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Sun 4 Jan 2009 04:00 PM

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Sourcing help

I have been vindicated in my trumpeting of managed services and outsourcing as a way for systems integrators to promote growth in the face of the global recession

I have been vindicated in my trumpeting of managed services and outsourcing as a way for systems integrators to promote growth in the face of the global recession. It recently emerged in media reports that outsourcing spend in 2009 is due to rise to US$503m. This is a 21% growth over the previous year’s figures, which stand at $413m.

But setting up managed services and organising outsourcing is easier said than done. Despite the ‘more-with-less’ mantra that has found it way into the common business vernacular, it will require a large initial outlay. That investment comes in the form of hiring or indeed training highly skilled resources. However, without wishing to sound too callous, there are now at least more such staff on the market, if some channel commentators are to be believed.

In fact one channel source recently told me that not only has the skills shortage plaguing the channel at the outset of last year, reduced dramatically, it has been solved. Now, while such an assertion may be very optimistic, it is true that an integrator with wise management and a savvy HR department may just be able to snap up the resources needed to kick start development of further services.

An alternative that must not be overlooked of course, is for a systems integrator to partner with a company already offering such services. They would need to prove to them that they have strong end-user base that would benefit from and more importantly desire these services. This is particularly relevant as existing end-user contracts come to an end and integrators look at ways to secure more business with the same customers.

It is important for the channel to ask themselves frankly, what services do customers really need? End-users will only invest if they are 100% sure that the service they are forking out for is not only completely necessary and relevant, but will also save their business money in the medium to long term.

Admittedly, even thinking about expanding right now is brave. There is something that would be absolutely invaluable to channel partners in order to quell fears about investing in diversification. That is more direction from vendors. Now is not the time to severe ties and cut back on partner-focused man power. Now is the time for vendors to tell the channel exactly what they want them to do — without any uncertainties.

Young is the year, but there have already been vendors taking this initiative. Networking specialist Avaya, for example, has put out word of the heading it plans to take, and the course the channel must follow to go with it. And I am sure that there are many more examples out there and hope to hear about them. But it must just be reiterated that now is the time, as we stand at the start of a new but uncertain year, for transparent and confident communication at all demarcations of the channel.

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