S'pore startup to plug managed services hole

Value Advantage wants to help managed services providers penetrate SME market, and address "disconnect" in how technology is packaged and sold.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Local startup Value Advantage (VA) is looking to fill a void that it says will help managed services providers (MSPs) in the region better address the small and midsize enterprise (SME) market.

Incorporated just last month, VA describes itself as a Master MSP (MMSP), a term that has been bandied about in the United States for some time now, but is still little heard of in the Asia-Pacific region. MMSPs host managed service offerings on a resale and indirect channel, and enable IT service providers and other MSPs to access and bundle managed services for their customers.

VA hopes to create more awareness for this business model here and "plug a gap in the MSP sector", particularly, targeting smaller businesses, said CEO Greg Lipper, in an interview with ZDNet Asia. He describes the SME market as "the new frontier for MSP".

"The reason why managed services in many countries is seeing a slow takeup rate in the SME market is because providers have had trouble managing the technology, while its customers have difficulty understanding the ROI (returns on investment). So a lot of the problem is in perception, and some of it is technical," he said.

Lipper noted that there was "a disconnect between the way technology is being packaged, sold and delivered in the enterprise segment, and the way SME-focused MSPs sold and delivered their services". The conventional MSP revenue stream is generated through technology licensing, he said. "The idea behind VA is to bring the same best practices [and] capabilities to a SME-focused MSP, but bring it to them at a level that they can digest--financially, technically and operationally."

VA COO Peter Rigbye added that many SMEs have spent a lot of money adopting technology for the sake of technology, but have not reaped the expected ROIs because they "have not leveraged their technology".

Lipper said the MSP market is filled with talk about cloud computing and virtualization, but the lack of know-how and need for significant infrastructure investment, mean SMEs may not be able to deploy the technology.

VA hopes to help MSPs better provide for this SME sector by bringing the MMSP model here, he said.

Key to the local startup's value proposition is the Managed Workplace Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) platform, which is developed by Canadian company, Level Platforms. The platform acts as a network remote center (NOC) that collates the necessary data of an office environment and its infrastructure, once the remote desktop software is installed, Lipper explained.

By packaging this technology and selling it to MSPs that already have or are targeting an SME clientele, VA wants to enable these service providers to better advise their clients without having to make constant trips to the customer site, he said.

He added that the platform can also help MSPs achieve scalability, freeing up their IT employees to "focus on improving the company's systems and creating value" rather than be constantly in "fire-fighting mode".

Cost-wise, MSPs stand to save 60 to 90 percent compared to alternative offerings, according to VA's Web site. Partnering MSPs need not be tied down to long contracts with the local company, Lipper said, noting that these service providers can sign up for a minimum one month contract, and with one location or customer site.

VA can help MSPs partner other vendors that sell the products or services targeted specifically at SMEs, and that are usually outsourced by MSPs, he said. The company will procure products for the SMEs by calling for quotes from other vendors and advise its MSP client on the best deals. The MSP can then advise its own SME customers accordingly, he noted.

"At no point will we contact the SMEs ourselves, and the information that these SMEs share with us will not be seen by third-parties," he said.

With the company still in its infancy stage, Lipper said his team is currently engaging in "direct evangelical work with MSPs", where the company's current clientele include a "Singaporean MSP with 14 SME customers". He added that VA has just "agreed on deals in Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong".

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