By Evandro Pasquarelli, Business Development Director, SSCS Brazil

Whether you prefer the older term, “Emerging Markets,” or the newer terms such as “Newly Industrialized Countries,” or even the group labelling, such as “BRIC (referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China),” Wikipedia describes these emerging markets as being in transition from less developed to more developed. Quite importantly, countries identified as emerging are often a logical target for external investment for their expected growth and profit potential. And our home country, Brazil, is a perfect example. My primary point here is that emerging market companies seeing external investment (like those here in Brazil) are expected to control all costs and maximize margins for their investors. Simple logic, right?

Thus, Business executives in these emerging market countries need to be committed to margin maximization and continually encourage a spirit of cost containment throughout their organizations. It’s essential! And quite simple.

If the spirit of cost containment is essential to investor satisfaction or confidence, the regular consideration of standard practices (especially in IT) and their associated costs would demonstrate that which builds upon the confidence of the investment communities.

Finally, and to the very point of my blog, IT leaders (like CIOs/CTOs) must have their eyes open to new ways of doing things and not be satisfied by status quo operational practices or methodologies. “The way we have always done it,” should never be an acceptable comment from the direct reports of these C-level executives. Instead, “what can we do to refine, improve, be more efficient AND cut IT costs” are imperative to the heart of the company’s culture.

What is the one simple-to-deploy Best Practice in IT Cost Control that I would like to convey today? Companies in Brazil (and across all emerging markets) would be wise to more seriously examine the cost benefits and Service Quality benefits of the Hybrid Hardware Support Model.

Supporting Perspectives from Gartner

• “A hybrid maintenance strategy — using OEM-authorized and OEM-independent maintenance — is becoming more common in the hardware support market, with a thriving ecosystem of independent support providers for server, storage and networking equipment. End-user customers are selectively using TPM services to cost-effectively extend the life of IT assets, control OEM-forced upgrades and save money.” ~ Christine Tenneson, Gartner [Doc. ID G00317887]

• “Third-party maintenance (TPM) as a hybrid strategy to support server, storage and networking equipment continues to gain adoption. Some OEMs’ pricing methodologies demand significant increases in maintenance charges as equipment ages, which drives customers to consider cost optimization through the use of TPM. Seventy-one percent of Fortune 100 customers used a third-party maintainer as a form of support in their environment in 2016.” ~ Christine Tenneson, Gartner [Doc. ID G00327730]

•  Just last week (May 9), I met with Henrique Cecci, Research Director at Gartner, based out of São Paulo, Brazil. He also suggested that the cost savings potential, combined with high quality service, should be capturing the attention of end-user companies throughout Brazil. “This is an ideal time for them to be looking to build out a hybrid hardware support model.”

Are you, or other members of your team, still unfamiliar with hybrid hardware support and exactly what Third-Party Maintenance can offer? Click Here to read this well-written white paper. It really helps to explain the key value propositions of this very unique, but helpful, industry niche. Or, here is a very in-depth guide we’ve labeled “TPM 101” to help mid-level managers deeply understand all they need to know!

By now, the savvy CIO or CTO is asking themselves:

1. “What’s the value?
2. Help me understand the ratio of time (to review/understand, then engage the TPM industry) to the bottom line value of savings potential.

Great! This short blog does that very simply, Need to Quantify the Value of Hybrid Hardware Support? Here’s a Simple Formula!

My Final Point: If you could save 10-12+ percent from your Total Hardware OpEx budget, why would your IT team NOT be considering hybrid hardware support? Especially when modern Information Technology costs account for such a large percentage of your company’s annual budget. How could it be financially logical to retain OEM support for any post-warranty assets? In my humble opinion, my friends, this question must be asked of your teams and are best answered by your teams. But, it should be a simple answer if you have encouraged a truly proactive spirit of IT cost containment.


Evandro Pasquarelli, Business Development Director, SSCS Brazil

Evandro joined SSCS in November 2014, leading business development within Brazil, but also helping to support multi-national organizations with interests in the Brazilian marketplace. Prior to SSCS, he held sales positions in TIM Brasil, Alcatel-Lucent, Nextel, among other great companies. He has an MBA in Marketing from FGV – Fundação Getúlio Vargas. In his spare time, Evandro enjoys spending time with his family, the ongoing quest for happiness and work-life balance and cooking great food with dear friends.

By Ty Stubblefield, SSCS Lead Development Specialist

Since moving their fiscal year end to the end of July, the Cisco Sales Team have pushed its clients to have more renewals occur in the summer months. While it might seem, at first glance, that this change was helpful to clients and employees, permitting all to have a more comfortable holiday season. However, the beautiful days of summer and family vacations can often result in less-than-critical thinking during the renewal process for some in IT Procurement or Network Administration.

