Today’s IT managed services industry moves at a breakneck pace. Eighty-two percent of managed service providers (MSPs) already feel the infrastructure they handle gets more complex by the day, and the accelerated digital transformation of business brought on by the pandemic will only exacerbate this sentiment.
MSPs that are positioned to be successful moving forward are the ones that never get complacent about the quality of their services, and actively look for areas in which they can improve.
In part one and two of our series on the Keys to Scaling Managed Services Businesses, we addressed foundational issues like defining your scaling priorities and targeting the right customers and ecosystems. We also covered the importance of upskilling teams to keep pace with the swift-moving market, as well as the adoption of subscription models and technology that automates business processes to save time.
In this final installment of the three-part series on scaling managed services businesses, we outline three crucial practices MSPs need to do on a constant basis to enhance their operational efficiency and deliver the best services to their customers.
1) Enhance your ecosystem capacity by leveraging technology
In an effort to use technology to save time and money, many MSPs—especially those who started off as technology resellers—make the decision to add tools that help streamline some of their business processes in a piecemeal manner. That is to say, they may buy ticketing software one month, and tack on marketing automation software the next. Soon, they will find themselves adding a number of products from different vendors, which makes it extremely difficult to measure the true value each tool offers.
Equally concerning is that this use of disparate tech tools leads to isolated islands of data known as data silos, which are vast sources of inefficiency and unnecessary costs in any organization. For example, managing multiple Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems across geographies or technology silos, according to 72% of firms, is “moderately to extremely challenging.”
Many of these headaches can be prevented with the use of technology solutions to unify and automate business processes that connect the different elements of the MSP’s ecosystem. This technology should include the following features and capabilities:
- Subscription and billing management: Adopt an advanced professional services automation (PSA) system to automate quote-to-cash in a single tool and have a holistic view of sales, finance and operations from one dashboard. Streamlining back office, delivery and billing operations are vital.
- Contract profitability monitoring: Choose a PSA tool with contract profitability tracking as the core of the system, allowing for vital, real-time profitability analysis that helps MSPs avoid revenue loss.
- Multi-currency: In order to scale geographic expansion, MSPs should enlist tools that handle multi-currency, multi-language functionality plus VAT/tax regimes and local dates/decimal formatting.
- Advanced financing and billing models: MSPs should adopt a tool with a flexible billing framework to allow for more complex billing models, including IaaS, HWaaS, subscription and consumption.
- Multi-cloud: MSPs that offer IaaS should select tools to help them orchestrate multi-cloud across a combination of on-prem architecture and public clouds, etc. Multi-cloud orchestration helps streamline IaaS application and workload deployments across the whole cloud stack.
CloudBlue and its newly announced business line, CloudBlue PSA, can help MSPs with all of the above and much more. CloudBlue PSA in particular offers comprehensive professional services automation with full visibility in a single-pane-of-glass view. It enables intelligent automation from quote to cash, helps drive revenues up with Ingram Micro’s full catalog and over 20 integrations, and facilitates global expansion with multi-currency and multi-language features.
While adopting the correct technology is extremely important, all these tools are helpful only if employees actually use them. This requires the development of training programs, the necessary procedures and mechanisms, and the holding accountable of everyone concerned—from top executives to interns—to internalize good habits and routines.
CloudBlue and CloudBlue PSA offer a host of tutorials and modules to help upskill our clients’ teams, and clients can also count on our industry-leading customer support to guide them on their journey.
2) Integrate your automated systems for deeper data insights
The greatest challenge organizations face in achieving their marketing and sales objectives, as Forrester has found, is managing data and sharing insights that drive actions across organizational silos.
Connected data can give you an edge over the competition by making it possible to view data in a single environment, derive insights from it, and have one source of truth.
To put your enterprise on the right trajectory of data consolidation, MSPs can integrate Remote Monitoring Management (RMM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools to better calculate the cost of service delivery (e.g. RMM logs technician hours and sends automatically to the PSA system for billing).
By linking these systems, MSPs can get a bird's-eye view of their entire customer engagement and make better decisions about upselling opportunities and determine which customers are costing more to service than others.
3) Continue to find ways to add value for your customers
Almost anyone can upgrade a server or install a software program. So ask yourself what it is that should convince a customer to stay with you rather than approaching another MSP. The answer is in “value addition.”
As an MSP, you're in charge of ensuring both the technical delivery of services and the customer experience. Remember that MSPs who put their clients’ needs at the forefront of their operations will always continue to scale.
Despite value being a fairly intangible concept, it's possible to successfully demonstrate it through devising a services business model that revolves around clients.
Some value-driven best practices that can be incorporated into your business model include keeping up to speed with the latest trends and developments, building new services around them and acting as a strategic partner to customers by proactively suggesting new technology that can help them solve business problems.
Another tried and tested way to show value is identifying the exact needs of each customer and offering them unique solutions within the specific context they are operating in. A focus on the results a service can deliver, rather than just the solution per se, is especially important during the sales pitch.
MSPs must not forget to communicate regularly and efficiently with their clients through different channels about the value being provided.
Keeping the heart of business beating
A growing number of companies are switching from on-prem infrastructure to more cloud-based in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with 76% of MSPs saying that it will take five years before 95% of workloads are in the cloud.
Despite the new reality that COVID-19 has brought, only 45% of IT decision makers at MSPs are “somewhat confident” that their department could maintain continuous uptime and availability during a crisis.
This highlights the need for strategic investments and adherence to best practices that will enhance your preparedness and competitiveness, demonstrate your value-driven approach to clients and aid in reaching your business goals.
Whether you are a well-established MSP or are just getting started, we can help you ensure business continuity and a seamless customer experience in the face of unexpected crises with a PSA solution purpose-built for the modern MSP.
Visit us online for more information about CloudBlue PSA.
About the Author: Rajesh "Raj" Marar, Executive Director is responsible for business, technology strategy and sales growth for Harmony Business Systems, a CloudBlue Company. Raj joined the Ingram Cloud organization in 2017 as executive director for IaaS responsible for products and services. He launched an IaaS Center of Excellence (COE) for services to accelerate cloud adoption, migration and optimization at scale to help Ingram Micro achieve the Azure MSP Expert designation and to drive exponential growth for IaaS. Raj is an executive with 25 plus years of experience as a leader driving digital transformation. Prior to joining the Ingram Micro Cloud team, Raj worked for the Ingram Micro Global IS team where he had taken on roles with increasing responsibility over a ten-year span. He served as Executive Director for global platforms to lead an application modernization & data center virtualization, consolidation, automation and migration initiatives. He also led several major transformation initiatives for global ERP (SAP) deployment, Middleware, Partner Connectivity and E-commerce to help build a robust scalable & cost-effective platform to support innovation and growth. Follow Rajesh Marar on Twitter, LinkedIn or Website