The Channel Gets Serious About Being Taken Seriously

It may be because so many have deep roots in product resale, but the sad fact is that many customers see channel technologists, technicians, consultants, engineers and such as little more than glorified computer hobbyists. Not all customers, certainly, and not all channel partners, but enough that it poses a challenge to any credible firm through no fault of their own to maintain that credibility.

And, yes, it may be that some of our “colleagues” contribute regularly to the problem. Previously in these pages I have referred to the “reseller refugees,” those former resellers who attempted to “catch” the MSP “wave” simply by having “MSP” imprinted below their name on their business card. For the many managed service providers who truly manage IT services and infrastructures very competently for their clients, these lazy pretenders give the term MSP a truly bad name. Many quality MSPs report customers complaining they’ve been “burnt” by “MSPs” in the past and it left a bad taste.

The MSP Reality

The reality is that there are many high-quality MSPs in the channel who provide extraordinary professional services. They are thoroughly trained, broadly certified, and often frequent award-winners. They do the name “MSP” or “ITSP” proud every day. What they have lacked up until now has been a concerted voice.

The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) refers to itself as the voice of the Microsoft Partner, but the deep involvement of Microsoft in their organization is both a blessing and a curse. They receive sufficient funding from Microsoft to cause them to be careful when challenging. The Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) boasts a substantially sized global membership, but is operated by a hired staff funded through sales of educational services. Their certifications, like A+ and Network+, are legendary. Their laudable focus is on doing great work for various communities to bring them closer to tech, but not as much on advocating for the channel. Many other organizations and associations that purport to serve the IT channel are operated by vendors whose interests are clear but not necessarily channel-serving.

What is needed is true, independent advocacy for the “raising of all boats” across the channel.

Also read: Top Channel Partners & How to Find the Best One

Enter NSITSP

We may have finally unearthed a truly positive, valuable use for social media.

Many quality MSPs have been congregating on a variety of social media groups run either by publications or by individuals seeking to serve them with “coaching” and other business-building services. Let me state categorically that there is nothing wrong with pursuing individual self-interests by hosting and administering such a group. Done properly this can be a tremendous service to group members as well as the progenitor of the group itself.

Recently, a prominent group of these channel partners have decided to create a national organization for the express purpose of promoting the interests of the entire channel. The banner headline on the home page of the National Society of Information Technology Service Providers (http://nsitsp.org) says “It’s time to transform our industry into a Profession.

They then advise that, “Legislation and regulation are coming to our industry – fast. You can choose to get involved and influence your future, or simply do nothing and let the legislators and bureaucrats decide your future. Obviously, you’re encouraged to get involved.”

Also read: If We’re Not a Channel Anymore, What ARE We?

Channel Leadership and Participation

Being totally transparent, I’ll admit up front that I would not have taken any such group very seriously given the false starts by so many others in recent years but for two things: leadership and participation.

Leadership

The President of the organization is the impressive Amy Babinchak, owner of Third Tier and Harbor Computer Services, both successful ITSPs, and Managing Partner at Sell My MSP, helping those who wish to buy or sell their IT businesses. She has also held Microsoft’s highest individual award for technology excellence, Most Valuable Partner (MVP), for more than a decade, among many other prestigious awards. Amy holds a Masters of Science from Michigan State in Natural Resource Development with specialization in Environmental Law and Economics.

The Executive Director and Founder of the organization is Karl Palachuk, a well-known leader in the channel for many years and owner of Small Biz Thoughts and Great Little Book Publishing Co. Karl has been a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) since 1995, a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) since 2000, and his master’s degree is from the University of Michigan.

I’d hang with these two any time except during Michigan – Michigan State football games…

Participation

The fact that they attracted more than 70 participants to their very first online membership meeting with only a modicum of invitations is another good sign for the group.

The meeting was tremendously encouraging. Topics discussed among the group included:

  • The development of a unified voice for ITSPs
  • Legislative advocacy
  • Elevation of the standards of ethics across our profession
  • Education and certification for ITSPs
  • Provide a voice of the small IT service provider that will be heard
  • Provide an agreed-upon Code of Ethics for all ITSPs
  • Legal Insurance and Risk Management for ITSPs
  • NSITSP as a “bottom-up, grassroots” organization

Where Does This Go from Here?

During this first meeting the members of the Board of Directors and the Committee Chairs were all introduced. If you believe that any organization is only as good as its leadership, you have good reason to explore this group to see if you want to participate. These are serious business professionals who see the need to work together for the mutual benefit of everyone and their clients.

For myself, I truly hope this group can help bring about the long-overdue issue of accreditation. ITSP technology professionals are every bit as valuable and integral to any business’ operation as their lawyer, their accountant, architects, doctors, etc. The difference is one of accreditation and licensing. I look forward to a day when a networking engineer receives the same respect as a doctor, a technology consultant is held in the same regard as a lawyer. To accomplish that requires action on the part of educational institutions, legal and governmental bodies, and more. If NSITSP truly wants to transform our industry into a Profession, this is the challenge to them. I raise my hand to help in any way I can. Will you?

Read next: MSPs Are Turning Software Into New Services – As We Predicted

Howard M. Cohen
Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry who writes for and about the IT channel. He’s a frequent speaker at IT industry events, including Microsoft Inspire, Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon, and he frequently hosts and presents webinars for many vendors and publications.

RELATED ARTICLES

Must Read