Avnet Government Solutions’ recent deal with Catalogic Software underscores the role distributors play in providing an onramp to public sector opportunities.
Specifically, Avnet Government Solutions has added Catalogic to its General Services Administration (GSA) schedule contract. Independent software vendors and hardware manufacturers often enter the government market through specialized distributors that hold the key contracts. And contracts don’t get much bigger than those the GSA maintains. The GSA manages numerous schedules, through which government agencies may order a range of equipment via multiple contracts. Items available on GSA schedules range from dental equipment to light trucks, but the schedule technology companies typically care most about is GSA IT Schedule 70, which encompasses all manner of IT gear. Federal, state and local agencies did more than $14 billion in business on Schedule 70 during the federal government’s 2014 fiscal year.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board early next year is expected to publish a new accounting standard for leasing, which will have implications for distributors, managed service providers and other channel partners.
The FASB lease accounting standard, a decade in the making, will require businesses to include their lease obligations on their balance sheets. Previously, companies handled leases, for the most part, on an off-balance sheet basis. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2005 tasked FASB to develop a revised leasing standard, with the goal of illuminating companies’ assets and liabilities with respect to leased equipment.
“Because of the prevalence of leasing, it is important for users of financial statements to have a complete and understandable picture of an organization’s leasing activities,” according to FASB. “The SEC staff … identified leasing as a form of off-balance sheet accounting that needed to be addressed.”
The channel impact of the FASB lease accounting standard is already felt among channel partners who deal with IT equipment leasing – distributors, for example. Doug Sobieski, financial services executive for the Americas group at Avnet Technology Solutions, said he spends much of his time these days “talking about how companies are going to address this accounting change.”
Leases, to this point, haven’t been capitalized and are treated as an operating expense (Opex). But Sobieski noted leasing will no longer be an option for companies that prefer Opex. Opex-focused companies will need to figure out different strategies, he said. He suggested many companies that relied on traditional leasing will make a shift to managed services.
Presumably, cloud services could also play a role here, as another way to obtain the value of IT without owning the asset.
FASB voted in Novemberto go ahead with the new accounting rule for leases.
The final Accounting Standards Update is expected to appear as early as January. For public companies, the leasing standard will be effective for fiscal years starting after Dec. 15, 2018, while private companies will see the standard go into effect for annual periods beginning after Dec. 15, 2019, FASB reported.
While Cisco partners are poised to register for the vendor’s Global Partner Summit 2016 taking place February 29 to March 3 in San Diego, Wendy Bahr, who took over as Cisco’s channel chief back in July, recently shook things up a bit by announcing that future Partner Summits will be scheduled in the fall.
Bahr, senior vice president of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization, made the change to better align the company’s internal sales organization with the partner channel, according to a recently published blog post. What Cisco partners need to know is that the new plan kicks off in November 2016 with a Global Partner Summit in San Francisco.
“Many of the conversations I’ve had with our partners over the past few months have been about the challenges around the breadth of Cisco’s portfolio, our sometimes complex processes, and the transformation of our business to a more software-centric, ‘as-a-service model,'” she said.
“It’s clear that we need greater simplicity across our entire portfolio and better alignment between our partners and our field sales organization,” she stated in the blog post.
In order to bring together the company’s internal and external sales channel around strategy and priorities, the vendor will schedule future Global Partner Summits “on the heels” of the annual Cisco Global Sales Event (GSX). Cisco GSX 2015 was held in August in Las Vegas and drew about 20,000 attendees.
Citrix was one of the first big vendors to bring together its internal sales teams and channel partners to focus on joint success. The Citrix Summit 2014 kicked off the New Year and the company’s new strategy of bringing together internal sales with channel partners at a single event. Prior to the change, the partner conference took place four or more months after the internal sales team learned about the company’s strategic plans for the year.
Now in its third year, the strategy continues: Citrix Summit 2016 is around the corner, being held January 11 to 13 in Las Vegas.
Last week, BitTitan launched the Azure Starter Kit, a set of tools and educational materials for service providers looking to build Azure cloud practices. The starter kit is part of BitTitan’s MSPComplete platform, which the vendor launched earlier this year. The goal of MSPComplete, according to Rocco Seyboth, vice president and general manager of BitTitan, is to help partners evolve their businesses into managed service provider (MSP) companies.