Getting to the key points of this blog:

1. More companies are choosing a hybrid hardware support model, OEM combined with independent support (for post-warranty equipment) to capitalize on significant cost savings. 71% of the world’s largest companies are using this hybrid support model now, according to Gartner.

2. Because many network admins rank “security” as their greatest priority, not all will take the time to listen to options that support IT cost containment. Yet, IT Procurement focuses on cost savings, but may not understand all the nuances of security, stability, network resiliency and so on. So, there is often a natural rub between departments and the key messages (value propositions for alternative/hybrid support) are lost!

3. Assuming your IT Asset Management (ITAM) practices are built soundly (we have prepared for those that aren’t), you likely have access to data that readily identifies which assets are post-warranty vs. which assets remain under warranty. And, from this same segregation, you can easily deduce how much you are paying for annual support of in-warranty assets, how much for post-warranty assets and how much you’re total annual Operational Expense (OpEx) is for all Cisco assets.

According to estimates from Gartner and IDC, roughly 20% of your company’s Cisco assets will be post-warranty. And, if you’re in IT Procurement, you may know that a hybrid support model that permits eligible assets to be maintained by an independent provider can save as much as 10-12% off your total OpEx. Didn’t know that? Click here to better understand and access this very simple formula to quantify savings potential.

4. For the network security professional, did you know that many network admins around the world have paid for full SMARTnet support, which include IOS patch updates/fixes long after such patches are no longer provided? If you’re getting parts delivered, or “hot swap” of assets, or even the labor included, great! Just remember you are NOT getting IOS help (the very core of your security sensitivities). Therefore, you’re paying for the same support an independent provider could give you for much less. And, the security concern is really a moot point, is it not? Perhaps you should have your ITAM group begin to track End of Software Maintenance announcement dates.

5. Perhaps both IT Procurement and Senior Network Admins believe it is extraordinarily difficult to do any of the following:

• ID which assets are post-warranty
• ID which assets are eligible for independent support, or where there may be applicable risk
• Formulate a quantified value of a hybrid support model for your Cisco assets
• Effectively discern where risk outweighs reward for select assets
• Welcome an additional vendor to support your base of Cisco assets, and what may feel like a more complex support model
• Perhaps, right now, your teams have too many objectives and too few resources to embrace a change
• Perhaps you just haven’t yet found that independent provider that is 100% transparent with respect to risk analyses and trust has not yet been established.

Any or all of these topics can be present, but never fear, I assure you that the independent hardware support industry has worked very hard (in the last 10+ years) to build out all infrastructure/models to help you simply and quickly understand your asset base, lead you through risk considerations (focusing on YOUR best interests) and then help you quantify what can be saved. Even after that, I assure you that this industry of independent providers has built that which is necessary to simplify your transition to a hybrid model AND vendor dispatch models that make it quite easy for your team to get what they need and when they need it.

Hundreds of large companies, and thousands of small companies, around the world, have chosen a hybrid support model and are quite pleased with the resulting Service Quality, support flexibility and bottom-line savings.

If Gartner were to tell you that most independent providers can help you quantify savings, analyze risk for select assets and collect pricing in under two weeks, would you NOT rethink your hesitation? Why not ask?

If your renewal occurs August 1 (or even July 1), wouldn’t this month give you enough time to avoid frenetic decisions in mid-July? Or, another way to look at it, wouldn’t a modest time investment now, permit you to maximize your enjoyment of the summer weather or any pending and well-deserved vacations?

You could start by asking for our digital brochure, or copies of our hottest white papers on hybrid support! I welcome any inquiries to help answer your hybrid support model questions.


Ty Stubblefield, SSCS Lead Development Specialist

Ty joined SSCS in January 2017 in an inbound lead development and lead creation role. Although he only has 1.5 years in a sales role with an IT solutions provider, Ty has a keen appreciation for technology. In addition to him being an accomplished “gamer,” he readily embraces new technologies or tech enhancements delivered to the marketplace from manufacturers that serve both the consumer and the business sector. Ty is both family- and friends-focused, but also enjoys physical fitness and any moments outside with his new puppy

By Bernie Armstrong, SSCS Senior Sales Manager, EMEA

This article will address those individuals that are already familiar with Third-Party Maintenance (TPM), as well as those that are unfamiliar. Certainly, the purpose for this content is to provide consultative guidance to data centre operations and IT procurement professionals, helping them to understand the timing of engagement and the best methodologies to capitalise on OpEx (Operational Expense) in Data Centre Hardware Maintenance.

