Technology integrators often seek partnerships with other IT companies and trusted business advisors to fill a gap in their technical knowledge – in other words, to rapidly and more cost-effectively build out skills breadth.

Other times, integrators build partnerships to share referrals and cross-pollinate their prospect and client lists with great leads.

Ideally, integrators want partners that can take on both roles:

  • Add breadth of services to their outsourced Virtual IT department solutions

  • Provide valuable introductions to potential prospects, customers, clients -- and sometimes even other potential partners

In this article, you’ll learn about nine ways that technology integrators can partner with other firms to expand their breadth of skills and acquire great leads:

  1. Accountants – Any accounting firm with small business clients has the potential to become a very valuable source of future business. However, from a skills breadth perspective, CPAs and CAs that are accounting software experts can also help integrators offer more complete and robust solutions to clients.

  2. Apple Mac Consultants – Unless a technology integrator has substantial demand for Mac OS X support, it’s unlikely to cost-justify full-time in-house Mac expertise. Nevertheless, generalist integrators are often called on to add Mac PowerBook or iMac systems to predominantly Windows-based networks. In those cases, integrators need to partner with Mac consultants. The flip side? Mac consultants may be able to handle basic Windows support in-house but welcome a partnership arrangement for more advanced networking issues.

  3. CRM Specialists – Generalist technology providers may have basic to intermediate-level expertise on the CRM system that their company uses in-house. But what happens when an integrator takes on a new client where it can comfortably support 90% of its technical requirements; however, the remaining 10% is a mission-critical CRM implementation that the integrator has zero experience with? In a case like this, the integrator should partner with a CRM specialist. Now on the marketing side, does the CRM specialist really want to get involved in network optimization and IT security assessments? Probably not. And filling this more generalist role could be an excellent source of highly-qualified leads.

  4. Microsoft SharePoint Specialists – Microsoft SharePoint is a platform with enormous market demand. But for more intermediate- to advanced-level implementations, especially those requiring custom development, most generalist integrators, especially in the SMB segment, won’t be able to justify this skill set on their payroll. So integrators should find SharePoint specialists that can consult with their clients as an extension of their teams. And conversely, most SharePoint specialists will be in a position to refer more infrastructure-related projects back to technology integrators.

  5. Legacy Systems Specialists – While the definition of what’s “legacy” and what’s mainstream evolves every few years, finding expertise on aging platforms and versions can become more difficult as time passes. So while rarely needed, a specialist on a particular legacy system can be a “lifesaver” to a generalist integrator. Conversely, just as with other specialists, the legacy systems expert typically wants to focus on what he or she does best and refer all other work to a trusted partner.

  6. Vertical Market Experts – Health care, hospitality, education, financial services, and manufacturing, to name a few – nearly every popular industry has vertical market IT specialists. Even though generalist integrators typically serve clients across a variety of industries, there are definitely times when vertical market experts better serve clients. Sometimes, a client will suggest a particular vertical market specialist. Other times, it becomes painfully obvious to the integrator that a more specialized consultant is required. And there are plenty of times when a client is 100% satisfied with their vertical market expert IT consultant and actively seeks out a more generalist technology integrator who can fill the void for more generalist IT needs.

  7. IT Security Experts – Turn to any major news outlet, and it’s rare that a day goes by when there’s no major IT security incident. As time goes on, the need for continued IT security vigilance grows. While most generalist technology integrators are likely to have at least a few full-time employees with significant IT security skill sets, there will still come a time for very advanced needs when it’s necessary to partner. Along the same lines, an IT security expert specializing in intrusion detection or forensics likely won’t have much interest in configuring notebooks or tablets – or optimizing network performance. That’s where referring leads to a generalist technology integrator makes more sense.

  8. Software Developers – Integrators that primarily serve the small business market generally don’t find a lot of demand for very high-end software development projects. Why? Quite simply: if a small business client has a total IT budget of somewhere between $12,000 and $60,000 per year (or your local currency equivalent), can a major software development project really be undertaken? Sometimes yes; most of the time, no. Sure, simple mobile apps or web-based apps may be feasible. But in most cases, small businesses aren’t big consumers of custom software development. When the need does arise, integrators are almost always better off seeking a highly-experienced partner rather than recruiting and cultivating that expertise in-house. Conversely, software developers usually are not interested in desktop support and network administration.

  9. System Builders – As mobile computing growth outpaces the growth of desktops and notebooks, over time, there will likely be less demand for custom system building. However, there are still plenty of vertical markets where off-the-shelf desktop systems are inadequate. If you have clients whose IT needs demand highly-customized systems, which isn’t one of your company’s core competencies, your firm should seek a competent and complementary system builder to partner with. And on the flip side, system builders will rarely have much more than very rudimentary IT infrastructure skills and need to refer lots of great leads to an integrator for more general IT needs.

So there you have it – nine ways for generalist technology integrators to partner with specialists and deeply-niched experts.

Also, see: Partner Marketing Trends for Integrators and MSPs

Which kinds of partner relationships has your firm built up over time? How have these relationships helped with skills breadth? Have these relationships materialized into new business? Please share your tips, hints, and experiences in the Comments area below.

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