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Adapting to the 'New Normal': Focus on Value-Add

MSPs must help customers reshape business for today's realities and set priorities for maximum impact.

August 4, 2020

6 Min Read
New normal
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By Brad Schow

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Adapting to the “new normal” is crucial for MSPs as COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty in markets, worldwide. MSPs are evaluating how to adapt and evolve their business models. Having weathered the day-to-day practicalities of the initial crisis, the focus now turns to preserving strength while growing the business.

Managed service providers should focus their efforts in four key areas. Doing this can help them stabilize the business and optimize their operations. They’ll also have the ability to gather resources to identify and maximize potential opportunities.

Understanding the financial health of the business is critical, and in doing so, will help the leadership team identify what needs to be accomplished in the coming months. Maintaining the strength of the balance sheet goes beyond calculating how factors such as customer churn or the potential prolongation of payment terms may affect revenue. It also depends on reshaping the business for today’s realities and prioritizing activities that generate maximum impact. Adapting to the new normal means doing things differently or rethinking how you’ve been doing them.

Get Going with Digital Transformation

For MSPs that failed to complete a digital transformation in recent years, the current pandemic has served as a major wake-up call. Enabling a remote workforce is the No. 1 priority for ensuring productivity in today’s climate.

Implementing the resources that a distributed workforce will need to connect, communicate and collaborate is the first order of action. After doing so, MSPs should equip themselves to offer the remote workforce solutions customers are looking for.

The current crisis has demonstrated the importance of having the right tools in place to maintain business continuity. If nothing else, the pandemic is driving companies of all sizes to expedite their digitalization plans and reconsider how their employees will work for the long term.

For MSPs, this presents an opportunity to have applications cloud-enabled and offer customers a digital transformation plan tailored to their exact business needs.

Cybersecurity Knowledge Is Crucial

Enterprise security and data governance are of utmost importance with the rapid shift to distributed working models. Prior to the pandemic, most MSPs were focused on the tools side of the security conversation. However, the post-coronavirus world of work has created an opportunity for MSPs to help customers establish education and policies for securing operations and maintaining compliance.
MSPs must become well-versed in cybersecurity to continue their role as a trusted adviser to clients. It’s particularly important to understand how the secure perimeter is dissolving and how cyber threats are increasing.

Cybersecurity isn’t just about technology alone — it also encompasses people and best-practice processes. With customer workforces gradually becoming more remote, and in many cases permanently remote, improving their security posture is ever more important. As endpoints increase, so do potential vulnerabilities and risks.

MSPs will need to adopt a holistic solution approach to help customers transcend these security challenges. The approach should focus on informing customers of the potential risks that need to be addressed as well as …

… security best practices to protect their data and keep employees safe.

Managing Cash Flow

The speed and scale of the recent public health crisis has put a strain on all global markets. For MSPs, the pressure to preserve cash and gain visibility of the company’s daily financial position is high. MSPs will need to shed operational expenses, determine cash flow burn rates, and make it easy to get paid. This can help avoid structural failure.

Optimize financial processes by leveraging automation to deliver accurate and up-to-date information of current finances. Streamlining customer billing processes will also help to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Similarly, encouraging customers to sign up for automatic payment plans will help reduce accounts-receivable delays.

With this information, MSPs can refocus available resources on converting new revenue streams and determining where the long-term opportunities lie. It will be important to set up tools that accurately measure resource utilization and optimize sales processes and service delivery.

The MSPs that are able to shed unnecessary operational expenses and determine where inefficiencies can be eliminated will be best positioned to redirect their savings toward growing their business.

Strengthening Customer Relationships

In reality, customers will be looking to cut expenses where they can. Because of this, it’s essential for MSPs to double-down on building strong relationships and making themselves indispensable to their customers’ business.

The shift to remote work represents a golden opportunity for MSPs to educate and equip customers for success. Many users don’t know what a secure VPN is, let alone how it is used to access corporate networks. Offer to audit and evolve a customer’s current remote work landscape. This helps MSPs demonstrate their commitment to helping customers maintain peak performance.

Putting the right tools and equipment in place for customers is just the start. MSPs will need to utilize the right documentation to effectively manage customer infrastructures and ensure support teams can respond efficiently. This includes managing everything from devices, applications and web services to passwords. Similarly, proactively monitoring systems will lead to fewer issues and crashes for customers. This helps reduce the number of service tickets for MSPs.

In these unprecedented times, customers will need reassurance that they can rely on their MSP to help them through any crisis. It is essential to keep the lines of communication open and ensure that customers know how to get in contact, how to submit a ticket and are up to date with any temporary SLA changes. This may include providing helpful how-to videos and other tips for remote work.

Finally, MSPs must not forget their own employees are a precious resource. It’s more important than ever to keep everyone motivated, engaged and performing through regular check-ins. These will help ensure that employees feel confident and are equipped with the skills and tools they need to be successful. Any change in the operational climate should be communicated in an open manner, with a focus on how the future is being redefined for the business.

Brad Schow is the VP of consulting services for ConnectWise. Prior to joining the ConnectWise staff, Schow served as a peer coach and business consultant at HTG for more than five years. Before joining HTG, he spent 20 years growing a solutions and managed service provider business. His path of technician, service leader, operations leader, president and partner help him relate to a broad spectrum of business challenges. He credits much of the success to the peer group experience and the relationships that grew out of HTG. He loves investing in people, thinking ahead, building teams and helping others find success. Follow him on LinkedIn or @ConnectWise on Twitter.

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