MSPs: Time for a Chief Innovation Officer?

MSPs: Time for a Chief Innovation Officer?

Let's start with the good news: The basic managed services model is working. It's hard to argue with customer automation, proactive services and remote administration for a specific monthly fee. But as some managed services potentially get commoditized, who within your company is in charge of innovation? Which person is most responsible for finding or developing automated solutions that solve customers' business problems?

Within many small MSPs, CEOs serve as chief innovation officers. They spot emerging IT waves while most folks are still focused on yesterday's news -- and yesteryear's IT services. However, running a business and developing new IT services is a tricky balancing act. The larger your business gets the more bogged down you can get in day-to-day bureaucracy.

With that concern in mind, I'm starting to hear from a few CEOs who are transitioning away from their day-to-day business responsibilities, rolling up their sleeves and focusing entirely on innovation. Fingers crossed, I may have some examples to share within the next few weeks.

I realize small MSPs can't necessarily afford a dedicated CEO and a dedicated chief information officer or CTO (chief technology officer). But somewhere within your company you do need someone who is responsible for bringing next-generation managed services to market.

One Pipe, Multiple Services

I've often stated that the MSP market is a bit like the cable industry. When cable companies got started they focused on delivering fantastic picture quality. Then they delivered paid content (example: HBO), broadband, VoIP, movies on demand, and the list goes on. Each time a basic service became a commodity the cable provider had already introduced a new service.

Similarly, MSPs have a broadband connection into their customer networks. If basic monitoring services become a commodity, the customer connection still allows you to take inventory of customer networks -- potentially identifying new services you can remotely deliver through the pipeline.

The questions:
  1. Who within your company is responsible for spotting those emerging opportunities and then developing a service to fulfill the customer need?
  2. What steps are you taking to introduce at least one new managed service per quarter in 2011. That's four opportunities to upsell and cross-sell your existing customer base before you even start the hunt for new customers.
Execute on those two questions/missions and I suspect you're still ahead of the growing managed service pack.

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