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What makes for a true MSP partner?

Serving as a customer's partner requires more than a marketing label. David Kaszowicz of Aventis Systems discusses how channel companies can become managing partners.

What does it take to become an MSP partner? Terms such as "business partner" and "trusted advisor" are frequently applied to channel companies. But doing the work of a partner goes beyond applying a label to one's company.

For David Kaszowicz, serving as a partner means personalization, anticipating clients' needs and delivering business insights and value beyond technology. Kaszowicz is vice president of managed services and a member of the executive team at Aventis Systems, an IT solutions provider based in Atlanta. Previously, he founded NSourceIT, a technology management and support company that offered IT support, service and products to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Prior to his work at Aventis Systems and NSourceIT, Kaszowicz was director of IT at CropLife America, where he was responsible for the $40 million business' IT functions.

In this Q&A, Kaszowicz shares his views on partnering and differentiates between what he terms a "managing partner" and a managed service provider.

Many IT service providers describe themselves as "partners" these days. What do they need to do to go beyond the marketing label and actually serve as a partner to their clients?

David Kaszowicz, vice president of managed services at Aventis SystemsDavid Kaszowicz

David Kaszowicz: We live in a world where personalization has come to be expected, something that's also the case with IT services. Right now, I don't think many service providers are meeting these expectations, but if they can improve, there is a huge potential for boosting sales and gaining customer loyalty. If IT service companies can provide the type of personalization and customization that companies are looking for, it opens the door to becoming a true 'partner' that anticipates needs and understands customers' unique circumstances and budget constraints, rather than just being a provider of products and services. I'm excited about this, as I think it raises the bar for everyone in this business. Offering personalization and customization, along with great customer service, can be a real game-changer.

You make a distinction between a managing partner and a managed service provider. To elaborate, how does a managing partner differ from an MSP?

We live in a world where personalization has come to be expected, something that's also the case with IT services.
David Kaszowiczvice president of managed services, Aventis Systems

Kaszowicz: I think that customers -- with all other things being equal, obviously --want to work with a company or partner that is dedicated to truly providing them with what they need, not just selling them what has the most financial upside for the managed service provider. Customers don't want to invest in hardware, software and services they don't need. They are looking for creative solutions that cover all their bases, so they can successfully compete in their respective industries. Yes, they want their backup to be reliable, they want their computers to be consistently updated and all that good stuff. But at the end of the day, you want someone you can trust and someone that you know has your best interests in mind. They want to know that if they have a problem, you'll answer the phone and care about helping them resolve their issue -- not just be a help desk checking the boxes.

What are some examples of delivering business insights and value beyond technology?

Kaszowicz: Technology is the tool required to build out automated workflows, which simplifies the business process. But without the exposure and experience to understand which processes are causing roadblocks, technology won't help. For example, using technology a law firm customer already owned, we streamlined the process for submitting and approving peer-reviewed content for trade associations, developed alerting tools and internal workflow to notify paralegals when new filings were posted matching specific criteria, and reduced telecommunication costs by $30,000 per year by recommending upgrades to corporate infrastructure.

This is really where the relationship with the client is most important. Truly understand what they're trying to accomplish, how they're currently doing it, and use your experience in suggesting alternatives to make it all work more efficiently for the client.

Additional resources for MSP partner firms include features on achieving an ideal revenue mix for channel companies and how to target SMB customers.

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What do you see as the most important steps channel companies can take to stand out as partners?
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