Saturday, July 07, 2012

How to Make Money in IT Consulting in 2012

How to Make Money in IT Consulting in 2012

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud

Last time, we talked about the changes in the IT business with regard to Microsoft. I won't repeat all that here. Let me just say that the future has arrived. I'm sure you've all heard the great quote from William Gibson: "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."

Well, guess what: The distribution has begun.

Many people emailed me, many agreeing with me and some saying I simply don't understand. The people who are most concerned about the death of SBS are the ones who say they've built their entire business around this product. They are truly SBS Consultants - not computer consultants, technology consultants, managed service providers, value added resellers, or even small business specialists. They are SBS Consultants.

I understand how this seems like a blow if you've built your business on a specific product. But the world is about to get much better. Let me explain.

First, RELAX. Almost nothing changed last week. Microsoft announced end of life for ONE product. The coolest, newest member of the SBS family has moved to the Server 2012 family. You can absolutely build your entire business model around Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Server 2012 Foundation.

(We have five chapters on building a business with these products and cloud services in the new version of The Network Migration Workbook. I also have two recorded seminars on cloud services that describe such business strategies at My point is: This business model is already in use by us and many other companies.)

The effect of eliminating this one product is primarily cost. Your clients will pay more if they really want Exchange Server in-house. All the other good, juicy features of SBS are really "nice to have" but not required. The primary argument I hear on this is about Remote Web Access. Today, almost no one really needs this feature. The handful who do can use a VPN, terminal services, LogMeIn, Chrome Remote Desktop Beta or 2,846 other tools designed to do this. Neither you nor Microsoft need to build a business model around the exception to the rule.

Second, your business is NOT built on SBS (2011, 2008, 2003, etc.). In your business, you probably do most of these things:

- Design networks
- Give technical advice (consulting)
- Install routers, firewalls, switches, and maybe even cabling
- Sell server hardware
- Sell desktops, laptops, tablets, and maybe phones and other devices
- Sell server operating systems . . . one of which is SBS
- Sell spam filtering, anti-virus, and anti-spyware products
- Sell printers
- Provide monthly maintenance of servers and other equipment
- Sell managed services
- Design, implement, and monitor backup solutions
- Provide disaster recovery
- Support line of business applications
- Sell and provide training on Office software and other software
- Troubleshoot (hardware, software, services)
- . . . and probably many other things as well!

So, again, the only thing that changed is that you can't sell one specific SKU. That SKU is not your business and never was.

You just need to sell something else.

Third, There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an I.T. Consultant!

We have amazing tools that allow one technician to service hundreds of machines. With PSA systems like Autotask and ConnectWise, and RMM tools like Continuum and Level Platforms, you can build a very profitable business at a very reasonable price!

You have awesome server choices (hardware and software). Plus you have great cloud-based options. In fact, you have too many choices, and that's great for consultants. If there were only one or two choices, the client would not need a consultant: He would only need a technician to install one of the choices. But with LOTS of choices, there's a good chance that the client will pick the wrong things.

Even if the client makes good choices, that doesn't mean they'll work well together. And it all needs to be backed up, documented, and protected. There are more regulations every year about data management. All of that takes knowledge and experience. And good advice.

There's a very basic equation you should remember in times of change:

FUD = $ 
Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt means profit!

Please believe me: When things are complicated, people are willing to pay for advice. You know this in your own life. When you look at a problem and it just seems like a big hassle, you are willing to open your wallet and hire someone to fix stuff. Your potential clients are the same way.

Hard reality: You have to be a good consultant. The years ahead will be tough. You need to sharpen your saw and keep your skills up to date. Only the excellent will survive - but you can choose to be one of the excellent.

Good technical consultants will make a lot of money in the next ten years. Technology is changing fast. If you dedicate yourself to keeping up, you will thrive. That's easier said than done, but that's the key to success in this field.

Which leads to . . .

Fourth, you have to become a cloud provider, aggregator, or reseller. 

You probably already are to some extent. Hosted spam filtering, hosted exchange mailboxes, hosted blackberry servers, hosted backup, hosted content filtering, and hosted disaster recovery are easy to deploy and you have lots of options.

You will deploy some or all of these. If you haven't already, then you need to start now. All of these take some training, some investigation, and maybe a little money. But this is your future. And it's already arrived. It's just not widely distributed yet!

Start here: If you want a free copy of my four-page Cloud Checklist, just send an email to [email protected]. An autoresponder will echo back with the info. It covers a long list of things to consider as you move clients and services to the cloud. It asks questions about product choices, maintenance, documentation, bandwidth, hardware, client procedures, and has a sample matrix to help you determine where to deploy 26 key functions of any network. And more.

Notice the copyright date: 2010. This is not something that just happened last week. You've known this was coming for years.

Stop messing around and get to work ON your business.

- - - - -

Executive Summary

- Almost nothing changed. SBS Standard is an amazing product whose life cycle will be complete next year.

- The Cloud has been here for awhile. It's not new.

- There are proven business strategies for building a business around Windows Server Essentials and Windows Server Foundation.

- Your business was never built on SBS. The retirement of one SKU will change almost nothing about the way you make money.

- This is a great time to be a technology consultant! We have options, options, options. And the market has confusion, which means money for consultants.

- You have to be good at what you do. If you have been barely getting by, it's time to step up your game. You can make lots of money, but you have to work for it.

- You will become a cloud consultant of some kind. In fact, you probably already are. You just haven't given yourself that label.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Please also see the following posts:
Microsoft Announced the End of SBS, Surprising Absolutely No One
My Two Cents on the Current Changes in the SMB IT Community

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:01 PM


    This post echo's my own thoughts very closely. One thing that you touched on - and I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned - is how we can now all follow best practices on separating Exchange from an AD server. The cost is higher; but as you mentioned if the customer wants on-premise exchange they will pay for it. The premium for hardware capable of running SBS (well) over running Win Foundations / Standard and putting Exchange in the cloud already pushed it up into a price bracket altogether different.

    Like all things in the technology world you continue to evolve yourself and your business or you and your business will cease to exist.



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