What is a Strategic Service Provider?

Author: Jamie Lee
March 7, 2019
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What Is a Strategic Service Provider (SSP)?

By Jamie Lee, SVP of Sales & Marketing, InterVision | March 6, 2019

IT organizations are being asked to reduce their technical debt and become more innovative in leveraging data and systems to drive efficiency and business growth. Given the ever-evolving modern technology landscape, consumer demands for convenience have shifted business expectations for availability and resiliency to an always-on model.

This puts immense pressure on IT teams to transform rapidly and deliver seamless connectivity for their organization. All the while, businesses face threats from cybercriminals, natural disasters, outages, and more. IT teams are being asked to figure out a lot all at once, which means CIOs and IT directors are keen to relieve some of the daily burdens their teams face. Rather than continuing to manage everything in-house, companies are offloading more and more of their IT systems to external experts. To meet the growing demand for partners that can have a broader and deeper impact to the CIO agenda, the strategic service provider (SSP) model was born.

A strategic service provider (SSP) partners with organizations to deliver IT solutions and services that achieve short-term wins and the capabilities to deliver on the long-term strategy, too. These companies might have roots as value-added resellers (VARs) or managed service providers (MSPs) but have recognized that in order to truly provide value to their client base, they must be able to help their clients see the forest through the trees – which means delivering solutions and services that enable the entire hybrid IT journey. This largely entails a continuous, iterative evolution towards cloud and advanced business intelligence. With a deep bench of expertise and an extensive network of partnerships to deliver best-of-breed solutions, SSPs represent the future of third-party IT, especially as subscription models continue to proliferate the marketplace.

How Is a Strategic Service Provider Different?

It’s a crowded landscape when it comes to third-party providers. SSPs tend to get lumped in with other third parties, viewed as the same. But there are big points of delineation in the third-party marketplace, not just for SSPs but for MSPs, CSPs, and VARs too. What makes an SSP different from other options? That’s the golden question.

  • Value-Added Reseller (VAR): A company that resells software and hardware and provides value beyond order fulfillment. The value is usually tied around professional services, which may include consulting, design, and implementation services.
  • Managed Services Provider (MSP): A company that implements and remotely manages the responsibilities of infrastructure, systems or a specific solution, such as testing and maintenance, but does not sell products or hardware as a priority.
  • Cloud Services Provider (CSP): A company that offers a form of cloud computing, such as IaaS or SaaS, then manages portions of the service for clients. The clouds are typically proprietary in some way, whether hosted (private or multi-tenant) off premises or in a public cloud.

The above third-party models all have a common challenge: they are focused around a certain aspect of IT service delivery and this specialized focus can contribute to a tunnel vision that doesn’t examine what your company actually needs but rather what is on their truck to sell.

An SSP delivers an all-encompassing third-party experience. SSPs will have a broad set of in-house solutions and services to deliver on a wide array of challenges, and an extensive partner network to connect you with what you need in any area of internal gaps. For this reason, the selling process is geared around your company’s specific needs, rather than pressuring you toward a specific product or license agreement. SSPs partner with your organization and offer recommendations not just for a specific project of your business, such as a cloud migration or new circuits, but for many other IT needs: mobility, workplace education, cybersecurity and disaster recovery. A robust SSP should even have a Digital Transformation (DX) team ready to assist clients in rebuilding their organizations from the ground up, able to help these clients embrace digitalization while navigating the procurement and cost challenges. Unlike MSPs, VARs and CSPs, the goal of an SSP is to offer the value of all three of these provider types under one umbrella. One phone number to call, one throat to choke.

As part of this single-point approach, SSPs should be able to consultatively collaborate to determine the best strategy to achieve your organization’s objectives. Knowing what technology to provision, where to put it, and who will manage it are all hard questions to answer; an SSP should assist your organization in making those determinations. SSPs will work with your organization closely to align on the truly best-fit technologies – then they will provide the capability to executive the project alongside your team.

SSPs will assist with the following:

  • What tech to adopt – selecting the right technology for your goals
  • Where to put it – choosing which cloud or datacenter approach is appropriate
  • Who should manage it – assessing priorities and skills for who should be responsible & accountable, now and in the future

What to Expect from a Strategic Service Provider

Interactions with SSPs often begin with a consultation, to establish an understanding of your goals and desired outcomes. Then, the SSP will design a solution that matches these desired outcomes from the ground up. In other words, there’s no standardized solution – everything is tailored specifically to the needs of the company, rather than based on the bottom line of the provider.

An SSP should do the following:

  • Focus on the outcome, not just the challenge
  • Engage as a partner, not a contractor
  • Consult on needs, not sell products
  • Offer ongoing service, not just one-and-done deployments

Selecting a Strategic Services Provider

SSPs usually derive from being VARs or MSPs at first, then have shifted toward the SSP model once they’ve either organically or inorganically acquired the skills and solutions to market themselves as SSPs. The name implies deep expertise and broad capabilities – under a single roof.

What’s to stop a regular MSP from calling themselves a strategic service provider? Sadly, nothing. It’s easy to partner with another company and mask solutions and services as your own. This is why it’s important to know the foundational perspective of an SSP you’re interested in – how did they come to call themselves an SSP? Some may have gained expertise over decades of working with clients on a certain product type. Others may have acquired other companies to extend their bench of expert talent and solutions.

When talking with a company that calls themselves an SSP, dig deeper. Do they have best-of-breed technologies validated through strong partnerships in their arsenal? What is the size, scope and experience of their cloud practice? Are their managed services and solutions validated by analysts, clients, and/or third-party reviews?

About InterVision

As a leading strategic services provider (SSP), InterVision assists businesses in driving value and gaining a competitive edge by helping IT leaders solve the three most crucial challenges they face:

  • Right Technology: What is the best technology to solve my unique problems?
  • Right Premises: Where do I put my workload(s)?
  • Right Model: What is the right resource model to enable my team’s success, now and in the future?

When it comes to technology, our 25-year-plus history has guided some of the largest and most influential companies in solving their problems with a broad range of innovative technologies, ranging from network infrastructure to collaboration to cloud migrations.

InterVision can not only help refine your strategy with the right technology and the right cloud strategy, but also bring the resource models to take it to the finish line, assuring you of vision AND capability.

Ready to get on the right track?