The Evolving MSP

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What's Going On at CompTIA?

Longtime readers of The Evolving MSP will remember that I spent considerable time (and love, blood, sweat and tears) with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). The IAMCP's biggest challenge was the fact that it's an all-volunteer organization; everybody there also had a full-time job in a company in our very, very busy channel.

CompTIA was a different story. I also have history with CompTIA, first joining in the Dark Ages when it was still called the Association of Better Computer Dealers (yes, the ABCD). While I turned my attention to IAMCP, ABCD grew up and became the CompTIA, hired an executive director and built a staff that, over the years, became larger and larger. CompTIA delivered extraordinary value to the channel in the form of curricula and training syllabi used to certify our technicians and engineers -- so extraordinary that organizations like the U.S. Department of Defense require the CompTIA Network+ certification of anyone applying for work there.

As the Channel Evolved, Did CompTIA?
In 2017, we changed the name of this column from "The Changing Channel" to "The Evolving MSP." By then, the channel had gotten far enough along in its transition that we could accurately say that it had changed. In fact, I've suggested that there's now a new "techchannel" that no longer describes a process that moves products from manufacturer to distribution to reseller to customer, but rather a services community that delivers high-value technology services to customers. Products have become an enabler and their manufacturers a support resource.

A high-ranking executive at CompTIA once explained to me that CompTIA is a "trade association." This spoke volumes to me regarding its priorities. Read: vendors.

As a result, to this day, CompTIA continues to provide a platform for vendors to gain access to its members. It also provides validation, resources and funding. As such, I maintain that CompTIA is an association of resellers, not necessarily service providers -- and managed service providers (MSPs), the tip of the spear of our industry, are underserved by it.

But Wait! There's Less
In July 2023, CompTIA added a chief revenue officer. This struck me as odd: How does a nonprofit association require a chief revenue officer? The job boards didn't have many associations seeking CROs, but I thought, "Well, the revenue has certainly helped grow the association, so it's probably a good thing."

Word on the street, however, was that several senior-ranking vice presidents have suddenly been terminated at CompTIA, all of whom were central to CompTIA's core purpose of bringing quality and value to the industry. While none could be characterized as being directly revenue-producing, all produced the kind of value that attracts more members to the association. And members bring strength, a louder voice in industry and more revenue.

Even the staff people I talk with at CompTIA seem different. Where once they seemed inspired and mission-driven, today they are fulfilling a function. Doing a job.

My impression is that the sudden reduction in force will reduce the value CompTIA brings to growing the community, erode the support for those who wish to enter it, more thoroughly mute the voice of the channel community and continue the march of CompTIA becoming more of a business and less of an association.

My 'Guessessment'
What follows is not based on any direct knowledge nor on input from any of the directors or executives at CompTIA. Rather, it's based on an evaluation of the currently available facts.

When does an organization increase focus on revenue generation and cut payroll from the top down? When it's looking to sell the organization. Personally, I have no idea how a nonprofit corporation can be sold to a for-profit one, and I have no idea what happens to the members, nor who actually makes money when and if this happens. However, I do know there are people who know these things, and I suspect they have a plan.

As someone who highly values the communities that serve our channel, it saddens me to think that CompTIA will never evolve into the organization I saw it becoming -- one that truly supports the fine, professional service providers our community members have evolved into. Certainly, CompTIA has created assets that are highly valuable and will continue to benefit all of us for years to come -- no matter what. We've also recently seen the growth of the ASCII Group, the absolutely explosive growth of organizations that support the growth of the role of women in technology, and new groups focused on the professional service providers we keep spawning, like the National Association of IT Service Providers (NSITSP). Clearly, there are many who recognize exactly what our community needs and are striving to provide it. But it looks like the long wait for CompTIA to move more purposefully in that direction will ultimately be for naught.

My guess is that some large learning center company will benefit most from acquiring the extensive educational assets and processes of CompTIA. Keep your eyes peeled. If we see CompTIA somehow working to shed members, it will quickly become apparent what is actually happening there.

I'm hoping some of the heroes who serve on the board will reply to this and tell me just how wrong I am.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on March 25, 2024