During the first day of education at RetailNOW 2013, I had the honor of moderating a panel on something I'm very passionate about: the "as a Service" business model. I've presented in the past, but those presentations were focused more on technology trends -- things that are obviously very important, but honestly, the presentations usually boil down to "sell this technology to make more money."
Covering the "as a Service" model was exciting because we covered a topic that could have an immediate and very real effect on the businesses of attendees.
The panel assembled on the stage was made up of a great cross section of services experts. Hunter Allen of Cervion Systems is pretty much the poster child for POS hardware and software as a service. Jim Stewart, featured in the July issue of Business Solutions, is a traditional VAR who recently began the journey of transitioning his business to a services model. James Foxall of Tigerpaw Software and Mark Sokol of Connectwise brought with them wisdom gained from years of rubbing elbows with managed services providers in the networking world, many of whom have faced the challenges of transitioning to this model. Finally, Andy Kurtz from Vigilix brought his expertise concerning remote monitoring and management solutions.
Following are some of my favorite quotes from our panel discussion:
James Foxall, Tigerpaw -- “It’s harder to get an old customer to transition than to get a new customer….Try to get one going. Get your feet wet.”
Jim Stewart, Advanced Data Systems -- In speaking on the changes needed in his business: “2007 was our best year. 2008 was our worst….We had to look at everything. We had to question everything.”
Hunter Allen, Cervion Systems -- “One of the greatest challenges was enabling sales people to adequately sell and As-a-Service model.”
Mark Sokol, ConnectWise -- On what are good beginner services to offer: "Vendor management (when something happens that is in anyway related to what you provide). Depending on the type of relationship you have with your customers, you’re probably getting that call anyway.”
Jim Stewart added -- “We’ve become that trusted advisor. They don’t do anything without talking to me first.”
James Foxall -- "Start taking a look at the services they are paying someone else to maintain. You want to own that entire ecosystem.”
In response to audience question does it make you more competitive:
Jim Stewart -- “I’m capable of offering customer solutions on both the traditional sale and the service/subscription model. So, yes, I'm more competitive now.”
Mark Sokol -- “The concept of paying for a monthly service is not shocking. Unfortunately, we see a kind of commoditization, then it becomes a price war.”
James Foxall -- “It should be the packaging and selling of what you’re bringing to them that makes you competitive — not what they’re paying for it.”
On the topic of professional services automation tools:
Mark Sokol -- “It’s getting those invoices out the door and getting paid in an automatic fashion.”
On the topic of remote monitoring and management solutions:
Andrew Kurtz, Vigilix -- “It’s about two categories — information and efficiency. You need something that’s constantly watching — a piece of software at the customer’s site, configured to watch for the things you’re interested in.”
Using XP as an example:
“They know which of their customers have XP, and they know as of 1 minute ago.”
Mark Sokol -- “It multiplies the number of people you have without hiring anybody.”
On selling and marketing:
Jim Stewart -- “Customers are getting smarter….They are more analytical than they have ever been.”
Of course, a few soundbites don't nearly do the topic or the conversation justice. If you were unable to be at RetailNOW, there's a chance the RSPA will make a video of the panel available online. In the meantime, many of the topics discussed were covered in a series of articles in our recent Annual Guide To POS & Payment Processing.