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Managed services: Made for a competitive and complex business world

By Jacques Malherbe, Chief Technology Officer at Axiz

Johannesburg, 01 Mar 2022
Jacques Malherbe, CTO, Axiz.
Jacques Malherbe, CTO, Axiz.

There is no doubt you have heard of managed services and, if you participate in a technology channel business, you likely wonder about its relevance to your company and career. Managed service providers (MSPs) are a hot topic, and there is a lot of pressure on channel providers to join that market in some form.

But businesses that chase fads don't stay in business for long. It's fair and crucial to ask: what exactly are managed services? Why are they suddenly so relevant? And what has this got to do with Axiz, a distributor? These are good questions that I will aim to answer.

The rising appeal of managed services

Managed services is a new name for an established practice. For example, the aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney introduced a service model for its aircraft engines back in the 1960s. Selling aircraft power by the hour, its customers only paid for active use, and the supplier handled concerns such as maintenance. Digital shared service models also emerged early. In 1961, MIT created the Compatible Time-Sharing System to help different parties access mainframe computer resources. And an early operating system, Multics, looked at utility services such as electricity and telephony for its design inspiration.

If managed services are not new, why are they suddenly so important? In 1988, Sandra Vandermerwe and Juan Rada's paper, Servitization of business: Adding value by adding services, noted how businesses enhanced corporate offerings with services. The paper articulated this trend in ways that are very familiar today: in a services model, the product performs closer to spec, labours such as maintenance are no longer the client's problem, and – most crucially – product performance aligns with business objectives.

Defined in software

That is where the conversation starts shifting from an SLA or a technical service contract into a management theme. The managed service provider engages with the customer on the points of business planning. So, if you ask me why managed services matter, it's because customers want to focus on strategy and outcomes instead of stopping the conversation at transactions or procurement. They aren't interested in what you sell to them as much as why and how you'd realise that why.

There is a thoroughly modern aspect to this focus for the channel: software-defined IT. Companies prioritise the output of their technology investments for reasons of cost and agility. In both cases, they prefer to abstract themselves from hardware and focus on what software can deliver.

Channel providers that provide some level of managed services are better equipped to meet those expectations:

  • They can augment skills shortages through strategic hires and relying on partners such as Axiz.
  • They don't have to bench such talent, which is costly and counterintuitive to a good career path, and instead rotate those individuals through different services projects.
  • They support strategy-minded technology leaders by taking over more operational burdens, and
  • They use digital services for greater reach and scale across geographies – even if the job is in Botswana, a good network makes sure the MSP can deliver remotely.

The Axiz difference

I hope the above explains the why of managed services. Now you might wonder: what does Axiz, traditionally a hardware distributor, have to do with the services market?

Adopting managed services is more complicated than understanding their purpose. A channel business might end up as a jack of all trades, trying to meet every customer question with a service. Rather focus on what you know and use partners to add relevant services. For example, if your expertise is data management, yet you see a need for additional security services, it's often better to partner with a security service provider than build a security business unit.

Axiz helps facilitate this both through our partners and by providing services our customers can procure on our digital marketplace. In a way, we are a managed service provider to managed service providers, and we've aligned with multiple vendors to create services and certified skills that complement what our customers sell.

But it goes deeper than that. Axiz is transforming into a platform business. We are a cloud service provider, and we're enhancing our distribution business with a digital twin that integrates with our many other offerings. We're also invested in SME enhancement, and we offer business development and financial support to qualifying customers.

Simply put, Axiz is also on the journey to provide service enhancements and support the market's strategic emphasis. Our evolution was necessary for the reasons I explained earlier. But we're not moving to the frontline as a channel competitor. We continue our purpose as a procurement partner. Only now, we also offer 'procurement' of services, skills and business transformation.

I hope I've convinced you that managed services are not a fad, but a model worth adopting in your channel business. That adoption is easier said than done, which is why Axiz wants to be your partner. Talk to us today and become the channel provider for a complex and competitive business world.