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Level Platforms Inc. is stepping up its efforts to train VARs and integrators as they make the challenging transition to managed services providers.

The Ottawa-based vendor, whose technology is used by about 800 providers to deliver remote monitoring and management services to end-user customers, is setting up training centers and has launched an online “boot camp” that offers new partners technical, business and sales training.

LPI also is providing hands-on sales and marketing assistance to new partners so they can promote their managed services offerings to existing and potential customers.

Driving the training and sales assistance efforts is a recognition that VARs and integrators, which typically are product-focused and charge per-project fees, must undergo a deep transformation to effectively deliver managed services.

Under the managed services model, providers remotely take over some or all of their customers’ IT functions and charge them utility-like monthly fees for the service.

Customers enjoy the predictability of service and providers benefit from the predictability of monthly revenue.

“From a VAR’s perspective, there are a lot of things they need to think about as they make the transition,” said LPI President Peter Sandiford.

Central to LPI’s training initiative is a series of partner-led seminars that Sandiford said he expects will especially appeal to VARs and integrators.

Through the seminars, VARs and integrators will get the benefit of learning from their peers’ own experiences in adopting the managed services model.

“They really listen when another VAR is telling them what they did and how they are making money,” Sandiford said.

LPI is setting up authorized training centers at partner sites; two locations already are set to host sessions, he said.

The goal is to establish a half-dozen authorized training centers in the United States, he said.

“We’re really moving this in a way that I’ve always wanted to do, which is a collaborative approach.”

In making the transition from traditional reselling, VARs and integrators have to face the challenge of retraining sales staffs and having the people with the appropriate technical skills to handle managed services.

Some channel companies are opting to resell pre-packaged managed services while others are making an actual transition of some or all of their businesses to the new model.

Click here to read more about the IT channel headed for a crossroads.

“The transition is very difficult for most VARs,” said Arlin Sorensen, president of Heartland Technology Solutions, Joplin, Mo., a new LPI partner.

“It requires a new mindset and much planning. Anything that can assist in the transition is helpful, if not critical.”

Jeff Kaplan, managing director of analyst firm THINKstrategies Inc., Wellesley, Mass., said LPI’s training efforts address an important need.

“Given the dramatically different go-to-market requirements of selling and delivering managed services versus traditional reseller or integrator models, it is essential that platform providers include business and operational training with their product solutions to increase the likelihood of success of their partners,” he said.

In addition to training, LPI is offering new partners sales assistance.

“We’ll actually run a sales campaign in their territory to get them launched,” Sandiford said. “We’re really ramping that up now.”

The vendor calls 500 local businesses to promote the partner’s managed services offerings and follows up on the calls as the partner acclimates to the new model.

Once a VAR or integrator successfully adopts a managed services model, that company has a competitive advantage over other VARs or integrators in their territory that do not yet offer managed services, Sandiford said.

The model, which a few years ago was difficult for channel companies to understand, has now gained widespread acceptance, he said.

In the last two months, LPI has signed up 150 new partners, he said. Partners pay a set fee of $60 monthly for each customer they reach through the LPI platform.

Sorensen said Heartland hasn’t taken advantage yet of LPI’s training, but is having discussions with the vendor in that regard.

“We are believers in not reinventing the wheel, so if there is training of value, we would probably be a participant,” he said.