Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Player in the Professional Services Automation space

In a move that's sure to upset the respective apple carts of the two major PSA tool providers, Connectwise and Autotask, Vlad Mazek of OwnWebNow has just announced Shockey Monkey a completely free 'IT Management Platform' that offers many of the core features of its paid competitors.

The sign up process is simple: no waiting for sales people in other time zones to respond to your queries and no confusing pricing structure. You can log on right away and get started within minutes. Vlad says that he has created Shockey Monkey to make IT business management more fun and to give back to the community that has made OwnWebNow a success.

The key features available in the first release are:

  • Client Portal

  • Support Board

  • Client Relationship Management

  • Projects

  • Agreements

  • Tasks & Schedule

  • Service Manager

A pro version is also available starting at a low cost of $49 per month and $9 per month per use. This allows you to use some additional features and remove the ads that appear in the free version. A roadmap for additional paid version features is also available on the Shockey Monkey website.

It will be interesting to see how Shockey Monkey compares to its established paid competitors. Will be keeping an eye on the Shockey Monkey blog for Vlad's unique industry commentary.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heads up on SMB pre-day and content at Microsoft Australia Partner Conference

There's less than a month until the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference, but I know some of you are still sitting on the fence.

So here's the important stuff you'll want to know about as an SMB partner who resells or supports Microsoft technologies:

  1. SMB Pre-Day - Yes, there will be one! 'Delivering Solutions with Microsoft's SMB Servers with our Productivity, Virtualisation and Online offerings' on Tuesday 31 August from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Microsoft's SMB Partner Technology Advisor, Mark O'Shea will present this session with Sharmila Gosai. This sessions will also focus on product roadmap, solution scenarios, virtualisation, management and migration. Anyone registered for APC can also attend this pre-day a part of the APC ticket. There will not be separate tickets available for any pre-day.
  2. SMB Track - There are 11 SMB sessions over the two full conference days with come great content for SMB partners. These are business and sales focussed sessions designed to highlight opportunities for partners to generate increased revenue with Microsoft products and services. Hopefully this year they will tell us which button we should press to make all the money fall out the bottom!
  3. Cloud Services - unless you've been living under a rock you may have noticed Microsoft are a little excited about the cloud right now. There is plenty of content on sales, deployment and best practice plus many opportunities to pick the brains of Microsoft and partner experts who are already delivering BPOS and cloud services.
  4. Pinpoint - This is a great tool that Microsoft are providing to drive customers to your door. One hundred million times better than Solution Finder, I rate it and have already had great customer enquiries from it. There are 'Pinpoint "Customer Magnet" Workshops' you can attend to help you get the most benefit from Pinpoint.
  5. Networking - this is probably the biggest reason to attend APC. Lots of partners in the one place all working with Microsoft in different ways all at different stages of maturity with their business. Meet other partners, vendors and Microsofties between sessions, in the Expo, at the social events and you are sure to come away with information and tips you can take back and use in your own business.
  6. Awards - On Thursday night, APC will wrap up with a celebration dinner and presentation of the Microsoft Partner Awards. Last year Microsoft struck the balance between great music, good food, great room and exciting presenters - lets hope they can go two from two and do the same again this year. If you've thought about entering the Awards but haven't quite made it, this is a great opportunity to find out who the winners are even have a chat about their entry. You'll find most partners are pretty generous with info when they've just received adulation from a key vendor and their peers.

A full agenda is available online with further details and you can follow the links to register from there.

Certified and Gold Partners are entitled to complimentary tickets.

If you still want further information or would like to ask questions of someone who is an APC and WPC veteran, please leave a comment.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Resources for SBS7 and Aurora

At the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC, we were lucky enough to get an indepth preview of SBS7 and Aurora in multiple sessions. I'll be blogging more about this just as soon as I can convert all that info into something easy to consume. There's plenty of info on the technical specifics that you can already find elsewhere so I will be endeavouring to blog about the business opportunity, leaving the technical stuff to those with more credibility.

However, something you won't find all in one place is the product brochures that Mark O'Shea has kindly aggregated into a blog post on the Australian Partner Technology Advisor SMB Blog. You will find info both products, as well as details of presentations Mark is conducting next week on these products. Leave a comment on Mark's blog if you would like more details of those forthcoming events.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

Technology Forecast: Increasingly Cloudy

As talk of the cloud in IT media circles increases to deafening point, many SMB focussed providers are facing the reality that the push to the cloud could have real impact on their business.
Thats not to say that if you're focussed on the SMB market you should pack up your toys and open a lawnmowing business and leave selling IT services to Telstra. Rather, cloud services needs to be part of your business plan, even if it sits in the category of stuff you don't plan on offering right now.

The simple reality is that many of us already offer cloud services to our customers - remote monitoring and management, hosted exchange, backup replication to a data centre. So really, cloud services in SMB are nothing new. What is new is the immediate need large vendors have to fill their scorecards with cloud services sales. Those SMB IT providers helping vendors like Microsoft and Telstra to hit their targets will be rewarded with actual face time from a partner account manager they never got when they were selling on premise solutions. Will this face time help your business achieve higher levels of success?

Cloud services are no easier or harder to sell than on premise. And that is the key. You must decide if cloud services are part of your product offering, how you will attract customers who want this service and how you as a business owner will make a sustainable product on their sale. Its clear that the margins available on the Microsoft/Telstra BPOS offering are low, so simply reselling this service, or that of Google or any other cloud vendor will only work if your business relies on volume. If, like many SMB IT business owners, your business predictably hits a 20 - 30% margin, then you'll need a good suite of services to add to your cloud services sales if you intend to transform their sales into a sustainable business.

If your business doesn't have a predictable sales engine or regular marketing actions to attract new customers, then frankly it doesn't matter what you sell. You will be left behind as SMB IT service delivery is aggregated and streamlined.

So before you waste another breath on explaining to a vendor or fellow SMB IT community member why you think cloud services won't work, make some time to document your business plan and how you will make sure that you have customers this year, next year and for years to come. The names and specifics of technology has always mattered more to those in the SMB IT community than it has to customers. What technology delivers the business results to customers is irrelevant - what counts is the valuable services you deliver in packaging those solutions into a consumable product that delivers consistent profits to your bottom line.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.