To explain quite simply, Third-Party Maintenance is a hardware support alternative, offered by organisations independent of the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), but are able to specifically offer tremendous cost savings for the hardware support of servers, storage and networking assets that have reached post-warranty status. Many companies (e.g. 71% of Fortune 100, as per Gartner) are now using a hybrid hardware support model to reduce OpEx. Since the average data centre contains 20-22% post-warranty assets, the cost savings can be bountiful and beautiful.

Familiar with the TPM Industry – When to Involve or Engage

When:

1. When the executive team has conveyed a cost containment mandate.

2. Ideally, six months prior to the renewal date for the eligible IT assets. Such a seemingly long window is helpful for a few reasons, but the TPM may need time to help you identify post-warranty hardware and triage eligible assets from those that should remain under OEM support. As well, your availability for a handful of advisory discussions shouldn’t be rushed, so the transparency offered by the TPM can be fully absorbed.

3. At any point you’re about to make a hardware purchase decision, but would appreciate an independent and unbiased perspective. Not all business drivers necessitate a “net-new” hardware purchase. Perhaps your current hardware is n-7 (seven generations back from new), but designated applications don’t always need new. Perhaps you can buy n-2 systems and have it bundled with third-party hardware maintenance. To maximise savings, this is a near perfect scenario. Before jumping too quickly with any hardware CapEx purchase, have an open and transparent dialogue with a TPM – especially one that does NOT sell pre-owned hardware.

4. If you self-maintain any assets and the cost or risks have grown too high. Many TPMs will offer cost-effective Smart Hands options or even T&M (Time and Materials).

• How:

1. If you’ve not yet chosen 2-3 TPMs from whom you’ll accept consultation, we suggest it is best to start with Gartner. The foremost expert on the TPM industry is Christine Tenneson. If you have a Gartner subscription, schedule a discussion to get input on which TPMs best fit your needs. If you don’t have a Gartner subscription, you should at least connect with her at LinkedIn. Christine has analysed the global TPM market, and has direct and strategic dialogues with all TPM players. At the minimum, get the names of 4-5 TPMs you can further research independently.

2. In addition to reading a few websites, look for those that provide educational and helpful blogs. You’ll often gain a great sense of style from company blogs, especially those that are prepared by staff, and not a marketing department. Is it too pushy to recommend our blogs?

Look for TPM case studies. What have they done and for whom? Have they quantified any part of the impact they had on their clients’ business?

Feel free to contact me for any additional guidance.

Unfamiliar with the TPM Industry – When to Involve or Engage

When:

1. When the executive team has conveyed a cost containment mandate.

2. Now! Enough said. Well, it’s only fair to offer an additional reminder. When your data centre hardware asset base is approximately 20-22% post warranty (aligned with global averages), you stand to save 10-12% off of your Total Hardware OpEx!  It would be a travesty to postpone your familiarity with the industry niche any longer.

• How:

1. As previously mentioned, start with an unbiased perspective from Gartner. The foremost expert on the TPM industry and its value propositions would be Christine Tenneson. If you have a Gartner subscription, schedule a discussion to get input on which TPMs best fit your needs. If you don’t have a Gartner subscription, you should at least connect with her at LinkedIn. At the minimum, get the names of 4-5 TPMs you can further research independently.

2. Look for those TPM websites that provide educational and helpful blogs. A few TPMs provide regular blogs that are incredibly easy to understand, yet offer deep insights. Why not take a peak at our blogs?

3. Look for TPM case studies. What have they provided, for whom and what was the measurable result? I’d suggest to be cautious of those case studies that appear more like a brochure, than a case study.

4. Feel free to contact me for any additional guidance.


Bernie Armstrong, SSCS Senior Sales Manager, EMEA

Bernie joined SSCS in 2017 in a sales leadership position for the UK and EMEA marketplace. He has over 30 years’ experience in IT consultation and IT sales positions. He previously held account management or sales positions at RMG Networks, Emulex, Sphere 3D, Syncsort, SITS, Tectrade, StorageTek and Comenco. In addition to spending time with his family, Bernie is incredibly passionate about music – playing and singing, even as far as a stint with a regionally popular band in the 80s. If you agree to a face-to-face discussion, it’s likely he will agree to playing some videos from the “good old days.”

By Sarah Bellamy, SSCS Sales Development Director, EMEA

New to IT Procurement or Data Center Operations? Or, perhaps you’ve bypassed the TPM definition and value story, due to time or availability? Regardless of why you are reading this now, my commitment is to share with you a simple, step-by-step and unbiased overview of the TPM (Third-Party Maintenance) story, so you’re comfortable with the basic elements and can help your company make decisions, or deploy safe hardware support solutions across your data center environment.

Please permit me to suggest that you bookmark this blog, making it convenient for you to go through each segment at your own pace, and as per your availability. Of course, feel free to share the link to this TPM 101 blog with others in your company.

