For IT resellers and solutions businesses, the benefits of offering a managed services model are increasingly recognised and well-understood. MarketResearchFuture.com claims the managed security services market will reach a value of $34 billion by the end of 2022.
However, for many established IT organisations, making the transition can seem like a daunting prospect. Take the widespread IT skills shortage, for example. A new study from e92plus has revealed that 58% of MSP respondents said they struggle to find the right technical skills to meet their needs. Another challenge identified in the study is the potential reduced profitability / cash flow of moving to a service provider model, with 46% saying the move from three-year deals to monthly billing was a concern.
Making the move takes planning, preparation and research. Yet a successful transition can lead to enhanced efficiency, better service, and increased profit. But in practical terms, what does this mean for those considering a shift to a managed services approach?
Preparing for transition
The transition process should begin with market opportunity evaluation, and there are several useful steps to follow. Ask existing clients how you can better meet their security needs via a service provider model. We live in an era of IT service delivery where clients demand infrastructure that keeps them constantly connected. There are lots of organisations out there with considerable experience of using service providers. This makes fundamentals such as 24/7/365 connectivity guarantees a must have.
On a practical level, identify client security needs that can be automated, such as patching, antivirus updates, malware removal, etc. Adding this information to industry research can help identify key trends and determine popular services. Trusted media outlets, advisory sites and industry association websites can offer detailed background intelligence.
Once you’ve gained a good understanding of the market, use this expertise and insight to determine the services you will initially offer. In the security market, for example, there are many directions that you can go. This includes Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM), security help desk, backup and disaster recovery, managed security and patch management.
Leveraging the power of automation
A key component of any strong managed services offering is using automated software to virtually monitor and manage IT infrastructures. In doing so this eliminates the need for on-site visits and additional service headcount. Two essential solutions in any managed services tool kit include RMM and Professional Services Automation. RMM gives you the ability to deliver the best possible reactive and proactive response times.
Professional Services Automation (PSA) helps you organise around one system so everyone can connect through a unified operational platform. Quote and proposal automation solutions can also be integrated with PSA and RMM solutions. This helps to streamline the process from sales to procurement to implementation, which will save time and resources.
Integration is key. Before you purchase any of these solutions, make sure you understand how well they will integrate. Choose a solution that combines the quoting abilities of a quote and proposal solution, workflow power of your PSA tool and the visibility of your RMM platform to create an end-to-end unified solution. This will help your IT services business run smoothly.
Getting this right means you’ll be able to respond quickly to client needs. This is because you’ll be able to capture and store information to uncover the root cause of problems and predict new issues before they occur. It not only helps establish the basis of good MSSP practice, but also simplifies troubleshooting time for your technicians. The bottom line is that well-integrated solutions will help you efficiently capture more billable time, improve ticket management and identify and manage sales opportunities.
Positioning your brand
Building a strong, trustworthy brand is vital to the success of MSSPs, especially when referrals are such an important method for generating new business. Providing your customers with an amazing experience will build brand loyalty, which will frequently translate into additional opportunities.
Never forget that with managed security services, you are selling value and positioning yourself as a business advisor – not a repair business. As you create your brand positioning, highlight the peace of mind that comes with proactive monitoring and support, for example. This will put you in a strong position to push your message through a variety of communication channels.
Finally, don’t forget to leverage your credentials, certifications, awards and achievements. These build customer confidence, because they’ll see you’ve met specific standards, which can give you an edge over the competition.
Preparing your team for the switch
Changing to a service provider model can be made more difficult by the challenge of finding the right people – internally and externally – and trusting them to help grow your business. For instance, spending time with your sales team is critical. You need to ensure they clearly understand the value managed services brings to prospects and customers.
That team, which will now sell services to companies instead of technology, must focus on soft skills because good service provision must centre around user experience. Your business is selling an intangible product under a long-term contract and your sales team needs to be onboard. A big consideration is whether to retrain your current sales team or hire reps with MSP experience. Whatever you decide, it is your responsibility to make sure they are fully trained and there is a compensation model—based on total contract value or gross profit instead of revenue—in place that balances incentives and earnings.
Staying on top of growth opportunities
One of the attractive elements of the service provider model is the scope it offers to grow and add more services to your portfolio. A healthy mindset to adopt is one that aims to be one step ahead of the trends in the industry. This ensures you deliver the best service possible and meet all your customers’ needs. Building managed security services can provide the basis to expand into a range of other related service provider specialisms, including:
- Cloud management — support your clients as more of their applications move from on-premise to the cloud.
- User-centric computing — clients expect you to be able to manage a collection of devices anytime, anywhere. Evaluate your IT service plan and move toward a per-user or hybrid billing practice.
- IoT — identify innovative ways to incorporate IoT into your service offering to take advantage of new revenue opportunities.
- Virtualisation — requires fewer servers since multiple operating systems can run on one physical piece of hardware. This keeps costs down and unifies resources.
- Compliance — meeting requirements of multiple regulations and standards is not an easy task. Look for ways to help your clients be compliant and protect their vital information.
Building a successful MSP business requires time and financial resources. In order to be successful, you should evaluate your existing services, retrain or hire a new sales team and invest in new software tools. Expanding your marketing activities will also play a role in growing your business.
Perhaps most critical to your success is the cultural shift you’ll need to make within your company. It’s a new way a thinking for your technical and sales staff, but one that’s already well established as a key trend for the future of the IT industry – and the opportunities are there for those who want them.
ConnectWise is a software company that connects teams with the platform and solutions that deliver technology as a service to the world. Its award-winning business management platform automates the full lifecycle of technology service delivery, from sales and service to project tracking and back-office functions, for more than 30,000 partners in more than 65 countries. It believes in an open ecosystem, the power of choice and providing a single pane of glass view. With more than 35 years of experience, ConnectWise delivers the software solutions and support companies want at each step of their business journey.