Along with our annual Top 50 Systems Integrators feature, we polled a selection of leading firms on industry topics.

SCN: What kind of challenges and successes have you experienced with selling managed services?

Andrew Golden, director of services, VCA
The greatest challenge we’ve experienced in selling managed services is developing the sales resources needed to promote these new offerings to clients. Selling managed services requires a different type of salesperson than traditional AV integration and post-installation support; it is not always easy for a salesperson to make the transition from their primary sales focus to the new offerings we provide. Thankfully, we have been successful in transitioning some salespeople to sell managed services and better communicate the value and need for those managed services to our clients, in addition to building a separate overlay sales team to focus exclusively on managed service sales.

Rod Andrewson, chief technology officer and manager of support and quality assurance, CCS Presentation Systems
The real challenge is finding and keeping human resources and knowledgeable, all-around service techs to support the increasingly complicated technical support of commercial audiovisual systems. There are many folks available as system programmers or audio DSP programmers, or network IT centric techs, but far too few with a well-rounded knowledge of all the disciplines. In the current marketplace those are the “unicorn resources” we need.

Bin Guan, chief technology officer, Yorktel
Though traditional managed services are still strong, we have seen a notable shift in our customers’ practices and preferences to more self-service options. Hand-in-hand with that is the requirement for “one button to push” and a desire for more and better business analytics. The definition of managed service is evolving. It now means better video quality, easier connections between devices, and a deeper dive into how people collaborate, where they work, what type of environment, and most importantly, what kind of workflows. Without this information, customers have realized that just installing new technology is a shot in the dark, and a risk of non-use.

Yorktel provides the assessments to maximize their returns. Our successes revolve around our planning, R&D, and evolved approach to the customer. We have adjusted just about every aspect of our own business to become more people-centric, from the technology usage to sales approach to product roadmap, and more. Our customers are happy with this approach, particularly because it is so unlike the vendors they have worked with in the past.

Jeff Holton, chief technology officer, SKC Communications
We see many successes in being a part of a customer AV team and watching meetings, classes, and speeches happen with no issues. We catch failed equipment or network outages before the customer does, alerting them, and working together to resolve or find an alternative option for their meeting. We often hear our customers refer to SKC and our proactive monitoring services as “us” versus “them.”

A challenge we have seen is getting the customer, especially our main contact, comfortable with the idea that another company will be managing their AV network. Proactive monitoring is a way for the customer to provide quicker service to their internal customers. We also run into times where security is a concern, so having the security discussion up front with our customers is key.

Peter Charland, SVP global managed services, HB Communications
Global Managed Service remains HB’s fastest growing practice area. We now service multiple clients with HBview NOC services, on-site staff, video concierge, global dispatch, and provided services in 35 countries. Adhering to ITIL service methods has helped us overcome some major challenges in aligning our services with client responsibilities. And experience has helped with our global partner engagement, resulting in higher levels of consistency and quality in our service delivery.

Cheryl Cox, director, marketing and communications, Whitlock
Whitlock has experienced greater demand for hosted conferencing and managed services due to increases in remote working, the growing importance of team collaboration regardless of location, and our tenured relationship with enterprise customers. More customers are looking for one partner to deliver global solutions and to simplify standards and adoption. Outsourcing the support and service for new technologies enables IT teams to focus on core business operations; we are seeing gains here as well as more businesses taking advantage of new solutions in the cloud, since they are more cost-effective and efficient, and can also now interoperate with legacy systems.

Challenges we face for selling managed services tend to revolve around data and security concerns, but these issues have been addressed directly by Microsoft and Cisco. Customers are becoming more open to collaboration as a service, where all hardware, software, apps, and services are purchased as one large, comprehensive package.