peopleDespite the plethora of new technologies and services that are making life a lot easier for the business community, the linchpin to any organization’s success is still the quality of its people. From the capabilities of its employees to the honest nature of its clients, few companies will survive, let alone thrive, without their support. While that may not have been the theme of the 2013 CompTIA Annual member Meeting, it became a foundational element of many of the group discussions and collaborative workshops this year.

The “people” element of any business is often its biggest variable. While the systems and other infrastructure provide what the management team hopes will be the optimal framework for delivering products and services, it’s the individual employees, contractors and clients who can make or break the organization. That’s why MSPs should spend a little time away from the tools and machinery each month (or more frequently) to assess how well they’re responding to the needs of each constituency.

Are you encouraging employees to get the proper training or facilitating it yourself? Have you scheduled a discussion with collaboration partners to assess the performance of each team? Of course, spending some time with clients to discuss issues and opportunities should always be a priority. Without a solid understanding of what each of these business-critical groups need, organizations risk not only their profitability and reputation, but their long-term viability.

The “people” element is likely the most important component of any business plan, as demonstrated in several group sessions at the recent CompTIA Annual Member Meeting (AMM) in Chicago. The association’s collaborative communities spend a lot of time and energy creating initiatives and programs designed to boost opportunities for the IT channel, with employee and client-oriented discussions front and center this year. Many of these member-lead sessions were standing-room-only, including executive from some of the IT channel’s prominent provider, vendor and distributor organizations.

CompTIA Community meetings with a heavy “people focus” included:

Cloud/SaaS

In the first-ever Cloud Café brainstorming breakfast, several attendees’ proposals involved gaining a better handle on the needs of specific customers. Since the technology varies between industries and the size of an organization, developing a “one-size fits all” cookie-cutter portfolio may be a waste of time and resources. According to the experts in attendance, the most successful cloud providers develop and promote vertical market-focused solutions that address unique customer requirements.

The same client-centric philosophy that powers the success of MSPs can be applied to the cloud, so many of the best practices employed in manager services can be applied. Through proactive and constant client discussions, providers can keep better track of their customer’s business challenges and opportunities—and help them address those needs with more advanced (and profitable) solutions. The people component in cloud (and managed) services is the indispensable element.

Mobility

As both an enabler of productivity, mobility has become one of the most vital technology fields in the channel. Consider the impact of smartphones, tablets and similar devices on today’s workplace, with many companies relying on them almost exclusively for their computing and communications needs. With IDC Research predicting that the global mobile workforce will reach 1.3 billion by 2015 (more than one-out-of-three workers), MSPs need to spend more time with the “people” driving demand.

BYOD is a great example of that new mobility mind-set, as it’s basically an employee-enablement program disguised as a corporate business efficiency directive. The device preferences of each worker have to be integrated into each company’s overall mobility strategy, so MSPs have to have a solid understanding of the latest trends in hardware and solutions.

In the AMM Mobility Community meeting, Seth Robinson (Director of Technology Analysis for CompTIA) shared how Pepsi managed to save six hours of labor per week for every employee involve in a mobility pilot project. By handing out 4500 iPhones to those responsible for monitoring vending machines and allowing them to use these phones for personal use, loss and breakage was minimized while they enjoyed significant gains in productivity. With a little ingenuity and deep conversations with the “people” involved, any MSP could provide similar results for its mobility clients.

IT Services and Support

“Service is responsible for 70 to 80 percent of all touch points with business customers,” states James Alexander, founder of Alexander Consulting and keynote speaker for the ITSS Community at AMM. With service revenue growing at a 25 percent faster rate than product sales, the “personal” connection is becoming more important every year. Customer relationship management is quickly being replaced by customer experience management. “If we can give them a good experience it will have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty,” adds Alexander.

While technology training remains the foundation of service excellence, giving employees the skills needed to effectively troubleshoot issues and provide quality advice to your clients, customer service improvement programs are as important (if not more so). By continually improving staff proficiencies, MSPs will be better prepared to address their clients continually changing business needs and keep employees more satisfied in their jobs. In other words, they’ll be more likely to retain their best resource- their people.

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