When I want to learn about a business topic, I always try to get the scoop from people who are battling it out in the trenches. Real-world success trumps the white board gurus any day. So, for this blog post, I'm culling business insights, sales advice and cloud strategies from three MSP All-Stars. Here's their guidance.
First, let's look at the experts:
- Jason Caras, CEO, IT Authorities
- Tim Hebert, CEO, Atrion Networking Corporation
- Oli Thordarson, CEO, Alvaka Networks
The three experts covered:
- First, how can MSPs work with business unit managers at their clients to ensure that delivered managed services align with strategic objectives?
- Second, how do service providers make sure they deliver and demonstrate value to these key decision makers every day? How can you stay relevant after the sale?
- Third, given the explosion in cloud services adoption, how do service providers gain the ability to monitor, manage, and report on both more traditional, on-premise systems as well as external cloud-based services?
Best PracticesHere are a few takeaways I’m keeping front of mind:
MSP Execs – Look in the Mirror and Commit
Transforming from a VAR to service provider model is non-trivial and everyone needs to make a commitment to that change. And that commitment starts at the very top. While selling services undoubtedly is very different (difficult) than selling boxes, the first key is to make sure everyone understands that the VAR to MSP move is an immovable strategic direction – no going back.
As Oli Thordarson said, “I know that everybody’s pressured to make payroll the next week, even while you’re changing your business model, but boy, you’d better not waiver on your commitment in your business model change or your team is going to see it for just another failed effort, that the business model is just the theme d’ jour.”
“You do have to assess your team—you might have to make some staffing changes because some people just won’t make it—but start with yourself if you’re on the management team.”
Portals Good – People Better
There was a lot of discussion covered about service delivery portals, and how they can be a vital tool in delivering and demonstrating business value to customers. However, one thing seasoned services providers will not lose sight of is that the service delivery portal, while important, cannot replace direct personal contact.
As Tim Hebert said, “It’s about building a long term personal relationship with our clients. So, no matter how great the portal would be, we would still insist upon having regular meetings with our clients. There’s a potential for customers to lose sight of value, I think, when you start pushing everything to a portal, which can make the service more of a commodity, and easier to displace. On the other hand, it’s hard to break up personal relationships, and I think that you still have to invest time in that relationship, no matter how good the portal is.”
Onboard the Cloud
There is no denying the business opportunity the cloud presents to service providers today. What struck me in the discussion was that the leading service providers on our panel were all involved in the cloud - now. No laggards. Their cloud investments ranged across the spectrum—from a very gradual evolution of existing service types to investing in an entirely new, cloud-based infrastructure.
Many service providers are monetizing the cloud opportunity by monitoring and managing third party public cloud instances for customers. This is not much different from the legacy managed services they have provided for years – keeping network, servers and storage online for customer’s critical systems. After all, a cloud instance is not much more than a bundle of network, server and storage capacity. Real world example: a service provider is monitoring a client’s response times of their Salesforce.com instance and monitoring end-to-end response of their cloud based email system.
More revolutionary than evolutionary, service providers like IT Authorities are “all in” with major investments in their own cloud-based infrastructure. As Jason Caras explained, “While it is not an inexpensive endeavor, it is a highly profitable one. We’ve been met with an incredible reception; customers are very open to moving to the cloud environment. This is going to be a huge push for us in 2010.”
Collaboration is the Key
When you gather seasoned service provider executives, folks who’ve been in business for decades, get ready for serious knowledge share - both practical and strategic. Many thanks to the panelists for the great advisory, and to all the attendees who listened providing such great questions and feedback. Again, if you missed it, be sure to view the replay.
If you did attend the live event or the replay, let me know your thoughts. Any tips or anecdotes to share on the webcast topics? Any topics you’d like to see covered in future webcasts? Keep the dialogue alive by commenting below.
Phil LaForge is VP and GM, service providers at Nimsoft. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship. Read all of Nimsoft's guest blogs here.