The Imaging Channel, the home of printer sales and services, is waking up to the reality of transition. Over the last five-plus years, the talk of transition has outweighed the action in transitioning. It seems there are more statistics on what could be than any actual real statistics about what is. The talkers and their good intentions have hijacked the Imaging Channel. It seems that the longer the channel struggles, the more desperate they are to learn. It is in this desperation that these great organizations, built upon foundations of the entrepreneurial leadership of great men and women, are allowing the confusion spread by Master Service Providers to influence or confuse their entrepreneurial instincts. Over the last few years, as I participated in actually delivering Managed IT Services, I quickly learned that with leadership and a team void of the “need of buy-in,” you can transform successfully. Providing IT Services is a business, not a mystery understood only by Master Service Providers or their paid consultants. 

Managed IT Services is like any business, and it must start with a business plan, not a marketing plan. The Imaging Channel has weathered many storms. Moreover, so many of the leaders within the channel have prospered. So why is it that when they hear Managed Services, they lose their confidence and believe without a Master Service Provider babysitting them they will fail? Why do they believe outsourcing their SLA makes any sense at all? None of the founders of these companies, or those at the helm today, would have ever considered outsourcing their print services, would they? 

The reason many consider partnering with Master Service Providers is likely because they have no confidence or because they have bought into the statistics based on those who failed versus those who prospered delivering Managed Services. I recently saw a statistic published by a Master Service Provider that voiced if you did not outsource your Helpdesk and NOC you would lose 1.5 million dollars building a 7.7 million dollar Managed Service business in 6 years. That is insane! There are over fifty thousand IT services providers in the United States. Do you think even a fraction of those companies could afford to lose 1.5 million dollars building their companies? Averages are only relevant if you are average. My friends, the owners of and the companies within the imaging Channel are far from average. Most of these organizations are many times larger than the average IT company.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this discussion is the fact that the Master Service Providers, whom themselves are not cash-flowing profitably, are doing everything they can to convince the Imaging Channel business owners that without them they will be doomed to failure or massive financial losses. I am betting the V.C. investors will be forced to face reality sooner or later.  

I suggest that those within the Imaging Channel reach out to the organizations who are successful, both inside the Imaging Channel and within the traditional IT services channel. If you do, you will recognize a commonality among them. Most are not using Master Service Providers; rather they figured out how to deliver Managed Services themselves – successfully and profitably. All good business leaders should seek to learn what they do not know. It takes leadership to transition. Don’t let the need for education become a crutch to surrender control to others. Successful organizations are those who understand the facts and put more confidence in themselves versus allowing others to hijack it.

Obviously, as you build a new business deliverable, there is investment cost, and losses are expected, but should not be long-term. The benefit the Imaging Channel has is their leadership and their bandwidth to bring on new product and service lines. I participated in and witnessed first-hand the successful delivery of Managed IT Services. Don’t believe the industry noise about failure, but instead listen to your business instincts. Put together a business plan and learn the best approach to delivering from those who deliver.

I guess those who do not agree should consider this. It has been at least five years of the Master Service Providers trying to develop momentum within the Imaging Channel. To what end? Signing up dealers and putting them on their helpdesk is not helping them build successful Managed Service platforms and is not leading to lasting partnerships. My friends in the Imaging Channel, believe in yourself, build a plan, and execute as you do better than any other business segment. If you want advice, seek it out. However, if you need another company to do all the work you are probably not ready. Confidence is the key that opens the door to possibilities, and your determination is the catalyst to realizing success. The Imaging Channel has never been an institution which outsourced what it could deliver itself.

Managed IT Services is a complex deliverable, but you can deliver it successfully and profitably with leadership and discipline. There are no short-cuts, and there is no success without leadership. It is time those in the Imaging Channel wake up and surround themselves with the doers instead of the talkers.

R.J. Stasieczko