Sunday, September 29, 2013

They only want email


I still find it hard to believe that there are people out there who believe Microsoft is going to bring Small Business Server (SBS) back. They seem to think that SBS was this massive revenue source for Microsoft when the reality is it was an ever diminishing product that was becoming harder and harder for Microsoft to engineer and support.
However, that doesn’t temper the vitriol that these resellers sprout forth about how Microsoft has screwed them, their business and their customers. I understand where you are coming from, I really do. SBS was a great product but the decision to retire it was a business decision. SBS was Microsoft’s product and they are entitled to make that decision because they are responsible to their shareholders first. (Underpinning your business on a single product from another business also doesn’t make much sense to me either I’ll also say.)
That still doesn’t seem to console these people, who I believe are not only displaced from reality but are running scared of the changes happening in the IT space. Why? Well, when you dig a bit deeper into the demands they make, what they are really seeking is an on premise mail server. The major reason they cite is that their clients ‘only want email’. Although most pine for the return of SBS they deride Companyweb (i.e. SharePoint) and many other features that made SBS what it was. So it is all about an on premise mail server for most.
You know what? I have come to believe the real reason is NOT that their customers ‘only want email’ it is because these resellers don’t have the skills to do anything but email! That’s right, now that SBS has left the scene, they are petrified that they might actually have to improve their skills and justify what they charge. They are scared that they might actually have to start learning something new. They are scared that they might not be up to that challenge. It is far easier to stay in a nice familiar world where technology doesn’t change than face the reality that change is what makes the technology industry such an interesting and profitable place to be. Most of these people I’ll bet moved into their own business with skills transferred from working for someone else. Problem is, now the technology world has changed and those original skills are in decline and it is time to learn new ones, but guess what? They can’t.
I’d like someone to explain to me how you can add value to ‘basic email’ services? I can understand the added value implementing something like eDiscovery, Legal Hold, and so on that comes with something like Office 365 but how do you add value with supporting merely sending and receiving emails? The only way I can see you make revenue after setting these things up is maintaining them, but how can that compete with web based email services from people like Microsoft and Google? How can that even compete in the long run with free web based email services?
If your game plan in technology is mere maintenance and you don’t have the scale then you are a small player in a race to the bottom when it comes to price. Please explain to me how this makes business sense? You are going to lose and yet these people still seem to believe that supporting ‘basic email’ services is a business? Really?
The other problem with the statement ‘my clients only want email’ is that I don’t know one business I deal with ANYWHERE that only wants JUST email. They need a range of technology tools to solve business pain points. To me the statement ‘my clients only want email’ rings of resellers who aren’t proactive with their clients, who are simply selling technology rather than business solutions and who isn’t engaged with the clients to understand what opportunities there maybe in the future. And you know what? Sooner or later those clients have a change of management, grow or shrink in size, get taken over or merge with another business and things change. When that happens, they turn to their incumbent reseller for technology advice and then what? A reseller only skilled at ‘doing email’ just doesn’t cut it anymore so the customer chooses someone else in a blink of an eye.
It is sad that so many technology resellers consider themselves so ‘advanced’ with technology because they waste their time installing some beta software when in fact they have become the main frame guys of the modern era, who simply want the status quo maintained because they are too scared or don’t have the skills to improve their qualifications with new products. They bemoan the reality of their business model becoming a commodity but fail to do anything to expand beyond services they have always provided.
Resellers that say ‘my clients simply want email’ signals to me that it is not in fact their clients that want this, the fact is that the reseller probably does not have any skills beyond this. Worse still, they are also not prepared to grow beyond this limitation. That is why they spend so much time lashing out at Microsoft, hosted email services and other technology solutions. Far more would be achieved, in my opinion, if they took that energy and directed it to up skilling and facing the business reality that is the current technology market.