1. What is Third-Party Maintenance (also known as TPM or Independent Hardware Support) and what value does it promise to someone in IT Procurement or Data Center Operations?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1
• Read Blog 2
• Read Blog 3
• Read White Paper 4

2. How would OEM hardware support compare/contrast to TPM, or Independent Hardware Support? Why abandon an OEM-only hardware support model?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1
• Read Blog 2
• Read Blog 3
• Read White Paper 4

3. What are the marketplace trends for TPM adoption within industry verticals, or around the globe?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read White Paper 1

4. What are the critical elements to be measuring when comparing one TPM to another TPM? What is needed to ensure a fair, apples-to-apples comparison?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1
• Watch Video 1
• Watch Video 2
• Watch Video 3

5. What is wrong with focusing only on lowest price support, to maximize IT OpEx reductions for the organization?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1
• Re-read Blog 2

6. Why is Service Quality the primary differentiator between TPM support providers?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1
• Re-read Blog 2

7. What vendor vetting questions will help find the balance between cost reductions and a support model providing adequate Service Quality? How should “best value” be pursued?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1
• Read Blog 2
• Read Blog 3

8. Can I anticipate how much will the organization save if hybrid hardware support is adopted?

Click each item listed below to read the content provided. Blogs will take 5-10 minutes to read. White papers take 25-35 minutes to read. Videos rarely run longer than 6 minutes.

• Read Blog 1


Sarah Bellamy, SSCS Sales Development Director, EMEA

Sarah first joined SSCS in 1995 in a sales role, left in 2002 for a while to build a family, then re-joined the organization 2013 as a Business Development Manager, based out of Nottingham, UK. In 2018, Sarah was promoted to Sales Development Director for all EMEA, leading the sales team and the development of solutions which best match the needs of each unique client. Sarah’s passions include her family, skiing, world travel (especially to skiing destinations) and helping people. Among her peers she is known as a great listener and incredible problem solver.

By Janne Kokkaret, SSCS Business Development Director – Nordics

What do I mean by “Hybrid Hardware Support?” It’s when your in-warranty IT hardware (servers, storage and networking) are supported by the OEM, during the warranty period. Then, all or a portion of your post-warranty assets are maintained by an independent hardware support provider (also known as Third-Party Maintainer). And, this is hybrid support model is strategically chosen to impact and reduce OpEx (Operational Expenses).

Still researching? Still evaluating? Not ready to open the door to ANY salespersons from an independent support provider? Sure, I understand. But, perhaps you now need to be able to quantify the potential financial impact for a hybrid support strategy. Will further research be worthy of your time? Will the value outweigh the opportunity cost of making a change? It’s hard to know that without a tangible quantification.

You will never get an answer from the OEM on this subject; they don’t want to lose any revenue.

Need a formula to quantify the value and do so simply? Here it is:

• If 20% of your enterprise hardware assets are post-warranty, by using TPM for those assets, you’ll see a 10-12% total reduction in your Total Hardware OpEx budget.

• If 18% of your enterprise hardware assets are post-warranty, by using TPM for those assets, you’ll see a 9-10% total reduction in your Total Hardware OpEx budget.

Get the picture? It’s very easy to use this formula and carry into your own environment, right? In both instances, I should explain that we are referring to the annual Operating Expenses of servers, storage and networking assets. Also, we are intentionally excluding (EUC) End-User Compute hardware, for the sake of simplicity. Lastly, this formula is rooted in global averages (not averages by geography, or an industry vertical).

What were the origins of this formula? How can you be sure of its validity? After reviewing the financial impacts we’ve already made for our clients across these last 30 years, we have validated our estimates with key Gartner analysts, and they readily agreed. As a matter of fact, Gartner and SSCS executives agreed these estimates were fair, but also somewhat conservative.

Both Gartner and IDC estimate that the typical data center contains 20-22% post-warranty hardware assets. This is likely an increase from 15-20 years ago. But, since such a sizable percentage of assets need not be under expensive OEM maintenance, why wouldn’t the modern data center decision maker be curious about alternative support models?

Want to know more details about the financial impacts of a hybrid support model? Click here to download this helpful SSCS white paper. Or, click here to read a white paper that can help you better evaluate these independent hardware support marketplace.

Once your research helps convince you of the fiscal impact of hybrid support, be sure to check out our blog history to understand how best to differentiate one independent provider from the other. This information is critical to value, as well as Service Quality.


By Janne Kokkaret, SSCS Business Development Director – Nordics

Janne joined SSCS in 2014 as Service Delivery Manager for the Nordic region, but has 14 years of experience in IT support roles, support team management and sales. His background includes EUC (End-User Compute) assets, as well as data center servers, storage and networking hardware support. Janne now leads business development activities throughout his region, working with clients to meet the unique needs of each.

