MSP 501 Profile: Fidelis Says It's All About Process

This week in our ongoing series of MSP 501 winner profiles, we shine a spotlight on No. 303, Fidelis Inc.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

July 12, 2019

5 Min Read
Process improvement
Increasingly, the lines between operations, finance and IT are blurring. Just like MSPs are continuously being tasked to do more with the same resources, CIOs too are expected to work minor operational efficiency miracles every day. They need to increase productivity among the workforce, find more cost-effective ways to execute core processes and still be able to adopt and implement new applications like advanced analytics or customer-facing AI platforms. It’s a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul, over and over again. The pressure extends into the very IT infrastructure on which businesses run. Managed service provider Blue Line Technologies is trying to help its customers grapple with a very simple but sometimes-expensive issue: getting customers off Windows 7 before Microsoft ends its support of the OS in 2020. “If [customers] have older computers, it is almost impossible for a small business of 20-25 users to absorb the costs of replacing 20+ computers all at once. We are helping them plan now by replacing two to three devices per quarter with a new Windows 10 machine,” says Jeff Sagraves, president of Blue Line. “It spreads out the costs and also shows the client that we are helping them plan for the future and not just reacting to outages.”Shutterstock

Company Name:  Fidelis Inc.
Company MSP 501 Rank: 303
CTO: Paul Zimmerman
Headquartered: Tukwila, WA
Primary Services:

Twitter: @FidelisInc

A few years ago, the urgent business transformation du jour was the switch to monthly recurring revenue (MRR). Recently, a new strategic imperative has been sweeping the channel conversation: operational efficiency.

That’s certainly been the case for Fidelis Inc. As demands from customers continued to grow, the MSP knew it had to implement internal processes and procedures in order to scale up its managed service practice.


Fidelis’ Paul Zimmerman

“We’ve been systematizing our implementation and operations, creating standard operating procedures, internal training videos [and so on],” says Paul Zimmerman, CTO at Fidelis. “Focusing on consistent practices allows us to move faster, avoid mistakes, learn from our mistakes and adjust in the future.”

Zimmerman says the company’s staff likes knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. A big added benefit? When their peers are involved with a project, they know they’ll be able to step in during or after the fact and understand how things are configured, where to find documentation and so forth. In short, they can be more effective and provide better service to Fidelis clients.

But the improvements don’t stop with in-house processes.

Go here for access to the 2019 MSP 501, the world’s most comprehensive ranking of managed service providers.

“We also have strategic partnerships with vendors and use their staff as an extension of ours when possible — for example, our help desk and NOC partner can perform small projects for us, perform after-hours maintenance on systems [and so on],” says Zimmerman. “This allows us to have a smaller internal staff, but to serve more customers at a higher level of quality than we would be able to do if we were trying to do everything ourselves internally.”

Here, Zimmeran talks with Channel Futures about the challenges facing his MSP business and how Fidelis uses its unique assets to rise above the competition.

Channel Futures: It’s such a crowded market, and sometimes it seems like every MSP uses similar products and offers such similar services that it’s hard to stand out. How does Fidelis approach the competitive differentiation problem?

Paul Zimmerman: Many of our competitors can’t install a rack, run cabling for a wireless access point, tone and test a cable, or install, configure and install a phone system. Being able to provide more than just IT support, we can work with clients at a deeper level.

For example, when a client outgrew its existing building, we were able to help design the low-voltage cabling and server room for their new building in addition to the typical coordination that would be required during a move. We installed all of the data and voice cabling, server racks and so on. We coordinated with vendors such as the ISP, voice circuit provider, alarm/access control system vendor, meeting room AV vendor, and security camera vendor for the successful install and migration of services from one location to the other. During the actual move, our crew came in and moved all of their server and network equipment, and hooked up and tested all the computers and phones in the new location.

Without having the expertise on the voice and cabling side of our business, we wouldn’t have played as big of a part, and the move would not have been as smooth.

CF: We all know that managed security is the cash cow of the future, but it can be hard for an MSP to develop a true MSSP program. How is Fidelis approaching that evolution?

PZ: Managed services is a great start, allowing [customers] to have patches that are kept up to date, systems monitored, and endpoint protection monitored and kept up to date. We consider this the baseline. The next step is a more proactive approach to reducing the risk event further.

We’ve been investing in developing client security training for senior-level management to educate …

… our clients’ leaders about the types of risks they are facing. We have also partnered with vendors that provide managed security training services such as employee security training, example processes and procedures, outside risk assessment, weekly security microtrainings, phishing email campaigns to test employees and so on. There’s still a lot more we’re working on and figuring out, but we see a need for more holistic approaches to security and risk management for our clients.

CF: Fidelis is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB). How does that impact its approach to doing business?

PZ: We have many veterans on our staff. In general, veterans have a strong work ethic and are willing to “do the right thing” even if it isn’t the “convenient” thing to do. They understand the importance of loyalty, showing up on time, taking responsibility seriously, knowing the value of the team, understanding the importance of organization, and not giving up.

Additionally, by having a strong number of veterans, we tend to attract more veterans in a virtuous cycle. We participate in the HIRE Vets Medallion Program which recognizes employers who recruit, retain and employ veterans. By actively working to promote our business as friendly to veterans, it helps us recruit new employees who are veterans themselves.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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