I’m continuing the case study analysis of this ADTRAN customer because they’re a great example of how a channel partner can transform their business and find new ways to add value with their customers. In my last post, I reviewed why becoming an MSP is good for both Valley Business Solutions and ADTRAN, and now the focus shifts to end customers.
With ProCloud’s managed WiFi platform, VBS saw a path to the next growth area for their customers. There was little upside to continue reselling commodity products and services, especially with so many competitors doing the same thing. The real asset for them was the customer relationship – not the technology on offer – and becoming an MSP allowed them to do two things to maintain that. First was the ability to private label ProCloud as VBS Managed WiFi, thus creating a closer bond with customers. Second was the ability to customize applications for each customer, allowing them to focus on solving business problems rather than selling technology.
How does the customer benefit?
Not all ADTRAN channel partners have followed this path, and this reality is likely typical for other vendors. We are at an inflection point with today’s technology, where channels need to jump curves to stay competitive. Many are not willing or able to do that and prefer to ride things out with their customer base. VBS did not wish to pursue this sunset plan and chose to go where the growth is happening.
Just as channels are struggling to adopt new technology, so too are their customers. What VBS understands is that their customers don’t need to be leading technology adopters – instead, they get that with managed services. Once freed from that challenge, VBS can focus on the business problems of each customer and then determine how managed WiFi can address them. To illustrate, here are two examples in terms of vertical markets that VBS is serving today.
This is a promising vertical for an MSP, as many learning institutions are cash-strapped with limited IT resources. BYOD has become a major challenge as wireless devices have become the tool of choice for students. These are becoming the default endpoints not just for everyday personal communication, but for many aspects of their educational experience. They need wireless, high-speed connectivity for accessing online textbooks, sharing notes, doing research, making presentations, viewing archived lectures and even virtually attending live lectures.
VBS addresses these needs head-on by providing campus-wide connectivity to support these devices, without IT having to own/operate physical infrastructure. Given that many campuses have a sprawling footprint and the fact that students are rarely in one place long, there is great value in what VBS Managed WiFi delivers. VBS could never have done this just trying to sell a new phone system or upgrade infrastructure. This is a very different opportunity, where the school has a chance to shift from Capex to Opex and can gain cost efficiencies by reducing the need for printed textbooks and providing a better learning experience for students.
Houses of worship
VBS is based in Tennessee, and in the Bible Belt, churches represent an important vertical sector with specific needs. While you may view this as a highly traditional space, the research indicated they have wireless needs just like anybody else. One example is the fact that many church goers have a Bible on their tablet, and they use this during worship instead of a conventional printed Bible. Whether 10 or 100 people need this, the church needs to have enough wireless access on hand so those people could worship worry-free.
A more daunting example has to do with controlled access to the Internet. While churches have many good reasons to provide WiFi, they have valid reasons to keep their space free from inappropriate Web content. The public Internet is rife with such material, and this presents an important pain point for churches. Ideally, they would like all the good of the Web without the bad, and one way that VBS does this is via ProCloud’s content filtering capability. This allows the church to specify which websites to block over their WiFi signal, which can be especially helpful for their Sunday school and educational programs.
As with the education sector, this is an example of a specific “business” problem that their Managed WiFi offering was able to address. Rather than sell WiFi on the merits of the technology, VBS has brought this to the church community in terms of real world issues they are not able to solve on their own. In that context, being an MSP allows VBS to add value in ways the customer may never have thought possible.