scope of Synechron’s endeavor ranges from developing new blockchain-based investment channels to improving the client onboarding process.

Firms in the wealth management industry are looking to attract and retain high-net-worth investors, which represent a steadily expanding pool of assets. According to tax and advisory firm EY, net investable assets already top $55 trillion globally and are expect to grow to nearly $70 trillion by 2021. “Wealth managers should be anticipating and seizing this market potential and enormous growth now,” noted EY’s wealth management outlook.

Asset tokenization to open investor opportunities

The asset tokenization component of Synechron’s Wealth Tech Accelerator could potentially, over time, cultivate a still larger pool of investors and capital. Asset tokenization fractionalizes the ownership rights to different types of assets — from fine art to real estate — into digital coins, or tokens, via blockchain. Blockchain is used to manage those rights. Tim Coates, who heads the blockchain business at Synechron, believes asset tokenization will create new investment opportunities in the wealth management space, with smaller investors, in particular, standing to benefit.

Tim Coates

“People excluded because of lack of size can buy into non-traditional assets,” Coates noted.

Coates referred to Synechron’s asset tokenization accelerator as a concept it is demonstrating for customers, rather than a product it is ready to monetize. The company’s asset tokenization demo is based on the Ethereum public blockchain and uses open source protocols. Those components include Harbor, a blockchain-based platform and compliance protocol for tokenized securities, and 0x, a protocol for decentralized exchanges — peer-to-peer marketplaces for asset-backed tokens.

The objective for asset tokenization technology is to provide the controls and feature sets regulated securities require, Coates explained.

Client onboarding taps OCR, NLP, RPA

Synechron, meanwhile, taps optical character recognition (OCR), natural language processing (NLP) and robotic process automation (RPA) to ease the client onboarding process. In this aspect of the company’s wealth management tech accelerator, OCR and NLP are used to scan a new customer’s ID and extract the relevant data. An RPA-created workflow then automatically populates the wealth manager’s client onboarding forms with the data, noted Diana Kearns-Manolatos, global head of marketing at Synechron.

This accelerator, which uses technologies including OpenNLP,  focuses on both account onboarding and know your customer (KYC) requirements. The idea behind this accelerator is to help financial institutions collect KYC and due diligence information without making the process overly cumbersome, according to Synechron.

Diana Kearns-Manolatos

Indeed, a wealth manager’s digital customer acquisition process is especially important since it has the dual purpose of collecting important customer data and improving the customer experience, Kearns-Manolatos said.

“It is really the first impression for a new customer,” she said.

March 12, 2019  6:07 PM

HPE Partner Ready highlights solution architect role in channel sales

Spencer Smith Spencer Smith Profile: Spencer Smith
Channel partners, HPE, professional training, Solution Architect

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has rolled out a new technical enablement resource that targets HPE partner solution architects.

The Tech Pro Community, launched globally today, aims to connect solution architects with training and the vendor’s internal presales team. The move in part supports HPE’s focus on solution selling, as well as what it views as the growing importance of the solution architect role.

“[HPE recognizes] there is a big shift happening in the way customers buy IT. …. Increasingly, the line-of-business leaders are involved in the IT decisions, and what they are buying is business outcomes,” said Brian Beneda, senior manager of global technical enablement at HPE, in an interview.

Beneda said that the solution architect role, which collects customers’ business requirements and translates them into technical solutions, is critical in a purchasing model that emphasizes business outcomes.

HPE Tech Pro Community a hub for solution architects

The Tech Pro Community is open to all HPE partners that have the minimum of an HPE Accredited Technical Professional certification, according to HPE. After joining the community, online users can access educational tracks around HPE technologies and industry trends. Members can also use the platform to earn HPE Accredited Solution Expert (ASE) and Master ASE certifications.

