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Before his name became synonymous with cheap literary thrills, Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” He most likely was referring to art or perhaps engineering, but the statement could apply to a whole host of endeavors, including IT services delivery.

Now, I don’t know if the folks who run the company formerly known as SSI Solutions in Edmonton are fans of old Lenny, but they sure took his principle to heart in implementing a forehead-smackingly simple idea as the basis of their whole approach to managed services. You see, the idea is so elegant that one has to wonder why – why! – everybody hasn’t been doing it for years.

The whole concept revolves around that oft-neglected key on your computer keyboard. You know the one – it sits close to the screen, inconspicuously on the right. You don’t know which? That’s how neglected it is. It’s the F12 key.

Not only did the former SSI, an MSP and hardware as a service (HAAS) provider, find an important function for the F12 key, but the company also actually renamed itself F12 Networks. And it has hatched a program called F12 Connect, which after a couple months of customer demos, is officially being rolled out.

“F12 Connect has been demo-ed to many clients and vendor partners,” says Leanne Yeatman, operations manager at F12 Network. “The reception has been incredible. Current clients cannot wait to have it deployed in their environments.”

I’m not surprised, and I suspect Leonardo wouldn’t be either.

I have no doubt customers are excited about the simplicity of the F12 Connect approach. With a push of the F12 key, a client gains instant access to a portal with a menu of options, among them the ability to communicate directly with a technical team assigned to that specific client.

F12 Networks promises its clients it’s never been easier to log on, personalize and manage all of their IT needs as a result of pressing F12. The functions clients can perform include managing a company’s users and resetting their passwords, browsing computer and network diagnostic tools, viewing billing history and contracts, ordering products and checking on previous purchases. The F12 key also gives clients access to the service provider’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and to news about the company.

“Some of the favorite features among clients are the ease of managing the users on their network, says Yeatman. “They no longer have to call in, open a ticket and try to communicate the requirements for a new user such as software licenses and security groups.”

Anything that saves time and increases productivity will always resonate with customers, who don’t want to be bogged down with IT matters when they could be busy making money for their companies.

But why F12, you may ask. Well – here I have to stray off my comfort zone as a Mac user – the F keys generally give you shortcuts to certain functions that otherwise require several mouse clicks. The F12 key specifically has been used by Dell for troubleshooting and rebooting. The key has other uses, such as “save as” in Microsoft programs and as an “undo” command.

Yeatman says vendor partners like F12 Connect because it allows them to integrate some of their own offerings into the service, be it hardware procurement or software licensing. Microsoft, for instance, has agreed to partner with F12 Networks for its BPOS and Office 365 cloud-based offerings. “We are currently working on a marketing plan with Microsoft,” Yeatman says.

More positive developments are sure to follow for F12 Networks. A managed services pioneer, the company could have just fallen back on the tried-and-true. Instead, it pushed itself to innovate and crack the code on how to add new levels of value for the customer. And that is a Da Vinci code definitely worth cracking.

Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at