The Conflict in the IT Services Channel: Third-Party Maintainers vs. Resellers

The Conflict in the IT Services Channel: Third-Party Maintainers vs. Resellers

November 1, 2023


The IT services channel is a dynamic and ever-evolving ecosystem where various players collaborate to deliver technology solutions to end-users. However, like any industry, conflicts and disruptions can arise, and one such conflict that has been brewing in recent years is the clash between Third-Party Maintainers (TPMs) and traditional IT resellers. TPMs are increasingly selling their services both to reseller partners and directly to end-users, leaving resellers feeling disgruntled and cut out of the equation. This article will explore the reasons behind this conflict, the implications for all parties involved, and potential solutions to bridge the gap.

The Rise of Third-Party Maintainers (TPMs)

Before delving into the conflict, it’s essential to understand who TPMs are and why they have become a significant force in the IT services channel. TPMs are third-party organisations that provide hardware and software maintenance services for IT equipment, covering various manufacturers. They offer cost-effective alternatives to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for maintaining and servicing IT infrastructure.

TPMs have gained popularity due to several factors, including:

  1. Cost Savings: TPMs typically offer maintenance services at a lower cost than OEMs, making them an attractive option for organisations looking to optimise their IT budgets.
  2. Flexibility: TPMs often provide more flexible service options, allowing customers to tailor maintenance plans to their specific needs.
  3. Wider Support: TPMs can often service a broader range of IT equipment from different manufacturers, providing a one-stop solution for multi-vendor environments.

The Conflict

The conflict in the IT services channel arises from TPMs expanding their reach beyond servicing their channel partners/resellers. Increasingly, TPMs are selling their maintenance services directly to end-users, cutting out the traditional IT resellers who have long acted as intermediaries between TPMs and customers. This shift has left resellers disgruntled and concerned about their future in the IT ecosystem.

Key issues contributing to the conflict:

  1. Bypassing Resellers: TPMs selling directly to end-users means resellers are no longer the primary conduit for connecting customers with maintenance services. Resellers lose out on the service revenue and customer relationship opportunities that maintenance contracts can offer.
  2. Price Wars: The competition between TPMs and OEMs for maintenance contracts can result in price wars, driving down the margins for resellers. With TPMs undercutting OEM prices, resellers find competing and maintaining profitability challenging.
  3. Margin Squeeze: Resellers often depend on the margins they earn from selling maintenance services. When TPMs enter the market directly, these margins get squeezed, putting pressure on reseller profitability.


The conflict between TPMs and resellers has significant implications for all parties involved:

  1. Resellers: Resellers face the risk of reduced revenue and profitability due to direct competition from TPMs. They must adapt their business models to remain competitive and provide additional value to customers.
  2. TPMs: Selling directly to end-users can lead to increased revenue, but it may also strain relationships with resellers/channel partners. TPMs need to balance their strategy to maintain positive industry relationships carefully.
  3. End-Users: On the positive side, end-users may benefit from more competitive pricing and a broader range of maintenance service providers. However, they must be cautious about the potential implications of direct dealings with TPMs, such as support and vendor lock-in issues.

Solutions and Recommendations

The conflict between TPMs and resellers does not have to be a zero-sum game. There are ways to address the issues and find common ground:

  1. Collaboration: TPMs and resellers can explore partnerships where they work together to offer bundled solutions. This can allow resellers to provide value-added services on top of TPM maintenance contracts.
  2. Differentiation: Resellers can focus on differentiating themselves by providing specialised, high-value services, such as IT consulting, integration, or managed services, to remain relevant to customers.
  3. Education: End-users should be informed about the potential challenges of dealing directly with TPMs, such as support issues or vendor lock-in. Resellers can play a role in educating their customers about the pros and cons of different maintenance service providers.


The IT industry is constantly changing and evolving, and all parties involved must work together to provide the best solutions for end-users while also sustaining their businesses. This requires flexibility and innovation to resolve conflicts and ensure a prosperous future for all stakeholders in the IT services channel. Some TPMs promote a ‘Channel Only’ philosophy, which is a constructive approach that protects IT resellers’ relationships with end-users and promotes healthy cooperation in the industry. By embracing this philosophy and working collaboratively, we can build a better IT ecosystem for everyone involved.