From his home near Helsinki, Janne enjoys spending time with his wife and children, any outdoor activities and is a member of a unique club of Tesla owners. This club meets regularly to test the limits of their Tesla, while proving to the world that performance is not sacrificed by choosing a Tesla automobile.

By Glen Stevens, Senior Sales Executive, SSCS North America

Are your actions and choices enabling a playground, or are you demanding a multi-dimensional resource?

You’re likely reading this because the title indicated that this might be something more than the traditional “LinkedIn is Not Facebook” post. You’re right and I hope to provide content that lives up to your expectations. In fact, this article is a “call to action” to lead by example and refrain from enabling this venue to become reduced to a venue for unhelpful noise.

Think about why you visit LinkedIn: what is your purpose? Is it to relax, to feel good or be inspired? Is it to push a very personal agenda, perhaps across politics or religion? If any of these are valid for you, please read on to understand that the original purpose of LinkedIn was not any of these. And not appreciated by the majority of LI users today – especially not for the IT professional!

Many new users of LinkedIn grew up with Facebook, Instagram and others and are applying the very same principles and techniques to LinkedIn – and this is erroneous logic. I call this the Facebook-ification of LinkedIn. Additionally, for many new users, their employer hasn’t yet understood LinkedIn’s value/purpose and inadvertently enabled a daily tactic that bypasses an objective, a strategy and protocols for behavior, with regular activity audits.

The original purpose of LinkedIn was to establish an incredible resource – one that started with networking, but would grow to include very helpful content. Very simply put, it was intended as an incredible and multi-dimensional resource – one that would continue to evolve in a positive way. For any senior executives reading this blog, this message is for you: LinkedIn is NOT just a place to find a job!

Many users, especially the modern IT professional, visits LinkedIn almost daily for: (1.) a place to learn more about their job or their industry, (2.) industry news, (3.) industry trends and even (4.) role-related best practices. It is a place where one goes to better themselves with content significantly meatier than motivational poster content or a heart-warming picture of a cute kitten sleeping beneath a vase of roses. Some will visit LinkedIn for news beyond their industry, by following Groups or news organizations’ company profiles. Even a few of my peers no longer watch the news or read the newspaper, but prefer the “bite-sized” information share of LinkedIn. It’s fast. It’s easy to find information or discover something new. If used properly, LinkedIn can become the most important professional development tool available to the IT professional, his/her team and the executive team.

It is absolutely up to users to drive the continued value of LinkedIn, as well as its evolution as an amazing resource. My good friend, Shane Perry, recently said to me, “Libraries and schools are no longer the keepers of all knowledge.” Think about that for a moment and about how powerful a statement that is in 2018. Here’s an addition from my friend, Brent, “The traditional resources for knowledge will continue to set a base for the principles of learning; however, the potential of LinkedIn is that it can help build a much-needed agility in learning for the modern business person. But, much more than evolving our abilities to learn quickly, LinkedIn must continue to be a multi-dimensional resource/conduit for the employee to glean much more than has previously been possible!”

From my own perspective, Facebook will continue to be a hotbed for, and an enabler of narcissism. Alternatively, LinkedIn users must be accountable for LinkedIn’s value by enabling business-appropriate utilitarianism, creating/distributing only content of educational value and ensuring that any comment/share/like is appropriate to/for their current employer and the user’s professional network.

Build a Better LinkedIn Resource for Yourself, the IT Pro:

  • Begin to “unfollow” (softer than a disconnect) those connections that fill your homepage feed with junk. Take immediate action on those users that are frequent abusers of information and content distribution. Here’s something to consider: Does your LinkedIn feed need to provide you the daily specials promoted by your auto-mechanic or do you need to see multiple human-interest stories shared/liked by your favorite niece? Or, do you want to see information that helps you do your job?
  • Think about your title/role. Look for LinkedIn “Groups” that are full of your peers and join these Groups. Then, watch to make sure the content shared is consistent to your role and simply leave the group if the content does not help you do your job.
  • Unfollow companies (or alma maters or sports teams) that do not enrich your feed or help your agility in your role. Seek out companies or groups or associations that challenge you and logic that is comfortable to you!
  • Turn off those auto-playing videos within your LinkedIn preferences. If you don’t, you’re simply enabling a distraction. Some videos are quite helpful, but so MANY of them are just poorly labelled/titled and are unclear about the content, value or intended audience. The auto-play feature is senseless.
  • Turn off and tune out the noise in LinkedIn that doesn’t help you!

