by Scott Cullen on Friday, March 14, 2014
Last week GreatAmerica Financial Services announced the creation of the office equipment industry’s first managed information technology (IT) services peer groups, an endeavor with Service Leadership, Inc., a provider worldwide of financial/operational IT benchmarking and best practices to C-level peer groups. The groups are facilitated by IT management consultant, Paul Dippell, and the team at Service Leadership, Inc.
Each Service Leadership GreatAmerica Managed IT Group (S-L GAMIT Group) is designed to help dealers achieve best-in-class managed IT services performance, as measured against peers. There are already four S-L GAMIT Groups in place with more than 40 of the most high-profile dealers in the country participating. Most dealers involved are already active in managed IT although they vary in size and experience.
Service Leadership’s relationship with GreatAmerica goes back about 4½ years when Dippell was a keynote speaker for GreatAmerica’s Communications and Data Leasing Division. The organization has continued to work with Service Leadership since then.
“About 18 months ago we saw there was a need for some extreme expertise in what it takes to be successful down this path in the BTA channel,” explains David Pohlman, COO of GreatAmerica Financial Services. . “A lot have struggled during that process because it is a different business. It’s got some nuances to it that are counterintuitive to the traditional dealer approach.”
The target peer group member are C-levels within dealer organizations. “You want the people who are going to influence the organization structure to be aware of what it takes to be successful in this space,” says Pohlman.
Despite being a C-level oriented peer group, it was important to Pohlman that the peer group meetings be professionally planned and facilitated as opposed to peer member planned and facilitated, which is why Services Leadership, Inc. was asked to participate because of its expertise in facilitating peer groups in the VAR community. “That way you’d always ensure that there was expertise in the room so even if a topic was brought to the table, and there’s nobody in that room from a peer perspective, you always have Paul and/or members of Service Leadership there with a wealth of knowledge and expertise,” states Pohlman.
The first peer group meeting was last November and consisted mostly of dealers who were somewhat more experienced in IT services space. “The feeling was that that group probably didn’t need quite as much help in getting started, but would benefit equally from refining their approach and better understanding some of the key elements like standardization that drives success,” notes Pohlman.
The S-L GAMIT Groups have expanded rapidly without any publicity or advertising until last week when GreatAmerica issued their press release other than Pohlman introducing Dippell and his team to dealer peer groups such as SDG and CDA. The initial success illustrates the hunger for knowledge about this topic within the dealer community.
It’s not inexpensive to participate either. The cost is roughly $2,000 a quarter. “That’s not an insignificant amount,” notes Pohlman.
The meetings are quarterly and take place in Orlando, Dallas, San Diego, or Chicago and will tend to run concurrently, one peer group followed by another in that location. Each meeting is a day and a half long. In August rather than flying to another location for a meeting there’s a three-hour Webinar.
GreatAmerica is trying to make sure no competitive dealers from the same market are in a peer group. “That’s why having a multitude of groups is going to help,” says Pohlman. “Generally speaking you try and have some thought to the groups in not being too wildly different in terms of size or how far down the path. With exception of a small few they’re all learning a lot.”
As noted earlier, one of the goals of the S-L GAMIT Groups is for dealers to discover what it takes to be successful. That’s something that even those already in the space can benefit from. “If you look at the true knowledge of what it takes to be successful a lot were still struggling even though they were bringing clients on,” says Pohlman. “The service they were providing and the results generated were sub optimal.”
By sharing best practices and working with Service Leadership, Pohlman hopes dealers will have a better understanding of the keys to success and take those back to their dealerships and make changes with existing customers or move away from customers some that aren’t a good fit and are damaging their ability to provide a good experience to those that are a better fit.
What has Polhman learned from attending the meetings so far?
“If you look at average office equipment dealer, only about 20 percent of their customer base is a good target for this service. I would have instinctively thought that number would be a lot higher, but if you’re going to do it right, that’s probably the ballpark.
Another lesson he’s learned is the importance of having a standardized technology stack that one is offering for the customer instead of trying to do a mix of a la carte offerings. “The beauty of that is the technical issues you saw last week are the same you see next week,” says Pohlman. “Their ability to diagnose and solve [problems] is much faster and allows them to provide a better experience to customers and to scale this business profitably.”
The number of dealers participating has exceeded Polhman’s expectations and with so many dealers looking to avoid a lot of the mistakes and issues that those who have come before them have experienced in Managed IT Services, he expects the number of participants to grow. “I wouldn’t be surprised if by calendar year end we’re up to seven or eight groups because the interest is extremely high.”
Dealers interested in the S-L GAMIT Groups should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a link to the direct article, visit http://www.enxmag.com/twii/feature-articles/2014/03/managed-it-services-peer-groups-look-to-position-dealers-for-it-success/#.UyMDzPldXpV.