msps-and-corporate-itWhen it comes to managed services, Waka Digital Media Corp. is breaking with tradition. Instead of competing with corporate IT, the Amherst, Mass.-based managed service provider is partnering up with corporate IT directors. Could this be the start of a larger managed services trend?

Let's start with the situation at Waka Digital. In recent months, President and COO Jacob Braun has been searching for a way to more effectively engage corporate IT departments. His goal was to have corporate IT managers outsource IT administration tasks to Waka Digital.

Braun needed a way to coordinate and manage trouble tickets between his customer sites and his own MSP business. He ultimately standardized on Autotask's TaskFire, which manages the flow of trouble tickets between internal IT service desks and external IT service providers.

During a conversation at CompTIA Breakaway 2009, Braun told me he's betting his business on a blended model, linking internal corporate IT departments to his company's external managed services.

Is this the start of a larger industry trend? Perhaps. N-able, for instance, directs all of its mid-market sales leads to managed service providers. The MSPs, in turn, can either propose an external managed service or install N-able's software on-site for the mid-market customer.

Pros and Cons

Still, MSPs face cultural and perception hurdles as they push deeper into the midmarket.

Some MSPs position themselves as complete replacements for corporate IT -- scheduling meetings only with CXO leaders and bluntly stating that they can replace an organization's IT leadership.

Other MSPs like Waka Digital Media attempt to coexist with corporate IT departments. During sales and consulting meetings with CXOs, Braun insists that the target customer's IT director is present. Braun's goal is to position Waka Digital Media as a partner that can take on mundane day-to-day IT tasks, leaving the corporate IT director to focus on innovation.

Clearly, there's more than one path to MSP success. I'm curious to see where the majority of MSPs wind up a year from now: Partnering with corporate IT -- or competing with it.

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