Unwitting solution providers regularly walk away from revenue opportunities, but IT services management vendor MaintenanceNet and distributor Ingram Micro aim to change that.

The two companies teamed up to provide VARs and integrators with an automated tool that keeps track of warranty and maintenance contract renewal dates. About 50 percent of such contracts currently are allowed to expire, according to analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., and that means VARs and integrators are turning their backs on a lot of potential revenue.

“They don’t know how to get their arms around it,” said Nicole Aptekar, group manager of Ingram Micro’s U.S. customer marketing. “I think it’s a data management issue, so we want to help them organize that data.”

MaintenanceNet’s Web-enabled technology allows companies to manage maintenance contracts, including warranties, which involve multiple partners such as vendors, distributors, VARs and, ultimately, customers.

The Carlsbad, Calif.-based vendor is making the technology available to solution providers through a portal offered by Ingram Micro, of Santa Ana, Calif.

“One of the traditional problems has been getting this information from manufacturers through the distributors to partners, and for the partners to put it in front of the end customers,” said Scott Herron, CEO of MaintenanceNet. “We’ve automated that process.”

The service will make VARs more efficient and reduce the overhead costs of keeping track of contract renewals manually while adding value for Ingram Micro’s manufacturer partners, said Jason Beal, U.S. group manager of Ingram Micro services.

Ingram Micro’s Reseller Services Portal lets VARs and integrators organize and list service contracts and their expiration dates. Providers receive e-mail notifications of pending expirations at 30, 60 and 90 days before the end date, allowing them to approach their customers to renew the contracts.

The notifications also serve to alert VARs and integrators to potential new product sales because in some cases rather than renew a warranty, it might make more sense to refresh hardware or update software applications, Aptekar said.

VARs and integrators also have the option of setting up automatic e-mails to customers on contracts about to expire.

The system raises accountability with all involved parties by bringing visibility to the relevant contract data, said Andrew Africa, chief operating officer at MaintenanceNet.

The service is free to Ingram Micro’s solution providers and so far covers warranties and service contracts involving Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Aptekar said the distributor beta tested the portal with about 400 HP channel partners, and Ingram Micro plans to add more vendors to the program. Potentially, as many as 100 vendors could take advantage of the service.

Removing the manual burden of keeping track of contracts up for renewal gives solution providers an opportunity to increase their service profits, said Herron.

“It really represents a high-margin revenue opportunity for partners,” he said.

And it complements the trend toward a “trusted advisor” role for solution providers, who increasingly become more embedded in their clients’ IT environments. This is especially relevant in the area of managed services, a model through which providers remotely take over some or all of their clients’ IT functions.