Build a Better LinkedIn for all IT Professionals:

  • When you discover content that is appropriate to others in your company, there is no need to share it across your entire network. Instead, you can forward a link via InMail, or send an article to read via traditional email. You can also share role-appropriate content with peers inside a role-centric group or via InMail. Avoid being a “noise maker” to others in your network.
  • When you see human interest content, political rants or overtly religious content that could segregate, don’t engage. Don’t read, don’t comment, don’t engage. When their readership is eliminated, many who make this mistake will turn to other social media venues. Think about it, do any of these posts help you do your job or provide you or your employer any competitive edge?
  • Give kind, helpful and respectful feedback (even constructive criticism) to vendors/partners/individuals you follow when their content is unhelpful. This includes me, and my employer!

A Code of Conduct to Build for Yourself:

  • Build for yourself a purpose for using LinkedIn during office hours. Yet, be sure to consider yourself as a representative of your employer during off-hours and weekends.
  • Connect with those that might help you. Connect with those you may be able to help.
  • Help others, help others, help others. As long as you’re not being taken advantage of, be unconditional in your actions.
  • Build only content that is helpful to others. Write about what you know and let others write about what you do not.
  • Distribute content appropriate for all to your entire network, which is likely to include many kinds of people in many kinds of roles. For specific content, build as much “labelling content (titles)” as possible to help the reader triage themselves away from your content when it does not apply to their role.
  • Have a self-developed promise you create for your network, which would even help you choose who to retain in your network (see my promise below).

My Promise to My LinkedIn Network:

I promise to help friends and family build networks appropriate to them, but will avoid inconveniencing my professional business network of IT professionals to do so. I will refrain from distributing narcissistic content or content with an underlying political or religious agenda out of respect for my professional network. I will seek to help in all I do, yet I will insist that my LinkedIn homepage feed makes me a more knowledgeable IT professional, and an agile salesperson for my clients and new prospects. I will insist that my employer continue to produce relevant and helpful information for my professional network, just as I insist that very same standard for myself.

As you might imagine, I do welcome professional connections. Let’s help one another!


Glen Stevens, Senior Sales Executive, SSCS North America

Based out of Austin, Texas, this will be Glen’s sixth year with SSCS, and 19th year in leadership/sales roles after departing a respectable 12-year career in the U.S. Army. After leaving the army, Glen began his business career as a regional sales manager for Lipman USA and later founded and ran Smart Card Systems, out of Arlington, Texas. Several years later, he founded and ran another start-up called, Scope Dope. Aside from his naturally entrepreneurial nature, he also held sales leadership positions at Canadian Payments and iWave Information Systems, a unique subscription-based data-mining service for non-profits. Glen enjoys music, playing guitar, traditional outdoorsman activities and seeing his 21-year-old son playing music gigs throughout the Austin area. His 18-year-old daughter will be attending Texas Tech in the fall of 2018 and will be pursuing a concentration in Media & Communications.

By Steven Foss, Senior Sales Executive, SSCS North America

Many companies and/or industries going through marketplace disruption now have mandates to cut operational expenses, when and where possible – especially when doing so does not impact the client experience. Industries, such as Oil & Gas, are now seeing reduced profits and executive teams are pushing cost containment throughout the organization. Retailers, too, are experiencing disruptions from consumer preferences to spend less time in a store and doing their buying online.

Executive mandates to contain costs are also now impacting the IT department. The CIO/CTO is actively looking for fresh ideas or pockets where costs can be cut, without sacrifice to client experience. Are you in data center operations or an IT procurement professional that has received similar mandates? If so, read on, please.

Are you familiar with third-party hardware maintenance, what we prefer to call independent hardware support? Are you aware that Third-Party Maintainers can significantly reduce operational expense (OpEx) by 50-60% from OEM costs, on servers, storage and networking gear? Did you know that if greater than 10% of your hardware infrastructure is post-warranty, or even End of Support (EoS), the cost savings can be stunning?

Did you know that Gartner ran a study in the last few years and have reported:

• 71% of Fortune 100 companies are using Third-Party Maintainers for a portion of their assets, and
• 59% of Fortune 500 companies are using Third-Party Maintainers for a portion of their assets.

Are you one of the 29% of Fortune 100s or one of the 41% of the Fortune 500s that are not using Third-Party Maintenance as an effective means of containing costs? Or, are you simply a smaller company needing to find greater cost efficiencies, but have not yet tried Third Party Maintenance?

Perhaps you should consider these points:

From Gartner:

• In March 2016, Gartner’s Christine Tenneson, Research Director, Hardware & Software Support, published the following statement. “End-user interest and demand for alternatives to OEM support for data center and network maintenance are increasing, fueled by a need for cost optimization.” Gartner [Doc. ID G00294372] In the same published research, Tenneson also stated, “Hardware maintenance is increasingly being considered as a “nonstrategic IT” spending and procurement, with the result being that IT professionals are seeking low-cost alternatives to expensive OEM contracts.”

