Published: October 19th, 2016

You’re Going To Be Ubered

Wow, I’ve been a real deer in the headlights this week.

After 25 years in the IT channel, I am far behind many of my peers.

“Wait, Stuart, how is this possible?” I think to myself. “I thought I was a visionary, a leader, an expert and (according to Dell) a social influencer…”

This isn’t just happening to me either. I would hazard a guess that almost 99 per cent of the managed IT services providers are in the same boat as I am.

Yesterday, I commissioned a poll with my clients about their relationship with Dell and now EMC and the answers didn’t really shock me. Many of my peers responded to my request by mentioning service tags and warranties — basically, the technology and services behind the scenes.

But the real question is this: how do today’s managed IT services companies prevent themselves from becoming “ubered”? Yes, that is a term now in today’s business world; but what does it mean?

When the online transportation network Uber entered the market in 2010, it wasn’t long before they took the cab industry by storm, scooping up their passengers in city after city without breaking a sweat. The minds behind Uber recognized what the conventional taxi industry lacked, and how common mobile technology could help them give passengers around the world exactly what they wanted in a taxi experience (namely, simplified payment methods, accurate GPS routing, and an individual driver/passenger rating system to ensure quality of service).

The fact is that managed IT services are at risk of being “ubered” by startups, innovative technologies, and business services companies that are waiting to pounce in on what we offer (in fact, Uber themselves face considerable competition from copycats like Lyft). If the last webinars or seminars you ran were focused on “BDR” or “VoIP” or some other technology, yes, you too are at risk of being “ubered”.

This is precisely what today’s managed IT services need to focus on to help their clients, win new business and “uber” their competitors.

I heard an interesting story from one of the Dell/EMC executives I spoke with today about what businesses they are focused on. The story went something like this: When the leaders of an elevator company were asked about what business they are in, their answer was “moving people in a steel box from one floor to another”. However, modern solutions built on “Internet of Things” technologies have allowed executives at this company to recently make better data-driven decisions and realize that their business model would be more effective if structured primarily around their advertising and marketing. This change in thought is all it took to set to them apart.

Companies in today’s highly competitive industries must look at their potential for transformation, and the managed IT services company of the future will play an increasingly important role in that process.

I know, you have been told over and over that you need to become a business analyst versus a technology professional. The truth is that there is room for both, however; it’s just a matter of helping organizations transform their business and reach their objectives.

This is now more important than ever.

Admittedly, the technology will always be important and IT will never go away, but your conversations with your clients need to change and your business events need to be modified. What can you do to help your customers reach the same conclusion as the elevator company?

Where do you start?

  • Your Web site. Does your website scream technology? Do you discuss BDR and other technologies without focusing on the business objectives? It is time to change the language on your website to consider the experience, goals, and objectives that your clients and prospects need. This has to happen now.
  • Your blog. Does your blog talk about business challenges or technology? Your blog is a very important gateway into helping business owners understand how you can help them bridge business objectives, challenges, items they need to be concerned about, and how the technologies and services that your managed IT services company provides can help them overcome obstacles.
  • Your marketing. Are you still producing sales slicks and tear sheets on every service you provide or does your marketing material share customer success stories, business challenges, and other key messages that a potential client would actually care about?
  • Your culture. What is your company really about? Do you answer by saying that you are a managed services provider or do you answer by saying that you help businesses overcome industry obstacles, help transform companies and help the business owners achieve their goals through the effective use of business IT solutions?

I know this list is just scratching the surface, and I still have so many other thoughts going through my mind, but this is at least a start in helping your business overcome the risk of being “ubered”.

Stuart Crawford is an IT services and managed services marketing expert. He founded Ulistic in 2010 and has been a regular contributor to CDN ever since.

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