Beneda noted that the Tech Pro Community pulls together what was previously a fragmented set of technical training resources. “What we haven’t done up until now is make it easier for a channel partner solution architect to get access to all the training, the expertise, the content and the people inside of HPE that they need to exercise the power of [HPE] in front of their customers,” he said.

The training available through the Tech Pro Community is the same that HPE provides its internal teams, he added.

HPE also said the Tech Pro Community gives members a chance to connect with other partner and internal solution architects, through both online collaboration and in-person events. Beneda said the vendor is trying to “cross-pollinate” its partner and internal solution architect communities.

HPE’s transition to solution-oriented sales

HPE has been refocusing its HPE partner training on solution architects and solution selling for about a year, Beneda said. The introduction of the Tech Pro Community is a result of those efforts.

“What we had done in the past was very product-focused. … We will continue to have these specialist tracks. But the transition we are seeing from a market perspective is the demand” for the solution architect role, Beneda said.

February 25, 2019  7:46 PM

Thoma Bravo to buy ConnectWise MSP software business

Spencer Smith Spencer Smith Profile: Spencer Smith
Acquisitions, ConnectWise, IT Managed Service, MSP, RMM Software

MSP software provider ConnectWise has revealed plans to be acquired by Thoma Bravo, a private equity investment firm.

According to ConnectWise, the transaction is expected to close on Feb. 28. Following the transaction, ConnectWise COO Jason Magee will become the company’s CEO. Arnie Bellini, ConnectWise’s founder and CEO, will step into an advisory role.

“After five years of thoughtful consideration, evaluation and interviewing [private equity firms], we selected Thoma Bravo, because they are very excited about” ConnectWise’s strategies, partner community and vision, Bellini said in an interview.

Thoma Bravo’s portfolio contains notable MSP software companies, including remote monitoring and management (RMM) vendors Continuum and SolarWinds. Thoma Bravo also owns security and data protection vendor Barracuda Networks, which early this month revealed plans to acquire Avast’s RMM software, Managed Workplace.

Other Thoma Bravo-acquired companies include security vendors McAfee, Centrify, DigiCert and Imperva; networking vendor Riverbed; and visual analytics company Qlik.

Bellini said one of the reasons ConnectWise selected Thoma Bravo was its expertise in the software-as-a-service industry.

“If you look at [Thoma Bravo’s] portfolio, current and past, they have an amazing track record — I would say the best track record — of creating success with software-as-a-service companies,” Bellini said.

What’s ahead for ConnectWise users

ConnectWise won’t veer from its commitment to its MSP software user base, Bellini said. Thoma Bravo and ConnectWise have co-developed a five-year strategic plan that will adhere to ConnectWise’s established vision and roadmap, he said.

Magee, who joined ConnectWise in 2011 and was appointed COO in 2016, said ConnectWise partners can expect to see the cybersecurity offerings outlined at the 2018 IT Nation Connect conference. Additionally, ConnectWise will focus on providing advanced education and go-to-market tools for as-a-service businesses, as well continue developing a “connected ecosystem” around its platform.

Bellini also noted acquisitions on the horizon. “We made four acquisitions last year, and we plan on making some nice acquisitions now that we also have the benefit of Thoma Bravo,” Bellini said.

ConnectWise’s 2018 acquisitions included HTG Peer Groups, managed security services provider Sienna Group, and cloud software development firm HashInclude Computech. In 2018, the company also invested in Perch Security, a threat intelligence vendor.

Restructuring ConnectWise

As part of the Thoma Bravo deal, ConnectWise will undergo an organizational restructuring, Bellini said. The company will eliminate 110 positions and add 70 new positions to align to the strategy co-created with Thoma Bravo.

“In year two, three, four and five of our strategy, we are going to be adding … new jobs and opportunities here at the company,” Bellini said.

Bellini noted that ConnectWise is taking an active role in helping employees affected by the organizational restructuring land on their feet. He said ConnectWise has hired outside consultants and is contacting recruiting firms to place laid-off employees in new career opportunities.

