How MSPs can stand out over the coming decade
The MSP industry has come a long way over the last decade. It now offers the best model for handling the technology infrastructure of small/ medium enterprises. The next question—where to from here?
As a CIO and advisor to dozens of SME CEOs, I’ve seen the industry supplant the “we have an IT guy” model. The best MSPs offer a solid combination of reliability and cost-effectiveness. By outsourcing technology infrastructure to a good partner, companies can get on with their daily business without the distraction of broken tech.
The challenge ahead is to help these businesses go beyond “reliable tech” to “game-changing tech.” To help leaders understand the potential for technology to play a strategic in the future of their business.
Interesting, then, to speculate where the MSP industry could go over the coming decade.
Any conversation about the “next decade” must blend strategy and tactics. Looking ahead over three horizons is a useful model:
- Nuts and bolts—optimizing MSP table stakes.
- MSP Inside—developing client trust beyond infrastructure.
- Strategic Partner—helping clients master the practice of technology.
Although I’m advocating an approach that can take you deeper into your clients’ businesses—same clients, more services, I believe these steps also can support a broadening of your customer base—same service, more clients.
Nuts And Bolts
Reliability—timely, secure, cost-effective service—is what every CEO needs from their MSP. Succeed in these areas and you remove problems from their business operations and nurture the trust required to move to the next horizon. Fail to perform and you’re on the path to losing a client.
You’re very familiar with the foundations for everything that follows:
- Breadth of technical skills as advertised.
- Robust security and technical controls.
- Rapid, responsive helpdesk.
- Efficient infrastructure upgrades in coordination with your users.
- Budgetary recommendations.
- Transparency—no bad surprises.
- Turning those calls for help into enjoyable experiences.
The valuable innovations in this area will improve the quality, efficiency, and security of the services you deliver. A few examples …
- Stay abreast of infrastructure technologies, such as innovative security vendors like Crowdstrike.
- Upgrade your operational tools:
- Could AI improve your help desk service levels and reduce your operational costs? (Check out tribu.ai).
- Could RFPIO improve your proposals and reduce your effort?
- Automate client independence by helping them create a learning organization with solutions like KnowBe4.
As an MSP, you provide a service that unites diverse fields. Productizing this service allows consistent communication of what you do in terms your harried clients quickly understand. Tools provide repeatable processes that offer the scaling benefits of a product company.
Streamlining your services demonstrates the kind of innovation that your clients need to see. It also creates time and margin for you to invest in getting deeper with clients. This brings us to the second horizon:
Beyond technology procurement and support, I often see opportunities for SMEs to outsource technology operations provided the partner trust is there. You know you’re on this path when:
- You’re trusted to propose annual technology budgets and manage within your allocation.
- You are invited to attend regular management meetings.
- You’re asked to manage other technology vendors.
- Your project managers are part of your client’s team.
Some MSPs position this as a “fractional CIO” service, but I rarely see MSPs advise beyond the hardware and networking.
Fruitful innovation here is to ask your clients what additional tech help they would value. Then decide what you are willing and able to offer.
Elevate Your Clients
“Strategic Partner” is the holy grail for any client business. In my world, this means you flip from delivering the value that your clients know they need to proposing value they hadn’t even thought of.
In our industry, this value is represented by the strategic potential for technology to truly change our client’s businesses. This is how tech transforms markets.
I call this the practice of technology—the skill and activities that surround technology leverage—suggesting valuable outcomes, designing solutions, deploying with agility, leading change with user-empathy.
When you’re on this third horizon, you’ll likely be on the way to verticalizing—developing expertise in one or three specific industries; the typical challenges clients face, the operational efficiencies they should focus on, and the enabling business systems atop the technology stack. The knowledge you’ll bring as a specialist makes your strategic for clients in these industries.
Combine full-stack support with the practice of technology and you have a home run.
All driven by the best question a CIO can answer; how can you elevate your client’s business performance? This is something I’ve been doing for a lot of years. It’s the kind of help that every business leader will accept.
Your Very Own MSP 2030
Your business is already on a path to its own version of “MSP 2030.” Let me leave you with a variation of that CIO question:
- How do you help your clients differentiate themselves from their competition?
- How will you help in three years?
Now just fill in the steps between.
About The Author
Graham Binks, CEO, primeFusion Inc., helps CEOs and leaders build better businesses on technology. He is the author of four books, most recently Trusting Technology – Mastering Technology for Non-tech Leaders, published by Post Hill Press. Over three decades in tech, he has worked with 250 businesses ranging from name brands like NIKE, P&G, JP Morgan to many small/medium sized businesses across North America, Europe, and Asia. Graham can be reached at graham@primeFusion.ca