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Solution providers that have kept a foot in break/fix work may be enjoying a
bit of a leg up on the competition during this recession. That’s because
break/fix is where the jobs seem to be these days as businesses look to make
their existing technology last longer and perform better.

So says online IT services marketplace OnForce, which recently released its
second-quarter report on work orders and work order volumes for various kinds
of jobs.

“There’s not a lot of new infrastructure or equipment being bought,” OnForce CEO
Peter Cannone tells Channel Insider. “In Q2 the U.S.
shed 1.4 million jobs, and that’s created an oversupply of technology equipment
in the marketplace. Companies now have extra desktops and notebooks available
to them.”    

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And while OnForce has seen a decline in work orders for new technology
deployments, it’s seen a surge in demand for break/fix work. According to
OnForce, 64 to 65 percent of the business is now break/fix, including in-warranty
and out-of-warranty repair.

“We only see new technology on the business side when it’s absolutely
necessary,” says Cannone. He estimates that it will take another 12 to 18
months to run through the excess technology that businesses already have on
hand.

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“When you go back to the year 2000 when the Internet bubble burst, there
were a lot of technology companies that went under and a lot of excess capacity
in desktops and servers. It took about a year to work through that,” he says.
But while the new deployment opportunity is not really there right now, there’s
still work to be had.

There’s also good news for VARs in those employment numbers, however.

“As companies have shed a lot of their infrastructure personnel, they are
turning to local resellers asking for help,” says Cannone. For example, in last
year’s second quarter, work orders to take down and do maintenance on a network
made up 1 percent of total work orders. In this year’s Q2, that number has
grown to 8 percent.

At the same time there may be more competition out there as well for break/fix
work. That’s because in both Q1 and Q2 OnForce saw a surge in service
professionals looking to sign up with the online IT services marketplace.

That may have pushed prices down for the average work order, says Cannone,
along with the fact that maintenance jobs tend to pay less than installation
jobs.

“Customers are testing pricing thresholds,” he says. “What was a $100 repair
job is now being put out there for $75. We think we are starting to see some
leveling off at the end of Q2 and into Q3. But the type of work being done is
just lower-value work.”