I have this crazy idea.
The idea of breaking apart a business and reforming it into something new is fascinating, and leads to some new critical thinking. Could you imagine a service provider in a cloud world that employs no service personnel?
I suggested this once in a room of solution providers and was practically booed out of the room, but I’d like to flesh out the idea a bit more in this blog and see if it has legs. Perhaps I’ll be tarred and feathered for my efforts, but I think the debate will be insightful.
In the channel now, there are a vast number of partners for solution providers that allow for outsourcing of various components of a business. A solution provider can outsource their help desk, offering a very comprehensive offering for remote support using partner organizations. Field work could also be outsourced, using OnForce as a possible example. NOC services are readily available.
Let’s add to that cloud offerings. A solution provider could deliver Hosted Exchange, SharePoint, cloud storage, cloud servers, and the like without owning a single piece of hardware and without having to manage it themselves.
With a solid project management background and dispatch and routing capability, but not necessarily technical know how, it would be very possible to simply route work. The service provider accepts the request, routes it to the right partner, and uses their project management background to ensure the work is done. If the provider focused on building business consulting skills, they would know what the business goals were and what the desired outcome was.
It seems to me that the basics of a SMB provider are more and more available for assembly into a coherent business.
Now before the screaming begins, I’m not implying this business I’ve constructed would be innovative. It wouldn’t have technologists who “see things coming” or ever be leading the charge in technical innovation. Far from it, this would be a commodity business focused on being business consultants who link together technology solutions.
Besides the intellectual exercise of building this business, this exposes an interesting point about delivering IT infrastructure solutions. The ability to do the connecting isn’t the innovation anymore. What is innovative is the business process consulting around those connections, and making them work well in a business setting.
As the industry looks to shift again, adding “cloud” as a new delivery model for technology, solution providers should be looking to how to move into this brave new world by adding not only technology solutions, but business acumen. Being good at connecting things isn’t a differentiator anymore, but more a basic expectation.
There will come a day – soon – when we see more businesses like the one I described.
Technology implementers will not be the only players in the IT Channel, and it’s important to consider this as we look for ways to differentiate in an ever commoditizing world.