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MSPs, for Long-Term Success, Ditch Short-Term Thinking

Here's a plan of action for MSPs that want long-term success.

October 18, 2021

7 Min Read
Business success and teamwork
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By Shruti Ghatge

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Shruti Ghatge

In the 1990s, Apple was on the verge of collapse. Ready to be acquired by arch-rival Microsoft. In 1997, when Steve Jobs was re-established as the CEO of Apple Computers, he didn’t just shorten the name. He challenged Apple Inc. to “Think Different” with game-changing market introductions like iTunes, iPod and the non-linear video editing software, Final Cut Pro. Soon, Apple became a purveyor of ideas. It became an outlier. Once fated to be doomed, Apple is currently valued at $2 trillion.

“We start projects years before they come out,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a 2018 interview with Fast Company. “You could take every one of our products — iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch — they weren’t the first, but they were the first modern one, right?”

Quarterly results mean little for the tech behemoth. Instead, the company looks beyond 90 days to more long-term investments. Can managed service providers (MSPs) take a cue? You bet!

Create a Vision

A semi-permanent shift to remote work has multiplied the potential for productivity, collaboration, engagement and security-related technology solutions. These factors push MSPs and other IT channel partners to be more in demand than ever, helping companies make the right tech investments. Adopting cloud-native technologies, infusing intelligent automation, and implementing decentralized security will spread dollars like peanut butter.

The product-based economy that was in vogue for the past 39 years is quickly giving way to a white-labeled future of solution “building blocks.”

It’s time to integrate these blocks inside ecosystems measured around value creation, network effects and co-innovation. This approach will bring opportunities for alliances at an infinite scale. Forrester is currently monitoring 800,000 emerging technology companies in addition to the rapidly growing software as a service (SaaS) scene. Selling and partnership patterns will change. As-a-service consumption will make subscription models mainstream.

Further, marketplaces are rife with possibilities. With 60 percent of customers appreciating the convenience of marketplaces, Forrester predicts that 17 percent of the $13 trillion in B2B spend would flow to marketplaces by 2023.

The growth of channel revenue-management technology is directly proportional to the explosion of marketplaces. Consequently, the revenue-management category will create a single point of reference for all transactions in the ecosystem — from revenue recognition to renewal. It will combine several modules, including configure, price, quote (CPQ) software, billing, B2B commerce and relationship management. Also, the technology will streamline and automate market transactions for buyers, sellers, partners and distributors.

Now, here’s the big question: What’s at stake for MSPs like you? In short, your relevancy.

IT channel leaders must ditch short-term thinking to foresee the potential for themselves and their businesses in the next 10 years. Like Apple, they should prepare for projects that will anticipate and embrace the future.

Decode Short- vs. Long-term Thinking

Let’s look at what the contrasting philosophies of short- and long-term thinking. To take a granular approach, I have disintegrated the mindsets below.

First, let’s decode SHORT-term thinking.

S – Salience is a cognitive bias that tempts MSP leaders to imagine the future through the lens of recent events. To overcome this, you must,

  • Create a purpose for your organization that is greater than just profits.

  • Formulate metrics beyond near-term financial performance.

  • Foster a culture that always focuses on long-term profitable growth.

H – Habits are the key to long-term success. Embrace (new) habits like these to help you overcome short-term thinking.

  • Integrate strategies for digital transformation and ongoing projects that will last many years.

  • Create and follow a step-by-step plan to implement solutions into each stage of your business to support digital growth.

  • Consider partnering with a provider that is committed for the long haul. See if they evaluate multiple proofs of concepts in their partner program, invest in sales technology and training programs, maintain an effective engagement portal, adopt a critical security posture, spend in new tech, uphold customer satisfaction over the years and sustain revenue growth.

O – Overload of data, information and technological advancements can overwhelm our thoughts and impede change. Consider the following proof points from a May 2021 Forrester Study:

  • 64 percent of businesses believe they are data-driven, but only 23 percent prioritize data use across the organization. You must first establish the “why” behind business use cases.

  • 71 percent of respondents gather data faster than they can analyze and use it, yet 66 percent say they need more data than their current capabilities provide. Avoid cobbling together data technologies. Adopt effective data-retention and data-destruction policies. Companies must also diligently follow both internal as well as government compliance requirements in the process.

  • Failure to extract insights from data is the third-highest global ranking barrier to transformation. Use analytics to explore concepts, identify patterns and trends, interpret, and gain insights from vast quantities of structured and unstructured data.

R – Responsibility is often diluted in organizations, and there is little accountability. Instead, follow these best practices:

  • Constantly monitor the activities of your teams rather than wait and measure results later.

  • Evaluate your go-to-market capabilities by following leading indicators regularly so you don’t miss the red flags that alert you to the risk of missing targets.

  • Strike the right balance between guidance and excessive control.

T – Targets are set to keep tasks and goals in mind. But when data dominates our thinking, orthodox cultures emerge that are focused on attaining short-term goals. Instead, look at the big picture to create stretch goals for your team to work toward. To help with this pivot, take the following steps:

  • Define clear goals for what you want and when you expect to get it.

  • Track your sales activities and pipeline so that you have credible, trustworthy metrics.

  • Determine whether you’ve overshot your expectations and need to dial down the goals a bit.

Now that we’ve talked about ways to remediate short-term thinking, let’s talk about future-forward strategies by decoding LONG-term thinking.

L – Lead with innovation to tackle future demands.

  • Find the time, team and focus to innovate without letting your existing business suffer.

  • Strike the right balance between innovation and stability. Change for change’s sake is reckless, but don’t play it too safe, keeping the status quo just because it feels comfortable.

  • Start recognizing marketing, sales and customer service innovations in the same way as tech innovations.

O – Opportunistic approaches can make the most out of any crisis.

  • Transition toward cloud-based solutions and flexible working to improve your company’s agility, continuity and survivability.

  • Consolidate and centralize your tools into a single solution wherever possible—particularly cloud-based tools accessible from a web console.

  • Offer advanced security solutions and product bundles to deliver holistic value to your customers.

N – Nimble workflows and strategies will ensure agility, so you can:

  • Respond to threats more predictably.

  • Use innovation to actively guide clients to leverage new technologies rather than supporting the status quo.

  • Equip your employees and clients with the right tools to support remote working, enabling “The office” to be more fluid.

G – Gain compounding growth through monthly recurring revenues over the years:

  • Benefit from a subscription-based economy. Gartner projects that SaaS revenues would reach more than $140 billion in 2022, up from $102 billion in 2019.

  • Armed with more predictable data on the revenue and associated costs with each subscription you sell, predict your cash requirements based on a regular income stream and known margins.

  • Look for more upselling and cross-selling opportunities, further improving your income and growth potential.

Anticipate Customer Needs

Tim Cook often echoes Steve Jobs by saying that Apple isn’t motivated by making money, that it focuses on making great products that positively impact people’s lives. If you do that right, he says, the money takes care of itself. To ensure long-term growth, MSP leaders must consider a similar strategy, delivering solutions that positively impact their customers’ businesses. In other words, stay relevant by anticipating customer needs and the revenue will follow. Stop SHORT and go LONG.

About the Author
Shruti Ghatge, CEO of Zomentum, is a former investment analyst, tech entrepreneur, innovator and creator of the first Sales Acceleration Platform for the IT channel. With Zomentum, on average, IT partners can create documents 70 percent faster and close twice as many deals with a 600 percent increase in deal value. The platform fuels IT sales revenue of $100 million a year and counting.

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