MSPs Must Be the Engine Driving SMB Digital Transformation
When it comes to small and midsize businesses, MSPs and IT service providers play a critical role in making digital transformation a reality. For many SMBs, managing IT resources is rightly seen a distraction from their core businesses, shifting focus from the needs of their customers.
With that outlook, there’s no way they’re keeping up on the latest trends, and they can’t connect the dots between a new technology and a solved business problem. That makes this market segment a perfect fit for MSPs, which are always looking at how technology is evolving, enabling them to make strategic recommendations to accommodate changing client business needs and expectations.
Take our partner, Abby Warner, chief operating officer at The Brookfield Group. Brookfield essentially serves as the chief information officer for a wide range of SMBs, from manufacturing, construction and transportation to professional services. In nearly every instance, Warner finds her clients expect their IT tools, applications and data will be available “anywhere and anytime,” and for them to be up and running around the clock all while providing seamless, secure cross-platform support. Most of her clients are having their businesses reshaped as tech-savvy millennials climb up the professional ladder and take on growing management responsibilities.
Small companies have to shift their business models to embrace digital transformation not only to serve their end customers, but to attract and retain quality employees in a competitive labor market.
“For manufacturing, for example, within their offices, our customers are adjusting their business processes as their workforce changes drastically,” Warner told me. “They are shifting to remain competitive from a hiring and business-sustainability standpoint. On the customer-facing side of their business, they are losing the option of having older or basic desktop computers in fixed offices. It’s really about equipping their employees with the latest technology like laptops, tablets and handheld devices that come with a high level of mobility and accessibility, which is what they have always had in their personal lives and now expect in their workplace environment.”
She described a specific need of a construction client. To help their surveyors communicate the information they were collecting in the field back to the architects and accounting teams and over to installation teams, Brookfield implemented the use of iPads for taking on-site photographs and collecting site information. Instant access to data allows the client to easily manage the information in coordination with other parts of the business. The result: far greater project speed efficiency, cost-savings and happier team members.
While MSPs are very focused on technology, they typically see lots of business needs that have been solved with technology solutions, and like Warner, can bring that breadth of knowledge to their clients.
An example of this breadth of knowledge making an impact is how MSPs minimize downtime for SMB customers. While not a vertical-specific solution, a core MSP competency is ensuring business continuity by thwarting attackers and addressing threats such as ransomware. If the worst happens, you can quickly get operations back online after system disruptions.
It’s more important for SMBs to focus on core operations, including customer acquisition and retention, supply chains and project management. This is where outsourcing to an MSP can be the right way to go.
For Brookfield, my company, Autotask (now Datto) provided technical solutions with a key goal of simplifying business process to take out costs, add efficiency and free Warner’s team to spend more consultative time with clients to understand their businesses and evolving technology needs, including data backup and security. That’s key for any MSP.
If you’re not having success in the SMB market, I recommend using business continuity as a foot in the door. It’s a critical need for every SMB, and a huge opportunity for MSPs and ITSPs, especially when it’s offered as part of a total data-protection bundle, including ongoing system maintenance and patching to minimize vulnerabilities, onsite endpoint backup, redundant systems, SaaS protection with cloud-to-cloud backup and managed networking. Consider using one of the downtime calculator tools available to show the consequences of your company undergoing a cyberattack, or otherwise losing access to critical business systems from natural disasters or human error. In recent discussions with two clients, Warner was able to show the potential negative impact of a ransomware infection, both from a financial standpoint and in terms of how long the business would not be able to access critical systems. One client reacted by saying: “Wow, that would take me out of business in two days.”
The bottom line: The evolution of digital and other IT tools has added a dynamic new and evolving element that will continue to create opportunities for MSPs and move SMBs forward. But MSPs must have an obsession with finding and applying the best possible technology to solve client business needs and wants – increasingly digital – so they can focus on growing their businesses and providing the best service to their clients. Are you ready?
Len DiCostanzo is one of the most widely recognized figures in the IT industry with more than 25 years’ experience in the channel. He joined Autotask in 2008. Len develops and nurtures Autotask’s strategic industry alliances around the world. He also works tirelessly to ensure the continued success of Autotask’s global client base by developing and delivering business building and product education content via live and on demand webinars, events and other digital media. Before Autotask, Len was founder and CEO of a business technology solution provider that was one of the first to develop a managed services practice, generating recurring revenue by delivering scheduled and consistent IT services to clients in support of business operations.