• In March 2017, Gartner’s Stanley Zaffos published a report named, “Lower Both Storage Acquisition and Ownership Costs by Using Third-Party Maintenance.” He stated, “Many third-party maintenance (TPM) providers are delivering quality storage array break/fix support to stable storage systems with savings typically in the 40% to 70% range.” In the same document, he also offered, “The useful service life of storage arrays, which is seven to eight years in clean data centers, is almost always greater than their planned service lives.” He also stated, “TPM represents a significant opportunity to reduce costs, negotiate lower rates from vendors and/or extend the useful service life of installed storage arrays.” Gartner [Doc. ID G00324284]

From IDC:

• In September 2015, IDC analyst, Rob Brothers, published a report named, “Third-Party Maintainers and the Enterprise Datacenter: Still Gaining Ground” [Doc # 258887]. In the article summary, “Enterprise customers have made it very clear they will utilize third-party maintainers and not just for cost savings,” says Rob Brothers, VP, Software and Hardware Support Services at IDC. “The easy-to-do-business aspect they have eluded to in the survey is surely a compelling differentiator.”

With valid points, such as these, are made by industry experts illustrating the trends of your peers, you might want to consider the following questions more closely: (1.) Do we have valid rationale for not exploring a cost-reduction option that is becoming more commonplace with our industry peers or competition? (2.) Have we hesitated because of trust issues or issues relating to security or reliability?

Regardless of your answer to either of these last two questions, we would highly suggest an open discussion with an unbiased industry analyst at Gartner. In our opinion, the most knowledgeable about this industry niche is Christine Tenneson at Gartner. Alternatively, I’d welcome a call to schedule an appointment with key members of our team that can and will fairly address what you now deem as risks. In fact, you might even be delighted to hear about our perspective on “Service Quality” and the education potential that surrounds this important subject. We’re here to help!


Steven Foss, Senior Sales Executive, SSCS North America

Based out of Minnesota, this is Steve’s fifth year with SSCS, yet joined the organization with several decades of experience in IT sales and building solutions for the data center professional, as well as IT procurement. In his early career, Steve spent 24 years with DecisionOne, then created additional client value with roles at Northrop Grumman, StorageTek and Sun Microsystems. Before landing at SSCS, he sold to a tight geography for two small Third-Party Maintainers, which were based in Minnesota. In addition to building value for his clients, Steve is passionate about fitness and visits the health club 6-7 times each week, rides bicycle and water skis in the summer months, cross-country and downhill skis in the winter months. Every day, over the lunch hour, Steve takes a 3-mile walk to enjoy the fresh air, but wanted all to understand his smartphone goes with him.

By John Kolkmeier, Director, Global Service Delivery, SSCS

In my last blog, I wrote about a few ways in which IT procurement could better vet hardware support vendors by drilling with questions about Communications & Tools. Before that, Mark Havens shared one with the same purpose, but focused on questions that forced transparency around Parts & Logistics. Within this blog, I really want to help readers (IT procurement and Data Center decision makers) understand how to get the Technical Expertise they deserve from a hardware support vendor – especially a Third-Party Maintainer.

I also want to feature the importance of looking at “style” of these vendors. When you ask great questions, the responses you receive should help you discern whether (or not) the vendor is committed to a level of transparency that best serves your interests. Most would agree that it’s not likely you’ll see the style trait of transparency from an OEM. But, this market of independent support providers should be hard-wired to be different from the OEM – always providing a level of transparency that serves you and furthers a partnership.

Permit me to return to Technical Expertise for a few paragraphs.

As I write this, I recall a story from a co-worker, someone who joined our company, coming from a competitor in the last few years. Although his previous employer had built a fairly respectable training program, there were numerous incidents of unforgivable Service Quality. His past employer had been awarded a large contract from a globally-respected banking institution, comprised of multiple data center sites throughout North America. Although this co-worker was not in a field support role, he had technical knowledge and was to join each FE team during onboarding, helping the transition and providing process-specific support where needed.

Disappointingly, he learned that the regional technical supervisor for each location had intentionally chosen to mislead the client with sub-par field engineers to each account. At each site, there were engineers assigned that had not yet touched (or received even basic training) for over 50% of the assets under the support agreement. The supervisors’ excuse? Sales had been so eager to close the deal, that they ignored a short on-boarding window and field operations did not have time to deploy basic training for each engineer at each site.

This co-worker friend winces in disgust when he tells about the field engineer that said aloud, in front of the client contact, “I’ve never seen or touched a pSeries server. Which ones are those?”

