It's a critical element to MSP success.

Ken Presti

December 20, 2023

6 Min Read
Training and enablement
Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock

The tech industry has aggregated a huge collection of MSP-targeted materials that fall into the category of training and enablement. The initial challenge for managed service providers is in deciding how to select where to invest their time and other resources.

Training and enablement might be about things that are broken, or they might be about optimizing existing skills and practices, or, perhaps, developing new ones. The answers are rarely black and white, but here are some of the key considerations that should factor into your selections.

What Value Are You Bringing to Customers?

This might seem strikingly obvious, but don’t underestimate the value of re-examining the core of your company’s underpinnings — especially when you’re deciding where to spend money, time or other resources. Start from the mile-high perspective and then drill down into how that value is specifically delivered. This is the first step in connecting the dots between what is working well, and what should be working better than your current experience.

If you don’t have customer feedback operationalized, it’s time to start doing so. But in either event, the people who work most closely with your customers probably have a pretty good idea of where the gaps or opportunities might be. Training and enablement need to be about answering those objectives.

Related:2023 Channel Futures MSP 501: Download the Complete List of Winners

Exigent Technologies' Chris Jastrzebski

“Sometimes we bring on a customer that might have a request for something we don’t typically recommend,” said Chris Jastrzebski, director of services at Exigent Technologies, an MSP based in Morristown, New Jersey, and No. 391 on the 2023 Channel Futures MSP 501. “While we will try to move that client closer to our sweet spot, there are times when we can’t immediately do that, so we make the necessary changes, which usually translate to additional training and enablement. But we also keep a close eye on how the industry is changing. When we are aware of a shift in the overall landscape, we may need to cultivate new talents and skill sets as long as they align with our strategy.”

Such decisions ultimately come down to the value provided to your current customers, as well as to your likely customers of the future. This can be further complicated by how the actual value is measured.

“Revenue is probably the biggest driver, but I also think it’s a decision of how well it aligns with our customers’ needs and our value-add,” said Jastrzebski. “That’s not always visible through revenue numbers.”

TeamLogicIT's Dan Shapero

“There are a couple of ways to measure the value of the training,” observed Dan Shapero, president/COO of TeamLogicIT, Mission Viejo, California, No. 176 on the 2023 Channel Futures MSP 501. “Do people actually show up for the training? But more importantly, it’s about measuring the results in some meaningful fashion. Is there overall revenue growth? Or maybe you’re measuring category revenue growth, which can be especially helpful in strategy creation. Sometimes category growth is easier to measure.”

Take an Ecosystem-Based Approach

In addition to implementing and supporting individual products and services, your training and enablement need to address a full range of things that combine into the overall solution. It is therefore important to take an ecosystem approach.

“We like to have two or three different options to consider, or to recommend. It’s seldom the case that one size fits all,” said Shapero. “There are so many choices out there, and they don’t all necessarily work together in a coherent manner. If you make the wrong choices, you can end up with the ‘camel’ instead of the ‘racehorse.’”

MSPs are well advised to look to the relationships cultivated among complementary vendors. This is generally the first clue to which offerings have sufficient depth of interoperability to be worth incorporating into your ecosystem. In some cases, an MSP might have alternative preferences that may warrant testing by their own technical teams.

Consider the Value of Certifications to Your Target Market

Certification requirements vary by technology, market and geography. They may also be near the top-of-mind for your customers, so these should factor into your considerations, as well.

“Organizations choose to work with a managed services provider because of the expertise they offer and expect the individuals managing their IT environments to hold the proper certifications,” said Stacy Conrad, senior vice president of channel sales at TPx Communications. “As such, technology certifications are critical in delivering the greatest value to our customers and partners.”

Consider the Source

The number of variables in selecting your training and enablement strategy is eclipsed only by the variety of sources vying for your selection. Among the general categories:

  • Vendors have an obvious preference to deliver training that puts their product line at the center of the value proposition. The validity of that approach largely depends on the degree to which they truly belong at the center. Testing by the MSPs own technical teams is a good practice for validation.

  • Distributors have a wider degree of multivendor offerings at their disposal, but they also have alliances with specific companies with whom they hold contracts. Distributors will give you a “best-of” perspective, featuring the members of their own network, but whether they are recommending the best available option is an open question. Considering the positions of multiple distributors is a good idea.

  • Industry associations are often among the most agnostic. But many of these organizations are more focused on delivering their own home-grown certifications, or on attracting new entrants to the industry they serve.

How Will You Propagate the Training Through Your Organization?

Your plan should consider ways in which training can resonate through all the related roles in your company. Training one person, or even a few people, is rarely enough to reap the full benefit of the investment in time and resources. While this best practice will vary from company to company, building a cohesive strategy is critical to maintaining proper efficiency.

"We provide training and education for our tech services team and our salespeople as part of our overall agenda,” said Jastrzebski. "The selection is largely based on which team they are on, their role, their tenure, and the path of the overall training. In some cases, we’ll send a group to take in-person classes and then they come back and teach the rest of our team. In other cases, we’ll ask people to take a specific course and pass certification testing, and then we’ll do internal training and pass that along.”

MSPs get bombarded by a lot of offers to engage training and enablement. While those offers almost universally outstrip available bandwidth, a thoughtful strategy on where to engage those initiatives can go a long way toward building further success without an unreasonable outlay of time and resources.

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About the Author(s)

Ken Presti

Ken Presti is a technology industry veteran specializing in the use of high-value market research, reports and podcasts to help consultants, agents, service providers and vendors to more effectively help their business customers understand and evaluate Information Technologies (IT) strategies. He specializes in combining empirical data with information acquired through industry contacts to fully illustrate technology trends, business model evolution, likely outcomes, and strategies for success.

Ken also has extensive prior experience in news-talk radio, and has been featured on a variety of media outlets, including CBS Radio News and Reuters. He’s also been quoted in a variety of business publications, including Forbes.

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