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A vision for the future: building your business on high quality plug-in services

Moore’s law dictates that IT processing power doubles in performance every two years. While that creates constant opportunities for new and evolving processes and applications, it also brings huge pressure to bear on IT resellers’ margins. Standardisation of ever more powerful hardware, networking technology and software means that resellers can no longer compete on the basis of shifting boxes alone.

Counter-intuitively, a second trend makes value added services such as technical support difficult to provide cost-effectively. This is the move by end-user organisations towards individual ‘mash-ups’ of standard apps, communications, mobile hardware and remote working software. Technology has to fit the way people work, rather than the other way round.
It means that while technology components have fallen in price, organisations still expect to implement complex and very different variations on standard platforms.  It makes it difficult for resellers to offer cost-effective service and support – keeping up to speed with multiple technologies (and the implications of bringing them together in a single platform) is an expensive exercise.

Resellers can of course work with clients to put in place service and support agreements with the original suppliers of their equipment, but this can lead to headaches when it comes to understanding the impact of one component on another – and whose problem it really is.

Some resellers have found an alternative way – to work with a channel only partner that is committed to investing vast resource in technical support and services on behalf of its clients.  One example is Sheffield-based Highlander, which has provided IT and telecoms services to customers all over the UK for two decades. 

Highlander specialises in IT infrastructure services across areas that include servers, storage, virtualisation, IP Telephony, networking & communications, wireless, managed services, installation, security, network health checks, IT disposal and repair services.

It first worked with strategic channel only IT support partner Comms-care in 2009, choosing it over other third party support organisations because of its channel-only business model and the range and quality of its services.  Since then, the relationship between Highlander and Comms-care has grown significantly to the point where services from Comms-care are fully integrated into the propositions that Highlander provides to its customers.

Highlander’s approach is to provide a wide range of technical and engineering services to its clients as a trusted partner of leading IT brands, including HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel and VMware.  Its expertise lies in its ability to develop and deliver integrated IT solutions to its clients, allowing them to focus on running their businesses.

Ryan Hindley, Infrastructure Services Manager at Highlander, explains how the partnership with Comms-care came about: “We were looking for an alternative to OEM support that could be integrated into the existing solutions we build for our customers. We needed a partner that could provide multi-vendor support and engineering services from a single source and that could meet our own high quality standards. It was important that we could trust a third party to be professional and deliver against key performance indicators (KPIs).”
Highlander appointed Comms-care in 2009, starting out with selected technology support services and building up the relationship over time to integrate Comms-care’s services into core customer propositions. Comms-care’s investment in multi-vendor technology and engineering expertise means that it can underpin the systems developed and implemented by Highlander across the UK.

Ryan explains: “The difference with Comms-care is that nothing is sub-contracted out. It’s Comms-care’s engineers that arrive at our customers and its Comms-care’s parts that are used.  The last thing we want is a delay in technical or engineering services or a domino effect as everyone’s waiting for the last person in the supply chain to deliver. Comms-care makes sure that the problem is fixed.”

Highlander reports that in four years of working with Comms-care it has not received a single complaint from customers about KPIs being missed by Comms-care’s engineers.  All agreed KPIs are met and Highlander now introduces Comms-care as its partner of choice for technical and engineering support to current and prospective customers. Highlander can offer one contract for all support and engineering services to its clients, instead of having to administer services ‘cherry-picked’ from equipment manufacturers.

The success of the relationship with Comms-care to date will lead to an even broader partnership in the future, concludes Ryan Hindley. “We’re now looking at the storage area and will work with Comms-care to deliver more managed services. Working with Comms-care means that we can provide high quality services without the cost and overheads of maintaining our own engineers, and that we can cope with peaks and troughs of activity in a seamless manner that always keeps our customers happy. Comms-care is completely integrated into our business and is our partner of choice. They are professional and always deliver what they say they will, when we need it.”

Whosever’s law or advice you follow, it’s clear that technology will continue to adapt and to change. It is the IT reseller’s role to understand the needs of its end-user clients and to provide technology that can support them in the implementation of their business strategy. It is not necessarily their role to provide multi-vendor support, whether that’s straightforward break/fix or desktop managed services. More often than not, those services can be delivered more efficiently by somebody else.