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Using too many platforms complicates things, so it pays to standardize on a core set of tools, says N-able.
April 26, 2021
By David Weeks
N-able’s David Weeks
If you’re looking to scale your MSP practice, process is your friend. By standardizing as much of your operations as possible, you help ensure your business will benefit from improved productivity, higher margins, lower costs and a better user experience.
Standardization consists of implementing repeatable processes for various functions across the business to ensure consistency and quality. When looking to standardize, MSPs should address these areas:
Managed services require tools for service delivery. Using too many platforms complicates things, so it pays to standardize on a core set of tools. Engineers focused on a single platform are more efficient and knowledgeable than if they constantly switched between different dashboards. Using multiple platforms also means a bigger staff — because not all engineers can learn all platforms.
Of course, some level of customization is unavoidable. Some customers prefer to reset their passwords, while others leave it up to you. Some customers may require shorter times on the phone with a Level 1 technician before an issue is escalated. These are details you work out in an SLA, but most of what you do for customers should be standard.
A successful business relies on well-defined, automated processes. Standardizing and automating functions, such as billing, patch management and onboarding drives efficiency and consistency. These are proactive functions that are easy to automate.
You can also standardize some reactive functions. For instance, if you have a proper process around documentation, you can set up the help desk to immediately manage issues that a Level 2 engineer would typically handle. These types of actions should all be documented and easy to follow so the help desk staff knows exactly what to do, and when. This allows you to drive better MTTR (mean time to resolution) through lower cost resources. Without a documentation management system, technicians can waste valuable time searching for information.
When standardizing processes, however, try to avoid the pitfall of attempting to standardize everything, including functions that require savvy and instinct, such as pursuing leads and holding introductive sales meetings. You need to be careful to not over-rotate on your work to drive standardization; you can end up spending too much time and cost vs. the real benefit derived from the work. Managing these changes in particular areas until the benefit is visible is an easy way to avoid this.
Where it touches people, standardization starts with training. It’s important that your staff gets the necessary instruction to follow the processes and standards you put in place. Employees need to be trained on the tools and practices you use, so they get the requisite knowledge and skill sets to succeed in their jobs. Without this, you run the risk of a team of “generalists.”
When everyone works off the same page, it’s easier to manage staff utilization and assign specific tasks to teams and individuals. Staff standardization helps mitigate internal risk and strengthen the company’s security posture by ensuring everyone is performing tasks the same way. This also helps create elasticity and scalability as the business evolves.
Optimization comes down to the outcome of your standardization efforts. With standardization, you’re creating efficiencies across staff practices and business and technology functions. You streamline processes and collect data to check metrics and make improvements where necessary. This helps lead to accountability for the staff and, ultimately, drives productivity and profitability for the business.
Standardization is critical to a well-run business, but remember, it isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it deal. It requires commitment and discipline. After a business implements standardized processes, it’s easy for staff to fall back on old habits because they may prefer to work that way. But if you allow that, it becomes much harder to derive the benefits of standardization.
When it comes to training staff on standardized processes, you should also make the case for why they’re important, so employees buy into the strategy. With everyone working together toward standardization, your business is more likely to succeed. In fact, at N-able, our top-performing MSP partners are more often those who have standardized their business – establishing a solutions stack and a set of services that can scale to meet a customer’s growing business needs – while keeping them securely managed.
David Weeks is senior director, partner experience at N-able. N-able empowers managed service providers to help small and medium enterprises navigate the digital evolution. You can follow David on LinkedIn.
Read more about:MSPs
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