New year, new opportunities. That is what every MSP should be thinking as 2011 approaches. By now, you should have set your business priorities for the coming year, but if you’re still working them, allow me to make some suggestions.
Topping my list of MSP opportunities for 2011 are three technologies that have been much discussed in the past few years and are finally coming into their own – cloud computing, telepresence and unified communications. Any MSP that isn’t looking at these technology trends is doing itself a disservice.
That’s the technology part. But a successful IT services business requires attention to non-technical aspects, including marketing and business strategy. With that in mind, I also want to make some suggestions regarding these areas to help you get the best out of the technology opportunities. So, here is my list of Five Things Solution Providers Should Do in 2011.
1. Cloud computing
I believe 2011 will be the year when cloud computing will firmly move from its over-hyped buzzword status to business as usual. The cloud has captured a lot of imaginations and embellished business plans in the past couple of years, but it has taken time to sort out just what it is and where the opportunities for solution providers lie.
Now that a lot of the fuzziness around cloud computing is dissipating, I am convinced more and more MSPs will be in a position to turn cloud services into a viable business. No one is better prepared than MSPs, who have already mastered recurring fee models and learned to perform tasks remotely for customers, to successfully deliver cloud services. MSPs need to hammer away at the cost-savings potential of cloud computing to customers and push the concept of private clouds, which deliver cloud-like services without the issues of data control and security associated with public cloud discussions.
Telepresence may not be new, but it is finally becoming accessible to budget-conscious customers looking to cut down on travel costs and boosting productivity. Travel costs can be reduced by as much as 50 percent by replacing expensive flight and hotel expenses for meetings and training sessions with telepresence sessions.
Affordable high-definition video is making it possible to multi-purpose HD TVs for telepresence, a trend that I believe will really catch on in 2011. Telepresence’s low bandwidth requirements and built-in bandwidth shock absorbers will help reduce Internet traffic issues that in past would have hindered widespread adoption of the technology.
3. Unified communications
Unified communications is another a concept that isn’t exactly new, but it has evolved to include things like GPS, voice mail, speech recognition and video conferencing, all of which are converging to enhance convenience and productivity.
Devices such as iPhones and iPads already combine multiple forms of communication services, such as voice, chant and GPS. As 2011 progresses, we will see a proliferation of these devices, the servicing of which, in combination with managed services and cloud offerings, are bound to present new profit opportunities to solution providers.
4. Outsource non-core competencies
As you transform your business into a cloud services provider, you need to have a sharp focus on what it is that you should be doing for the customer. With the right vendor partnerships, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, you should leverage your vendor partner’s capabilities, be it a NOC or applications and services delivered the cloud, while you focus your energies on marketing your services and nurturing customer relationships.
Marketing is one of those business responsibilities that solution providers, who are by nature more focused on the technology, tend to neglect. But as you move into cloud services, you have to make a commitment on formulating a message for your customers and following through. Come up with a marketing plan, execute it, and make sure you stick with it. This is your opportunity to guide your customers in understanding and accepting the cloud.
Maurice Saluan is senior VP of sales for Zenith Infotech as well as seasoned sales veteran in the managed service arena. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of MSPmentor's 2010 Platinum sponsorship. Find all of Saluan’s blog entries here.