Agents reflect on the future of the technology advisor model

Is the brokerage sufficient for the partners? The debate rages on.

The technology consulting partner, more traditionally called a telecom agent, is experiencing an evolution in its model.

Agents have quietly gained momentum in the world of enterprise technology sourcing over the past decade. These companies have historically built loyal customer relationships by serving as a free carrier-neutral intermediary for a variety of network and voice providers. These efforts helped them amass a slew of residual commissions from vendors that continue to this day.

But now, a succession crisis is occurring, as many agent owners started their businesses over 20 years ago and are now looking for a way to retire. Some chose to sell their businesses to private equity-backed companies, and some of them decided to stay in the business after the sale. In the meantime, these private equity-fueled companies and other big players in the chain are touting business models that involve full lifecycle management. They say the technology advisor must add a broad set of professional and managed services to their portfolio if they want to thrive. The recurring commissions they collect from procurement technology vendors for their clients will no longer reduce it, they say.

Three familiar faces from the tech advisor channel will sit down for a chat about the future of the model next month. Darcee Nelan, CEO of Wired IQ; Marko Spremo, vice president of business strategy at Bluewave Technology Group; and Randy Jeter, President of Premiere Worldwide, will speak at Channel Partner Leaders Summit, part of the MSP Summit in Orlando, September 13-16. Their session, “The Future of the Agent Model,” will attempt to provide a vision of how channel partners will evolve over the next few years.

Nelan, Spremo and Jeter answered questions on the subject.

Channel Futures: How do you think the agent model is changing or has it already changed?

IQ Wired’s Darcee Nelan

Darcee Nelan: The agent model has been evolving for years. While the convergence of telecommunications and IT services has progressed in recent years, we no longer have clear corridors that guide our market positions. Customers, now more than ever, are overwhelmed by the amount of choice available to them when considering technological changes. This puts us as agents in an enviable position to leverage our roles as trusted advisors to help customers explore their service options.

Yet, unfortunately, many agents find the role of trusted advisor challenging because they no longer feel like a subject matter expert when having business conversations with their clients. Many agents who have been in the business for a long time lack confidence in their technical knowledge, which prevents them from proactively engaging their customers in strategic discussions involving a technology roadmap. This gives their competitors a foothold in their accounts and could ultimately change the ownership dynamic of the customer relationship.

Throw, Randy_World Premiere

Randy Jeter of Premiere Worldwide

Randy Jeter: The growing need for professional services and managed services surrounding sourced services is dramatically changing the agent model. Additionally, the ongoing need to manage desired outcomes is an increasing requirement, which comes with additional costs. These changes are directly related to how companies now buy IT “as a service”. In the go ahead model, the IT buyer will see billing from both the IT procurement company “agent” and the vendors they purchased the IT service or engagement from. Building systems, managing and scaling the resources and systems needed to achieve success…

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