ConnectWise IT, the Tampa, Fla.-based IT services provider that had originally developed ConnectWise’s software, is not part of the Thoma Bravo acquisition, Bellini said. He said he will be rebranding ConnectWise IT and continue to  oversee the company.

February 15, 2019  10:03 PM

Microsoft partner training offers self-assessment tool

John Moore John Moore Profile: John Moore
Channel, Channel partners, IT training, Microsoft

An important part of education is determining what you need to learn. Microsoft partner training aims to help service providers in that regard, launching a self-assessment tool Feb. 15.

The tool, dubbed the Transformation Readiness Assessment, lets partners figure out the “next steps to increase [their] proficiencies and extend … practice development and service opportunities,” according to Microsoft. The tool assesses partners’ business and technology capabilities and then steers them toward the appropriate training and enablement resources.

Melissa Mulholland, director of cloud profitability at Microsoft, said the partner assessment tool’s business section covers such topics as sales and marketing, while the tool’s technical solution component measures the partner’s standing in AI and business apps among other areas. The partner tool resides on the Microsoft Partner Network.

“The assessment tool is a way to measure [a partner’s] capability and areas where a partner can grow,” Mulholland said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is releasing new resources to help partners bolster their skills. For example, the company recently published a playbook for partners that focuses on recruiting, hiring, onboarding and retaining talent. Mulholland said the new playbook ties into the assessment tool in that it provides resources partners can use to improve human resources “capabilities that may need additional development based on the results of the assessment.”

With the new tool and playbook in place, the online platforms that deliver Microsoft partner training are getting a new look. Microsoft’s Training Center, a partner learning portal, has been refreshed. The portal offers training options based on a partner’s role — such as administrator, architect or developer — and the Microsoft technology they wish to pursue. Mulholland said Microsoft will continue to add content and additional roles such as data scientist.

The long-term Microsoft partner training vision, however, is based on the MS Learn platform. MS Learn has been geared primarily toward technical roles and offerings such as Microsoft Azure. But MS Learn has recently added content for Dynamics 365, and Microsoft 365 content is under development, according to Mulholland.

MS Learn eventually will serve as a one-stop-shop for training and certification across all Microsoft products and solutions, and the various roles associated with those products and solutions, Mulholland explained.

February 13, 2019  6:56 PM

2019 IBM partner program bolsters ecosystem approach

Spencer Smith Spencer Smith Profile: Spencer Smith
Channel partners, IBM, IBM PartnerWorld, Partner programs

IBM is doubling down on its channel ecosystem strategy this week with a raft of partner program updates.

The IBM ecosystem strategy was launched last year to engage a broad range of partner business types. Those included resellers, managed services providers, ISVs, developers and cloud services providers. Building on 2018 investments, IBM this week rolled out a number of new partner resources, many of which focus on enablement and collaboration.

Among the new resources was a partner-to-partner tool, IBM Business Partner Connect. Partner Connect uses Watson technology to help link up partners across the ecosystem to collaborate on customer accounts, said Dorothy Copeland, vice president of the North American IBM partner ecosystem, in an interview. For example, she said if an analytics-focused partner has a client interested in blockchain, Partner Connect could help identify IBM firms with blockchain expertise.

“A lot of times we will see our IBM partners … subcontract another partner underneath them in order to provide the skill set that they need for their clients,” Copeland said.

Training, cybersecurity enablement

On the training and certification front, IBM introduced the IBM Skills Gateway training platform, Copeland said. IBM Skills Gateway provides sales and technical education for partners and IBM’s internal sales team.

“One big piece of our focus is making sure … that we are providing our employees and … our partners the skills-building that they need,” Copeland said.

Copeland also noted forthcoming Red Hat training. IBM stated its intention to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion in November 2018. She said the Red Hat training will focus on products that IBM and Red Hat currently offer together, such as IBM Cloud Private on top of Red Hat OpenShift open-source container application platform.

