Channel technologies, IT management

Line Between Help Desks, Analytics Disappearing

For IT service providers, it's no longer enough to answer help desk calls on the first ring. From Continuum Managed Services to Zendesk, the race is now on to deliver data-driven customer service. Central to the effort: Analytics systems that transform help desks, NOCs (network operations centers) and more.

Indeed, Zendesk -- which promotes a SaaS-based help desk and customer service platform -- this week acquired BIME Analytics software. "BIME Analytics will become the core technology powering Zendesk’s customer data platform, enabling Zendesk to further integrate data analytics capabilities across its products," Zendesk said.

Continuum CEO Michael George
The move comes only a few weeks after Continuum CEO Michael George described how his company would increasingly leverage machine learning across its RMM (remote monitoring and management) and NOC (network operations center) platforms. The idea: Gather, analyze and leverage the right data about customer systems. Then, use that data to pinpoint and eliminate common customer problems -- freeing up managed services providers (MSPs) to focus on business growth, George said during the Continuum Navigate 2015 conference.


A similar mantra unfolded at LogicNow's partner conference in September, where GM Alistair Forbes unveiled LOGICcards. That new technology, which blends machine learning and big data, will help MSPs to make up-sell and cross-sell recommendations to their customers. To the best of my knowledge, LogicNow is one of the first MSP-centric software companies that employs big data experts who carry the "data scientist" title.

Shifting to Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics

In some ways, MSPs and VARs are used to data-driven conversations. But they're often basic in nature. Most channel partners in the recurring revenue market typically meet quarterly with customers, showing data-based progress reports and outcomes. The reports often are rudimentary -- highlighting the number of help-desk calls addressed or the number of patches applied during a particular three-month period.

Going forward, the data-driven IT channel will shift from historic reports (rear-view management) to predictive and prescriptive analytics (forward-looking advice). But the shifts won't end there.

Rise of the Machines

In addition to the verbal guidance from VARs and MSPs to end-customers, machines will increasingly manage and mitigate issues on their own. Those themes are widespread and well-known in the enterprise, where IBM Watson, Hadoop, SAP HANA and other big data or analytics platforms are increasingly deployed.

Gradually, those analytics waves will infiltrate the small and midsize business markets -- especially as big data and analytics tools become widely available via Amazon AWS (see Amazon Machine Learning) and Microsoft Azure (see Azure Machine Learning).

Don't forget: RMM and PSA (professional services automation) systems, widely used by VARs and MSPs, house lots of data that's often underutilized. The same can be said for help desks. Watch for new PSA, RMM and ticketing integrations to emerge in November at IT Nation 2015, the channel conference hosted by ConnectWise. Look behind the curtains, and I think you'll see the beginnings of machine learning taking hold at that event.

Coming Into Focus

In some ways, current PSA, RMM, NOC and help desk data stores are like bank vaults without windows. But that will change as reporting systems and analytics tools increasingly integrate with RMM, PSA and Help Desk systems. Zendesk is driving home that point with the BIME Analytics acquisition. I'm curious to see how the analytics dashboards further unlock the power of Zendesk...

Jim Lippie

Startups like Clarity Intelligence Platform are also watching the market closely. In fact, Clarity Founder Jim Lippie was the first ChannelE2E reader to ping me about the Zendesk-BIME Analytics deal. We were basically on the same page about the potential market impact.

Lippie sees the analytics channel wave coming. I'm not suggesting that all the data-driven tools will succeed. But those that deliver real business insights and more automation could help to unlock more profits for VARs and MSPs...



Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.