Guest Column | May 17, 2021

2021: A Year Of Transition And Opportunity For The Channel

By Christina Walker, Blancco

2021 Idea

Last year was a true test for MSPs. Despite being faced with their enormous business challenges, MSPs across the globe stepped up to help their customers weather the COVID-19-related storm. MSPs went to work equipping customers with hardware and software tools needed to keep newly remote workers productive and connected. Fortunately, all signs are pointing to 2021 as the year MSPs and their enterprise customers transition back to life as we knew it pre-pandemic.

The path to normalcy, however, will look different for organizations. Businesses that created policies designed to establish safe working conditions are bringing employees to the office. Others have adopted a hybrid approach limiting the number of workers who are in the office at the same time. Some of the world’s largest brands, including DropBox, Atlassian, Twitter, and Facebook, will keep up to 50% of their employees remaining in a work-from-home mode for the immediate future. And as Flexjobs reports, some employers, such as global e-commerce technology provider Shopify, will offer employees the option to work at home indefinitely.

MSPs will continue to play a critical role as they work to fill the gaps left by IT departments that may have been downsized or are also working remotely. By taking on much of the heavy lifting, MSPs are well-positioned to positively impact their customers’ bottom lines by giving them the ability to focus on their core businesses and maintain highly functional and efficient operations.

In what is looking to be a transformative year, MSPs can partner with their enterprise customers in three key ways:

Expanded role as a trusted advisor. As employees transition back to the office, their work-from-home equipment may no longer be needed. When considering increasing interest by organizations to keep used assets out of landfills and participate in the circular economy by giving equipment a second life – either by donating it to schools or selling to another organization – MSPs are often turned to for advice about how to responsibly recycle and reap the most value from used hardware.

This sets up MSPs to take on the critical role of preparing the assets for recycling or sale by ensuring hardware goes through a rigorous data sanitization process to remove sensitive corporate data or customer information. And remember, companies also must adhere to data privacy regulations even when donating equipment. MSPs knowledgeable about federal and state rules and regulations will not only protect their customers from potential fines, but also from data breaches that could financially devastate a business.

Although taking a more hands-on approach to the client relationship may take restructuring on the part of some service providers, it undoubtedly will result in stronger customer relationships in the long run.

Automating corporate data policy compliance. Companies in highly regulated industries, including finance and healthcare, have had no respite from compliance to applicable global, state, and federal data privacy regulations, despite the prevalence of dispersed workforces. MSPs with expertise in data life cycle management and knowledge about regional data privacy laws were often able to extend their services to enterprise customers that required remote management of both compliance mandates and corporate data policies. With many organizations in a state of flux in 2021, inconsistent processes for erasing the data on these machines as required to align with IT policies and procedures open the door for MSPs to further extend their support. How? MSPs can remotely manage the data sanitization process, including data erasure, no matter where an organization’s computer assets are located. MSPs also can remotely manage the data sanitization process across their customer’s infrastructure to mitigate risk, meet compliance requirements and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) when erasing specific files/data to reallocate, resell or recycle IT assets.

Simplifying modern IT infrastructure. Automation is growing more popular year over year. One reason is that it’s nearly impossible to manually manage the data flow between today’s various business systems, from customer resource management and enterprise resource management to human resources and accounting. Automation eases the flow of information between systems and improves the efficiency of the employees who use these systems daily. MSPs who partner with their enterprise customers to help them transition to automated workflows and business processes will be in high demand as the intricacies of IT infrastructures, which may include a mix of on-premises, cloud and hybrid cloud, will continue to provide opportunities to streamline processes for IT administrators as well as the teams that rely on these systems. In leading the automation transformation, MSPs also will help drive better performance for their business customers while increasing adherence to IT policies and regulatory compliance, improving employee satisfaction, providing better workload management, reducing mistakes due to human error, and improving visibility for IT management.

For the most part, the business world did a fantastic job of successfully – and quickly – adapting to a world in which a pandemic changed everything. Although there seems to be an end in sight, anticipating the next turns on the roadmap to normalcy is still unclear. MSPs must continue to be nimble and do their best to anticipate what customers will need whether they transition their employees back to the office or keep them working remotely. This ability to adapt will allow MSPs to shine as they guide their customers to what’s next.

About The Author

Christina Walker is Global Director of Channel Sales and Programs at Blancco.