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Not too long ago, Charles Weaver was the president of an organization preaching the gospel of the managed services business model on a lonely path to the few souls who would listen.

Today that organization, the Managed Services Provider Alliance, boasts more than 300 member companies that now look to the alliance to not only rally the membership, but also steward accreditation programs and provide access to shared services that lower the cost of doing business for the membership.

For example, this year the MSP Alliance formalized a relationship with AIG to not only give members access to business insurance at a reduced rate but to also use the insurance giant’s network of business customers to create new sales leads for MSP members.

The MSP Alliance has also undertaken the thankless task of creating and policing an accreditation program that requires companies to get a score of 70 percent or better on a series of 115 questions that cover issues related to security, business processes, corporate finance and customer satisfaction.

According to Weaver, the core concept behind MSAP (Managed Services Accreditation Program) is to give members a business certification that end users can trust but is not as intrusive or costly to acquire as, say, a full SAS 70 audit. So far, 15 companies have passed the MSAP tests, and another 35 or so are in the process, said Weaver.

Weaver perceives that the managed services space is bigger than the traditional channel in that it includes companies such as telecommunications providers, outsourcers and vendors, alongside traditional channel companies. But he expects that solution providers with a local touch will always have a competitive edge in this space over others.

To that end, however, Weaver says that solution providers need to be prepared for an evolutionary trek where they will quickly move beyond reselling someone else’s managed service to providing their own managed services hosted at a NOC (network operations center) they control.

“I guess what surprised me most about managed services is that I didn’t think it would happen on such a grand scale,” said Weaver. “That’s pleasing, but it’s also scary because there are so many people interested in it right now that are unqualified to provide them.”