Enabling the rise of digital MSPs, revolutionising the tech procurement habits of small businesses, driving UK productivity and advocating for the channel are all central to Giacom’s new cloud platform strategy, according to COO Nathan Marke and CEO Terry O’Brien (pictured left-right).
The strategic importance of DWS’s acquisitions of Giacom and Union Street in 2020 were crystal clear at the time but deliver a whole new dimension following the unification of all group businesses under the Giacom brand and the launch of a single platform experience for partners. “The Giacom acquisition was about creating breadth,” stated O’Brien. “Channel partners are so much more than resellers. They are evolving into digital MSPs and trusted technology experts for UK small businesses. Partners were increasingly wanting a one-stop-shop with cloud services alongside telecoms.
“Meanwhile, Union Street delivered a great piece of billing software, but more critically it started the journey towards developing a toolset that helps partners to become digital MSPs in a more automated world. The time to rebrand is now.”
Channel partners are so much more than resellers – they are evolving into digital MSPs
Giacom is an established and respected name in the IT MSP, Microsoft and SaaS communities, and is increasingly a brand telecoms partners recognise. Moreover, cloud is growing significantly faster than other product categories. “DWS evolved as a wholesale telecoms brand,” explained Marke. “Telecoms is a critical enabler for UK business and remains a core focus for us, however today our business is so much more than that. End user decision making is increasingly focused on cloud-enabled software applications to solve challenges such as remote working, customer service improvement, automation, extracting value from data, security etc.
“It’s primarily a cloud-software decision set and telecoms, while still critical, is increasingly a utility decision to enable access to software applications. In a couple of years more than half our business will be cloud software sales. In Giacom we have a known and trusted 100 per cent channel cloud brand that will help position us as a high growth cloud-first platform company. It’s a journey the Channel needs to go on.”
The overarching Giacom Group works with around one third of the estimated 15,000 technology resellers and MSPs across the UK. “Channel resellers typically have a heritage in either telecoms, networking or IT service desk, and the vast majority are broadening their portfolio and moving into the digital MSP space,” observed O’Brien. “Our fastest growing partners are driving the outsource model with monthly recurring revenues. The anchor products tend to be Microsoft, then IT services, security, backup and recovery, wrap around telecoms services plus value added services. They are increasingly becoming a one-stop-shop for small business’ technology needs.”
Marke cited the latest statistics from the ONS that shed light on small business’ contribution to the UK economy. There are approximately two million businesses in the UK employing between one and 250 people that buy business technology. Small businesses account for 60 per cent of UK employment, represent 52 per cent of UK GDP and deliver 60 per cent of UK value add, or profitability. “It’s an important sector,” he stated. “However, for all the brilliance of our small business sector it could be contributing so much more.
“The UK economy has the second lowest productivity in the G7 and one of the best ways to improve business productivity is through the effective use of technology – this is where small businesses really struggle. They are not confident when it comes to procuring and delivering new solutions, in the most part because few employ a dedicated IT person.
“As a consequence of this, small businesses are still buying their technology on a product-by-product basis on the high street, direct from carriers or online on their credit cards. We estimate that at least 50 per cent of all available small business spend is misdirected in this way, in the main because small businesses just aren’t aware of local MSPs that could help them fix their technology problems. And, given the reliance of every small business on technology, it leaves them incredibly vulnerable to cyber security risks.”
O’Brien sees potential to transform the entire small business market dynamic following the launch of Giacom’s single cloud-first platform experience for partners. “The channel is growing, but can grow much faster,” stated O’Brien. “Industry experts tell us that our addressable channel market is at least £10 billion, growing at a healthy four per cent per annum. We know that at least £5 billion of this is not spent with the channel today. If we can advocate for the channel, get the channel noticed, get the channel brilliant at this, it opens a £5 billion growth opportunity. We want every small business in the UK to buy their technology from the channel.”
In Giacom we have a known and trusted 100 per cent channel cloud brand
The rise of digital MSPs holds the potential not only to improve the value of the channel and accelerate the digital transformation of small businesses, but also close the productivity gap. “These are serious issues for our economy, particularly post-Brexit,” added O’Brien. “Small businesses face big challenges with productivity, and we believe fundamentally that a good channel partner will help fix those problems.”
But there are significant challenges associated with realising this opportunity, not least of which is that most small businesses do not know of a local MSP that can help. “Nobody is advocating for the channel,” stated O’Brien. “Our role is to help MSPs support small businesses with technology. We are really focusing on using our scale to make the UK business community and Government aware of the channel as a powerful force to drive UK productivity.”
For example, Giacom is working with a major Combined Authority on an online project to match small businesses with MSPs that operate in the region. “This work will scale up across the UK and drive advocacy for the channel,” affirmed O’Brien.
Four pillars underpin Giacom’s strategy to enable digital MSPs and make the channel more visible to small businesses: Choice, Scale, Enablement and Opportunity. Choice is delivered via the One Platform Cloud Market experience, with Giacom seeking to become ‘the Amazon of the channel’. In terms of Scale, the combined spend of Giacom’s 5,000 partners through its platform has enabled it to spend more than £250 million with suppliers in the last year alone, enabling the company to deliver tremendous value to partners as well as provide access to ‘channelised’ collateral and content coming out of large vendors. Giacom’s strong, consistent compound organic revenue growth of 13 per cent over the past five years is testament to the growth delivered by the channel, which is winning market share from carrier and vendor direct models.
The third pillar, Enablement, helps partners to diversify and take on new capabilities and certifications. Giacom partners benefit from a complete range of services such as training, specialist support, white label collateral and networking events to help them grow. And to realise opportunities, Giacom is leveraging its scale, influence and market position to be an advocate for the channel, driving home the message that local MSPs are a powerful force to drive productivity in the UK.
O’Brien is keen to emphasise another critical factor in enabling digital MSPs to thrive. “To grow a business that serves SMBs to a meaningful scale, MSPs need to deliver lots of products to lots of customers,” he added. “This means that they need to take advantage of the innovation available in OSS and BSS systems that underpin the delivery of their offerings to their customers. Our portal and billing software are key components of that stack, as are integrations into PSA, RMM and other systems. Building a toolkit and a set of automations on top of the billing capability helps partners to deliver subscription-based managed services that can scale to hundreds or thousands of end customers.
“Our fastest growing partners are getting their heads around these automations, the modern suite of products, the services that add value and the toolkits to automate and deliver time and again to small businesses. We are developing our Cloud Market platform with a focus on enabling digital MSPs to grow by delivering consistently effective managed services.”
Underpinning everything is Giacom’s unified Cloud Market platform which incorporates all the functionality of four existing portals – DWP (wholesale telecoms), DPP (the portal for mobile distribution partners), Cloud Market (the SaaS Cloud marketplace for IT partners) and Techstore (hardware as a service). Until now, they looked and operated differently. “Prior to launching our new One Platform experience we redesigned the four underlying portals to make them look and feel identical with a single user experience for the partner, modern, improved navigation and better performance,” explained Marke. “We have built a single knowledge base for all products, with the menu tailored for partner type along with discovery of adjacent products to aid cross sell opportunities.”
But this is just the beginning as a significant capital investment will be made into the platform over the next three years. “The launch of Cloud Market represents the first wave of investment,” added O’Brien. “We have a clear vision and investment plan for supporting the channel in this converging technology world, to make it increasingly simple for partners to access everything they need to create brilliant technology solutions for their customers – and to help partners grow by supporting their evolution to digital MSPs.”