“The premise of MSPComplete is that most of the Microsoft partners are not in fact managed service providers. They call themselves MSPs and they let you think that they are, but the vast majority of them have figured out how to make money on migration but haven’t figured out how to create managed services to maintain relationships with customers, to get recurring revenue and to have value after the migration,” Seyboth said.
MSPComplete provides a range of tools to help sell cloud, onboard customers and offer managed services after cloud migrations.
To improve sales and marketing (commonly a weakness for MSPs) BitTitan shares detailed leads with partners, he said. In addition to basic information about a prospect’s vertical, size and location, leads will have information about the prospect’s environment and the cloud services currently used. The leads are run through Azure Machine Learning to predict the likelihood of the prospect will buy a Microsoft cloud service. “When the partner gets leads, they can filter by leads that are highly likely to adopt a cloud service like Office 365” and then create targeted campaigns, he said.
BitTitan partners can also then use the vendor’s sales automation software and Smart Script technology for guidance during conversations with prospects.
Other sales tools include a statement-of-work generator and integration with PIE (Microsoft’s Partner Investment Engine) to automatically display relevant incentives, funds and investment programs that are available.
MSPComplete also offers HealthCheck, a scanning tool for assessing a customer’s environment before performing migrations. The HealthCheck tool can also perform scans on an ongoing basis to create reports and identify up-sell/cross-sell opportunities.
MSPAlliance has a long history of running networking and workshop events for managed service providers (MSPs) in the U.S. and abroad. Next week, the Chico, Calif.-based organization for MSPs and cloud providers will be launching “Town Hall Managed Services Seminars and Workshops,” a new event series that aims to explore issues in American regional markets. The first of these events will be in Cincinnati on Sept. 16.
Town halls will focus on the unique opportunities and challenges in a particular regional market, said MSPAlliance CEO Charles Weaver. Local-level discussion topics can include state tax laws and job market conditions that MSPs grapple with. He said he expects the Cincinnati event to draw MSPs from northern Kentucky, Indiana and parts of southern Ohio. Continued »
Partnerships between cloud vendors and channel partners, ideally, aim to satisfy both parties: national vendors stand to gain marketing muscle, customization services and a local contact for customers, while partners can potentially seize new avenues for boosting cloud sales.
In a recent example of such a channel alliance, Google last week said it is making a reselling option available for partners of its Google Cloud Platform. The platform, a set of cloud-based services, lets partners build offerings ranging from websites to big data deployments.
Technology adept and sales inept is probably a somewhat harsh analysis of the typical channel partner.
But managed service providers, value-added resellers and systems integrators do tend to be brimming with IT know-how and a bit lacking when it comes to soft skills such as sales, marketing and customer service. Channel consultancies, trade associations, product vendors and at least one “compassionate geek” offer assistance for partners looking to improve those aspects of a channel business. Continued »
In a recent conversation with SearchITChannel, Michael Maddox, president of ASK, discussed issues that managed service providers (MSPs) can face in regards to client agreements. One area he addressed was client profitability, which he said some MSPs lack a clear picture of.
“The No. 1 mistake I see MSPs making is not understanding or having enough tools or metrics to truly understand their revenue and costs from a managed services client,” Maddox said. These MSPs will only evaluate their monthly, quarterly or yearly revenue numbers, with some companies going a step further and looking at their direct costs, such as what they owe Continuum or Kaseya, he said.
Channel partners are in demand by business customers as they formulate and implement their digital business and cloud strategies. That’s because partners offer expertise above and beyond what many businesses have in house and also because these organizations need comprehensive advice and trusted advisors to help them along their IT journey.
Just three months since long-time Microsoft channel executive Jenni Flinders left her job, the Redmond, Wash. vendor this month appointed Stephen Boyle, vice president for Microsoft U.S. Partner Strategy & Programs – or U.S. Channel Chief.
Unlike Flinders who had a dozen years tenure with Microsoft – the majority of that time with the vendor’s partner organization — Boyle is a relative newcomer to the company, having joined in March 2014 as vice president of enterprise partners. He was previously employed at Oracle (since June 1997) in various sales and channel positions. Prior to that he worked at Sun Microsystems and Data General.