2010: Seven Next Moves for MSPs...

Generally speaking, I avoid the temptation to write big "prediction" pieces as the New Year approaches. My crystal ball is as foggy as the next guy's. And sometimes a list of predictions is nothing more than a lame attempt to gain more reader eyeballs. Still, I do have some strong opinions about where MSPs and technology companies should head in 2010. Here are some quick thoughts.

1. Back to basics: This one is for MSP software providers. The cloud hype cycle is probably nearing its peak. The cloud is real but let's keep it in perspective. Amazon and Rackspace both had outages in recent days/weeks. Which MSP software providers have the best cloud strategy? It's far too soon to say since many long-promised cloud initiatives didn't materialize in 2009 and are now promised for 2010. The guilty parties know who they are.

Instead of hyping massive clouds or the latest widget, let's get back to basics.

  • How simple is it for a VAR or MSP to embrace a managed services software solution?
  • How quickly can a VAR or MSP get up to speed on the software?
  • Is the pricing model fair and simple?
  • Are end-customers happy?
Answer those four questions and you'll have my attention throughout 2010.

2. Understand Your Customers: Loyal readers know that MSPmentor suffered some pain recently. Our site traffic essentially doubled in 2009. In some rare instances that meant slow-loading or non-loading pages. Embarrassing stuff. Our original service provider was incredibly responsive but didn't really understand our business or our platform.

When we went poking around for help, we found a new service provider that seems to understand every piece of software we're running. But it this is more than a tech conversation. Our point-contact at this new company spent an hour on the phone with our management team, reviewing our business model, scaling plans and future directions. Price was the last thing on our mind. And frankly, price didn't come up until the very end of the conversation. We were in pain and a new service provider took the time to listen to our issues. Smart. He potentially earned our business. We'll let you know how it goes.

3. Run a Simple SaaS Test: I'm tired of the SaaS and cloud debate. End the chatter and start testing a third-party SaaS service. Online backup and recovery and/or Security as a Service come to mind. If you're nervous about putting a customer on a SaaS solution then put your own business on it first for a few months. Whether you trust/distrust a SaaS provider (Microsoft BPOS, Google Apps, etc.) isn't the point. Ultimately you need to understand SaaS.

Think of it this way: You formed your opinions about Ethernet, WiFi, Exchange, notebooks, servers, etc., through real-world experience. Now, form your SaaS and cloud opinions through real-world experiences. Test something. Then share those opinions with your customers.

4. Run a Single Dashboard: PSA (professional services automation), RMM (remote monitoring and management) and other software providers increasingly promote single dashboards for monitoring all customer systems and all of your applications. Have you tested the dashboards? Why not?

5. Find New Friends: Peer groups and tech industry conferences are highly valuable. But we all need to spend more time hanging out at the local chamber of commerce and meeting professionals from other backgrounds (marketing pros, sales experts, branding experts, communication pros).

6. Create Some Jobs: Go ahead. Open your wallet a little wider. Even if you can't afford to hire full-time employees, there is awesome talent on the street (freelancers, consultants, interns) ready to help you with specific project work. With U.S. unemployment around 10 percent, employers have the power to pick and choose the best talent available. Don't waste this opportunity. Grab the talent you need.

A few thoughts: How many hours are you wasting...
  • creating your own Powerpoint templates from scratch?
  • fooling around with web site development templates?
  • trying to master Search Engine Optimization?
  • writing marketing documents?
  • writing sales literature?
  • trying to organize 1,000 business cards that never made it into your PSA system?
Focus on the big picture and delegate tactical tasks to a contractor, intern or new employee.

7. Book Your Vacations Now: Seriously. Circle at least two weeks on your 2010 calendar right now and book your vacations. Tell your staff and your customers now that you won't be available on those dates. Disappear for a bit.

Make people miss you. Forget about resetting the economy. Reset your own life priorities.
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