Up until recently, these sorts of stories were unheard of within this industry of independent break/fix support. But, I am sad to report, there are some trends impacting the Service Quality this industry has become known for, and from which all third-party maintainers (TPMs) have earned respect.

All that said, dear readers, you need not recoil in fear or hesitation for this entire industry. Why punish all when you really can minimize your OpEx AND get remarkable Service Quality. Instead, you just need to know what questions to ask during vendor vetting. Before I help by providing questions that should really help, I’d like to share several facts to give you a sound basis of knowledge for hardware break/fix best practices:

• Level III and Level IV technical expertise is needed across each OEM/platform, to provide support to (and training) for the onsite field engineer, who will often be Level 1 or Level II in skills.

• In addition, global providers MUST have this Level III/IV support existing and available in multiple continents, sun-up to sundown – no matter the geography of the client. Top-level backline support can have no holes, or the client (and local field support team) are at risk. I’d call that, “Unacceptable Risk.”

• OEM or platform-specific training need not come from the OEM. In fact, troubleshooting logic is often impaired by OEM training and OEM process. Not always, but often. I’d rather find someone skilled it problem determination across simpler and unrelated systems. Then, maximize their ability to blend logic with client-focused innovation.

• But, any TPM must have a sound training program that is documented and built by Level III and Level IV experts. In recent years, we’ve heard too many stories of FEs sent onsite that did not know how to access the system interface, or even open a door.

I have been highly tempted to limit this blog to focus on field expertise and backline support. But, in recent days have convinced myself it is important to go at least one step beyond, when discussing “Technical Expertise.” The next few statements are where I tie technical expertise back into the character trait of “Transparency.”

Not all post-warranty assets should be moved to independent support. You need to find the independent hardware support provider that will:

• Help identify which assets should remain under OEM support (OS patches, stability, etc.)

• Help identify which assets are absolutely 100% eligible for independent support (zero risk)

• Help identify which assets have some risk. Then, have the technical ability to articulate the risk for each so the decision is 100% yours.

Be cautious of the independent hardware support provider that only seeks an asset list, then gives you their price for those assets. Instead, seek those providers that will generously share their expertise, helping you minimize risk, maximize resiliency and reduce costs where and when it makes sense to do so.

There are, among our competitors, those who would sell an expensive Hummer (with a “Hemi”) to your 86-year old grandma, who has been diagnosed with macular degeneration.

Once you’ve chosen a strategy to extend asset lifecycles and reduce costs by using the independent support industry, you should be less enamored with cost-savings and seek out independent vendors that will help you balance acceptable risk-to-reward ratios with a genuine level of transparency. You see, it takes technical expertise AND transparency to help you get what you need.

Finding Technical Expertise; Revealing the Transparency Trait

Here are a few questions to help you find vendors with both technical expertise and transparency:

1. Will the field engineers assigned to my account be Level I or Level II engineers? Can you document their training on asset families in my environment? Would you provide a course synopsis for any platform family I request, and do so within 24 hours? Do these field engineers have regularly updated resumes/bios or a LinkedIn profile? Would you provide those to me within 24 hours of my request?

2. Can you document the Level III and Level IV coverage, with back-ups (for illness/vacation) for the geographies represented in my RFQ? Will you provide resumes/bios or LinkedIn profiles?

3. Would you permit our team an oral exam for any engineers you intend to designate for my site(s), before we sign an agreement? If any FE replacement were necessary for our site(s), would you permit our team to be included in second/third interviews – and be the final determining factor?

4. After I give you an asset list, what happens?

5. What kinds of experts are included in review of our asset list? What is their background?

6. Does your review of our proposed assets include direct consultation about the level of risk for each asset category or platform family? How does this work? What will we learn? How do you transfer that knowledge so we have that data in our asset management programs?

We directly correlate expertise and transparency with Service Quality. More of our competitors used to do the same, but are now diluting what had once been industry standards. If trust is to be earned, you must know what factors to observe and questions to ask. If grandma can’t climb into that Hummer, or see over the dashboard, she shouldn’t be sold one. No exceptions!


John “JK” Kolkmeier, Director, Global Service Delivery, SSCS

This year will be John’s 29th year with SSCS Global IT Services. A graduate of University of Houston, Clear Lake, most of John’s field service career has been with SSCS. Having several years of experience in direct field service and break/fix maintenance for multiple OEMs and platforms, John was promoted to Global Service Director eight years ago. All global field support and OEM subject matter expertise reports up to him.

In addition to his deep levels of interest in data center support best practices, John is an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, committed to non-profit groups dedicated to habitat protections and enhancement. He is also an avid fan of all sports, with a great appreciation for golf.