How to strengthen your MSP ecosystem
With competition continuously evolving, and the number of low-cost providers attempting to lure new business by racing to rock bottom prices, it’s more critical than ever for managed service providers to deliver and differentiate themselves based on quality and consistency. However, if MSPs don’t have the right tools at their disposal, their operations will suffer, and they’ll unlikely be able to fulfill their service level agreements (SLAs).
Tools that all managed service providers should employ include:
Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM): Having an RMM can significantly improve operational productivity and efficiency, as well as enable greater levels of automation in your managed services offerings by centralizing troubleshooting and response functions. Providers that leverage a security-centric RMM are even better positioned to address today’s security challenges.
Security: MSPs are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals because their business models enable hackers to compromise multiple customers through a single point of entry. MSPs should protect their own systems with the same advanced tools and multi-layered approach that they offer to their customers.
Professional Services Automation (PSA): PSA tools help ensure MSPs are staying on target with project management, labor reporting, ticket resolution, and other performance indicators. The PSA tool serves as a hub that can help automate and streamline business and customer management, so ideally, all other managed services solutions should be linked to the PSA.
Alert Management: Meeting service level agreement requirements means that staff must quickly respond to alerts. This is something that MSPs can struggle with at times, particularly when it comes to after-hours alerts. Automating alert management can eliminate these issues by quickly escalating alerts as necessary and initiating contact with the most appropriate staff members, which makes response time quicker.
Data Analytics and Insight: Your support tools should provide insight based on data intelligence gathered from individual customers and your portfolio of business tools. This can help you head off any potential problems and identify emerging opportunities within your own customer base.
These machine-learning-based tools can also help flag common problems like unpatched software, incomplete software installations, and other issues, so you can proactively address them.
There are other important tools to consider as well, including helpdesk management systems, which improve customer relationship management, and password managers, which can help consistently and securely maintain password data for your entire customer portfolio, without the risk of compromise.
Take an Integrated Approach
It’s essential that these tools work well together, so you should consolidate applications where possible. Many of today’s MSPs started out as VARs or resellers that gradually moved over to a managed service model. As a result, many of them deployed point solutions around specific activities over a long period of time. That means a lot of different software products, custom integrations, multiple vendors to deal with, multiple partner programs and training resources, and data siloes.
Working with multiple vendors also means dealing with varying support agreements. For instance, some IT vendors might use off-shore call centers or only offer support during business hours whereas others provide 24x7, US-based support. Monitoring system performance and coordinating product updates and new service offerings among multiple vendors is also more complicated as the number of vendors increases.
For MSPs that have built up these complex webs of multi-vendor environments, it’s time to consolidate. While you may not be able to find a single suite of products from one vendor that meets all of your needs, bringing as many functions together as possible will greatly reduce your own support requirements and management headaches. For any software that falls outside of the scope of more comprehensive solutions, make sure there are application programming interface (API) options to make those connections more seamless.
Deploying new tools can be arduous and disruptive — no one wants to stop focusing on their core business activities to learn new software. Still, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone in this effort. Some vendors provide both in-person and on-demand or online training (sometimes for free) that can help accelerate and streamline this process and reduce the learning curve.
Looking at the bigger picture, the upside to streamlining your solution-set is significant and well worth any potential inconvenience it might cause. Doing so is an important step in improving your ability to serve your customers while driving down the cost of providing support.