“That’s a key area that we want to make sure we are enabling partners,” Copeland said of the Red Hat training.

Additionally, IBM rolled out a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) Program. The MSSP program aims to help partners develop cybersecurity businesses and is open to all partners that have either an active reseller or embedded solutions agreement with IBM, according to the vendor. Under the program, partners can earn financial rewards dubbed the Know Your IBM Security Sales Incentive.

Security is a high-growth area for many IBM Business Partners in North America, Copeland noted.

Other IBM partner program developments

Additional IBM partner program updates revealed this week included the following:

  • IBM Cloud Paks, which IBM said are container software packages with support for using open standards in hybrid and multicloud deployments. IBM said Cloud Paks are designed for Kubernetes and use IBM Cloud and IBM Cloud Private.
  • Software deal registration with priority access to special bid pricing. Copeland said partners have asked the software deal registration since she joined IBM about 18 months ago.
  • My PartnerWorld, a means for partners to manage various digital PartnerWorld tools in one place, IBM said.
  • ‘In It to Win It’ incentives for Power, Z and IBM LinuxOne.
  • New co-marketing resources for partners that embed IBM technology into their offerings.
  • Value Package 2.0 support bundle, which lets partners double their IBM Cloud credits. Value Package 2.0 also provides access to a development sandbox environment, discount vouchers for select education events and expanded subscription discounts.
  • The Cloud Digital Technical Engagement Program with support for product demos and tutorials.

February 5, 2019  9:42 PM

Solve IT recruiting challenges with nontraditional candidates

Spencer Smith Spencer Smith Profile: Spencer Smith
Channel partners, IT hiring, IT recruitment, IT staffing, MSP

If you’re a channel firm faced with recruiting challenges, perhaps it’s time to look outside the traditional talent pool.

That’s the advice of partner executives who are adopting innovative approaches for hiring tech talent. Channel firms are addressing IT skills shortages in a number of ways, such as launching IT apprenticeship programs.  But the most basic means for overcoming recruiting challenges, they said, is to broaden the scope of possible candidates.

“There are only so many strategies for addressing [the cybersecurity] talent gap, and one of them is definitely to look at nontraditional candidates,” said Eric Foster, CISO at Fishtech Group, a cybersecurity specialist located in Kansas City, Mo.

“I would definitely advise people to throw a lot of your preconceived notions about what the right candidate looks like out the window,” he added.

Revise your IT hiring paradigm

Foster said channel firms should look beyond standard work and educational qualifications to evaluate “a much wider range of candidates.”

He said Fishtech years ago decided to remove almost all requirements from job openings, including educational, certification, or work experience requirements.

In Fishtech’s staffing efforts today, Foster said he now looks for “attitude and aptitude” in candidates. “I will take that over experience, over certification, over the rest,” he said.

Amy Kardel, co-founder of Clever Ducks, a managed services provider based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., held a similar view on hiring tech talent. “We can train the technical skills. It is the attitude and soft skills, I think, that sometimes are the hardest to find,” she said.

Fishtech’s training methodology aims to accommodate new hires that lack conventional cybersecurity backgrounds, Foster said.

‘Always be recruiting’

Kardel advised channel firms to look for talent everywhere, especially out and about in everyday life. She is always in recruitment mode, she said. That includes when visiting coffee shops, where a barista might show desirable customer service skills.

“I think Uber drivers are another great pool,” she noted. “I have a friend who is always recruiting Uber drivers, because obviously they are showing hustle, too.”

Foster said Apple’s Genius Bars and Best Buy’s Geek Squads are great recruitment grounds. Those employees tend to have solid experience working with customers and trouble-shooting problems.

“There are a lot of [everyday situations] where you can always say, ‘Hey, there is opportunity over here. Come take a look,’ ” Kardel said.

“You know that line from Glengarry Glen Ross: ‘Always be closing’? The analogy to that is, ‘Always be recruiting,’ ” she added.

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