Here are several actions MSPs can take to help their SMB clients navigate uncertain supply chain waters.

Kaseya Guest Blogger

November 5, 2021

6 Min Read
supply chain
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For most of us, it started with toilet paper. In early spring 2020, still unaware of what was to come, our first tangible signs of the supply chain disruption accompanying the onset of a global pandemic came in the aisles of our supermarkets and big box stores. Toilet paper was flying off what quickly became empty shelves with no additional stock to replace it.

Forget getting your paws on hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol. Even flour and yeast were in short supply. Much of this was due to a shift in where the population ate, worked and, um, visited the facilities. Commercial sizes, packaging and logistics didn’t translate well to the home market, creating gluts over here and shortages over there.

But supply chain disruptions quickly spread to all sorts of industries. Used car prices spiked while partially built new cars collected dust waiting for semiconductors. Lumber costs took off as mills slowed down and DIY home improvement projects sped up. Wait times for sofas and gaming systems and a seemingly random array of goods increased significantly.

Our interconnected global economy built on just-in-time inventory strategies simply couldn’t handle the turmoil of a worldwide pandemic. More than 18 months later, we’re still feeling those shockwaves.

This impact presents an ongoing and very real challenge for MSPs and their clients.

IT’s Supply Chain Troubles

Sourcing any type of product from overseas is a crapshoot these days. Manufacturers are struggling with parts, labor and even electricity shortages in many Asian countries, each of which can add significant delays to fulfilling orders.

This is compounded by both exponentially more expensive shipping costs–per-container shipping rates from Asia have quintupled during the pandemic to more than $20,000 each–and major delays at Pacific ports, where ships often idle for days before they can unload their wares. And don’t forget that time a ship went sideways and shut down the Suez Canal for days.

Add that all up and items that used to show up reliably in a couple of weeks might now take a few months or more, while domestic inventories are depleted in the interim. It’s simply no longer a safe bet that anything manufactured overseas–or relying on parts made overseas–will be in stock now or anytime soon.

Since the bulk of technology hardware is made in Asia or relies on components produced overseas, technology purchasing is also in chaos. Getting laptops, servers and other equipment can take much longer and cost more. This was exacerbated after runs on computers, gaming systems, and other consumer technology early in the pandemic when everyone suddenly started working from home and 6-year-olds unexpectedly needed their own Chromebooks or iPads to access online school.

For businesses, these disruptions impact both productivity and the bottom line. As their partner, MSPs can play a proactive role in helping mitigate supply chain impacts on their customers.

Four Steps to Smoothing Supply Chain Disruptions

MSPs can’t fix what’s happening in ports and factories around the world, but they’re not helpless either. Here are several actions MSPs can take to help their SMB clients navigate these uncertain waters.

  1. Conduct a thorough IT inventory audit.

MSPs already have a good idea of the hardware SMB customers use, thanks to RMM, but they can go a bit further than simply adding up the number of endpoints. First, they can compile a list of every piece of hardware that ever connects to the corporate network. This gives them a baseline of what’s in use.

Next, they can create reports documenting how much that equipment actually gets used. This might identify some hardware that’s barely utilized and could be repurposed for other things.

Finally, a physical search of the premises may uncover unconfigured equipment that isn’t on the network at all. This could be older hardware that was never recycled or brand-new equipment still in the box hidden away in a supply closet, either of which could be thrust into action if needed. Given the sudden shift to remote work last year, it’s also possible some equipment “migrated” to home offices through unofficial channels. Click on Page 2 to continue reading…

  1. Facilitate a needs assessment forecast.

Planning ahead for IT needs may not be at the top of an SMB’s to-do list, but, given how long it takes to procure some hardware these days, it could pay significant dividends to do so this year.

This session should cover:

  • Expected increases (or decreases) in headcount and what type of personal computing equipment those hires will need

  • Anticipated changes in workspaces, be it opening new offices, closing branches or consolidating into fewer locations, as each one will have dedicated hardware onsite to support that particular facility

  • Forecasted changes in server-side computing needs or data storage based on growth or new product lines and services

  1. Create a forward-looking sourcing strategy.

Now you can compare what’s available in-house with what the business likely needs. MSPs can initially help SMBs maximize utilization of what’s on hand, repurposing idle equipment and consolidating when possible.

MSPs can also help customers order any additional needed equipment, taking long lead times into account to ensure it’s ready when needed. As a relatively impartial third-party, MSPs can make a case for the urgency of anticipatory procurement that internal stakeholders might be less excited to pursue.

  1. Accelerate the shift to the cloud.

Customers dragging their feet on cloud computing could be convinced to flip the switch sooner when they realize how much longer and more expensive it will be to acquire new hardware for their on-premises systems.

Leveraging the cloud provides SMBs with many benefits, but in this context MSPs can focus on a few areas. Obviously, shifting systems and processes to the cloud removes the need to acquire, maintain and host that hardware locally. With the increased costs accompanying supply chain shortages, the ROI for migrating to the cloud may be better than before.

Using cloud-based computing also protects SMBs from disruptions or delays if they need to add more processing power, bandwidth or storage capacity since they won’t have to deal with the hardware side of things at all.

This shift also frees up companies to reallocate or reduce their physical footprint, which supports increasing remote work options for IT staff and expands the hiring pool since those workers no longer must be in a specific location. Given the tight job market, this could help them grow and upgrade their own workforce.

Strengthening Relationships by Adding Value

Helping customers deal with supply chain slowdowns and their repercussions is another example of the extra assistance MSPs can provide using their subject matter expertise. This strengthens the bond between MSPs and their clients, advancing an MSP’s role as a trusted advisor.

It will continue to be a tumultuous time for businesses of all shapes and sizes–this pandemic may end, but other disruptions will surely follow–and they’re going to need all the guidance they can get. Demonstrate your worth by helping them navigate this crisis by assessing and anticipating their needs. Be a trusted advisor so your customers can focus on their core business functions.

And maybe stock up on some more toilet paper …  just to be on the safe side.

Dan Tomaszewski is SVP of Channel & Community, Kaseya.

This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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