Pax8 has introduced new Professional Services at partner request, both to perform services for MSPs who lack the necessary skills at a relatively low cost, and also to teach the MSPs how to repeat the service without assistance later.
Cloud distributor Pax8 has announced the general availability to partners of their Wingman Professional Services Program. It is designed to provide MSP partners with a lack of services skills the opportunity to accept adjacent cloud services opportunities from clients. It also has an education component to increase the ability of the MSP to develop the skills that will enable them to make these offerings themselves in the future. The announcement was made at the Microsoft Inspire event in Las Vegas.
“The program came about because of partner demand,” said Aaron Garza, Pax8’s VP of Business Development. “After we launched our Microsoft practice a year and a half ago, we had a heavy adoption of Office 365 sales. However, these Office 365 partners also found that they were being asked for cloud-based services by their customers. Traditional MSPs have been crossing the chasm into the cloud for a while, but it is still new to some. That’s particularly the case around Azure. It has really only been in the last two years that Azure has shown explosive growth. However, while more partners are beginning to offer Azure, we have found that a majority of partners from a competency perspective weren’t prepared to handle broader services issues around the transition to the cloud. Partners realized this, and asked us to do something to fill this gap in skill and competency that were missing in their own practice, and to help them expand their cloud services belt.”
Pax8 launched its practice specifically around Azure at the end of Q4 last year, and began the Professional Services beta in Q2.
“When we started the beta, we provided the advisory services for free,” Garza said. “We found that partners who were asking about it had basically no experience with the public cloud itself, and that when we did the work for free, the partner tended not to retain any knowledge. So we transitioned from a free model to one based a statement of work that laid out time and labour costs. We found that adding a dollar amount rather than providing the service for free creates a lot more engagement and retention. In particular, the partners’ ability to rinse and repeat, and be able to offer the service themselves going forward, increased significantly.”
The increased capability among the partners from working with Pax8’s Professional Services comes in part because the services contain a compulsory education component for the partner.
“The statement of work includes training and education for the partners to enable them to develop the skills to do this,” Garza said. A partner is expected to spend a certain number of hours learning how to do this, so that it is repeatable. We are seeing that there is repeat business in that the same partner comes back even after the education, but usually after the second or third time, they are self-sufficient.” A free advisory session is also available afterwards to serve as a refresher.
Garza indicated that the basic skills problem is something that isn’t going to go away, as Pax8 attracts more new MSPs to its ranks.
“We bring in a lot of new MSPs,” he said. “We have been hosting Microsoft boot camps quarterly, and have driven the largest MSP attendance to them. I’ve been in the public cloud space since 2009, and there is a shocking lack of depth over the public cloud in particular. Most MSPs can’t be well versed around all public clouds. So the need for these Wingman professional services will be around for a long time.”
Garza also noted that the fee structure isn’t set up to make big bucks for Pax8.
“It’s a white glove service is at an extremely discounted hourly rate,” he said. “The amount of hours billed will never be above those in the statement of work, even if the hours do exceed that.”
Some of the services around things like email services or hardening Office 365 can be effectively packaged for partners.
“With Azure itself though, it is much more open ended, which is why we have a statement of work,” Garza said.
The response at the first day of the Inspire event has been strong, because while the Professional Services had been in beta for months, most partners weren’t aware of it.
“It was a private beta, and we hand-selected partners on the front end,” Garza indicated. “Most of the Pax8 partner base was not aware of the services at all until this week.”
The increased importance of Microsoft and Azure to Pax8’s business made Inspire the logical spot to formally announce the program. Garza noted that this business had been doing well recently in Canada.
“We have seen the Canada Central Azure region growing significantly,” he said. “We also integrated the Canadian dollar into our system a couple of months ago, and since then we have seen considerably more take-up.”