Is brokering enough for partners? The debate rages on.
The technology adviser partner, more traditionally known as the telecom agent, is going through an evolution of its model.
Agents have quietly been picking up momentum in the world of business technology procurement over the last decade. These firms historically built loyal client relationships by serving as their carrier-neutral intermediary to a variety of network and voice providers free of charge. Those efforts have helped them amass a wealth of residual commissions from vendors that continue to this day.
But now a succession crisis is occurring, as many agent owners launched their firms more than 20 years ago and now are looking for a way to retire. Some have chosen to sell their businesses to private equity-backed companies, and some of those decided to remain in the business after the sale. In the meantime, those private-equity fueled companies and other large players in the channel are touting business models that involve full life cycle management. They say the technology adviser must add an expansive set of professional and managed services to its portfolio if it wants to thrive. The recurring commissions they make from sourcing technology providers for their customers will no longer cut it, they say.
Three familiar faces in the technology adviser channel will sit down for a conversation about the future of the model next month. Darcee Nelan, CEO of IQ Wired; Marko Spremo, vice president of sales strategy at Bluewave Technology Group; and Randy Jeter, president of Premiere Worldwide, will speak at the Channel Partners Leadership Summit, which is part of the MSP Summit in Orlando, Sept. 13-16. Their session, “The Future of the Agent Model,” will attempt to cast a vision for how channel partners will evolve in the next few years.
Nelan, Spremo and Jeter fielded questions about the topic.
Channel Futures: What’s one way you think the agent model is changing or has already changed?
Darcee Nelan: The agent model has been changing for years. As the convergence of telecommunications and IT services has progressed in recent years, we no longer have clear swim lanes that guide our positions in the marketplace. Customers, now more than ever, are overwhelmed with the amount of choices they have available to them when considering technology changes. This situates us as agents in an enviable position to leverage our roles as trusted advisers in helping customers vet their service options.
Yet, unfortunately many agents, find the trusted adviser role challenging because they no longer feel like a subject matter expert when having business conversations with their clients. Numerous agents who have been in the business a long time lack confidence in their technical knowledge, which prevents them from proactively engaging their clients in strategic discussions that involve technology road mapping. This gives their competitors a foothold into their accounts, and could ultimately shift the dynamic of who owns the customer relationship.
Randy Jeter: The growing need for professional services and managed services surrounding sourced services is vastly changing the agent model. Additionally, the ongoing need to manage the desired outcomes is a growing requirement, which comes with added costs. These changes are directly related to the way companies are purchasing IT now “as a service.” In the go-forward model, the IT buyer will see billing both from the IT sourcing company “agent” and from the providers they sourced the IT service or engagement through. The systems build, management and scalability of resources and systems needed to have a successful …