April 1, 2021
By Hunter Willis
According to a recent McKinsey study, the pandemic advanced the digitization of internal operations by three to four years. And as we saw last March, many businesses were able to adapt so quickly because of the help of managed service providers handling digital transformation and migration efforts.
But as more organizations complete their cloud transitions, MSPs need to take stock of future revenue opportunities to continue the type of growth they’ve seen this year.
The good news for MSPs (and for those who like working from home) is that the distributed, digital workforce is here to stay. In fact, nearly a quarter of businesses have already suggested they will be remote for the next five years, meaning that the MSP market, which today relies primarily on selling and reselling software, has the potential to continue to scale and grow.
MSPs can also take to heart that, despite millions of dollars in advertising that would say otherwise, life in the cloud isn’t a worry-free nirvana. In fact, depending on how quickly and diligently organizations accelerated their digital transformations during the height of work-from-home orders, there may be quite the mess to clean up.
Here are some recommendations for how MSPs can charter an effective path forward, given all that has transpired in the last year.
Move Quickly, But Don’t Hurry
MSPs would be wise to heed the advice “Be quick, but don’t hurry,” from Coach John Wooden, who led his UCLA Bruins to 10 national championships (seven in a row) over 12 years, was named national coach of the year six times and taught far more than basketball skills.
Organizations moved to the cloud at a rapid pace as they struggled to accommodate staff suddenly working remotely. For example, Microsoft Teams added more than 75 million daily active users since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now clients want to maximize their investments and use all the services collaboration platforms such as Microsoft 365 have to offer. As the IT professional, you know that it’s never as simple as just rolling the ball out and letting the team figure it out on the court. Before a service can be used effectively, you must think through security, backup, compliance and other critical items. The customer might not anticipate these issues, but they expect you to do the heavy lifting.
Find the right pace so you’re leveraging partners and solutions that enable your customers to adopt quickly, but don’t compromise by being in a hurry and leaving key workloads unsupported or out of compliance.
Focus on Differentiators and Services
There’s no denying the fierce competition within the MSP market. Ask yourself: what makes your services stand out and who is your ideal customer?
For example, Microsoft has become the platform of choice within the digital collaboration space. Earning and highlighting industry credentials and certifications which show your expertise within the ecosystem can be an advantage. Even still, there are plenty of MSPs proficient in all things Microsoft. You have to dig deeper and find your niche within the already very niche MSP industry. Suppose you just earned a unique data privacy certification or you …
… have a proven track record with the customer testimonials to back it up? Flaunt those differentiators to gain market share.
Another way to differentiate from competitors when you’re reselling solutions from the same marketplace is to develop your service offerings. Today, many MSPs have evolved beyond the model of selling highly specific, singular services. The reasoning is simple: the more services you provide, the harder it is for your customers to cut ties.
But more importantly, when MSPs become an integral part of their customers’ operations, there is a massive opportunity to shape overall IT strategy and provide helpful counsel. For example, more than three quarters of IT leaders reported more frequent cyberattacks in 2020. But at the same time, a decrease in IT headcount, if there existed any department at all, left many companies ill-equipped to cope. There is a market and demand for securing companies’ data, end-points and collaboration platforms.
Don’t Accept Less Than What You Promise Customers
The MSP promise to customers is that of an exceptional service experience without headaches. In fact, many of the leading MSPs will win more business on the quality of relationships and support they provide. This is especially true as more and more MSPs re-sell the same cloud-based software.
Even though MSPs set a high bar for their customers, way too many accept subpar support from technology vendors. As a result, you’re left with inefficient operations — whether a laborious user experience or a nonexistent customer success team — that can only impede your ability to deliver on that customer commitment. You should know that your technology partners are there to help, that they’re in your corner. When you as the MSP are supported internally, you can better service your customers externally.
Cover Your SaaS
As the cloud has lowered the barrier to innovation, the number of independent software vendors (ISVs) has grown to 175,000.That is incredibly overwhelming for any SMB, or even MSP, to decide which technology is right for them.
MSPs need to be doing research upfront and taking the guesswork out of the process. The more you can predict market trends and act as a strategic partner to your customers, the more they will trust you to grow with them as their needs within the digital ecosystem evolve.
Ultimately, today’s hyper-competitive industry provides a unique challenge for MSPs. But I believe there is an even greater opportunity so long as MPS capitalize on the moment. The time is now to focus on highlighting and increasing your competitive advantages to create long-term and durable growth.
Hunter R. Willis is a product marketing manager at AvePoint and the president of the Richmond SharePoint User Group, MSCA O365. He has been in web development, SEO and social media marketing for over a decade, and involved with SharePoint since 2016. Willis has developed internal collaboration sites, provided technical and strategic advice, and managed solutions for small to large organizations. He also has served as a strategy consultant for companies and nonprofits in the Richmond area. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @AvePoint on Twitter.
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