Magazine Article | February 1, 2017

RMM Trends And Tips For Your 2017 As-A-Service Transition

By The Business Solutions Network

Remote monitoring and management (RMM) plays a key role in an IT solutions provider’s evolution to managed services and must be considered strategically.

Last year, I had the opportunity to moderate a few panel discussions at Business Solutions’ Channel Transitions VAR/MSP Executive Conferences, which are geared toward IT solutions providers interested in achieving greater profits and recurring revenue by transitioning to an as-a-Service business model.

One of the panel discussions, “Why You Can’t Be An MSP Without Automation Tools,” drew a big crowd with standing room only. In the November 2016 issue of Business Solutions magazine, I shared some highlights from these discussions in a tech trend article, “Why You Ca n’t Be A Successful MSP Without PSA.” While the article highlighted one of the foundational automation tools every MSP needs to be successful, it doesn’t mention the second essential tool in the MSP equation — RMM. To gain some insights on the role RMM plays in your transition to an as-a-Service provider and to get an update on the latest RMM trends, I reached out to industry experts from business automation vendor ConnectWise Automate (formerly LabTech) and managed services provider ARRC Technology.

“I encourage solutions providers to consider their three-to-five-year business plan to ensure whatever solution they are looking for will continue to serve their needs long term.”

Shane Swanson, COO, ARRC Technology

The Biggest RMM Trends For 2017
According to Brett Cheloff, general manager, ConnectWise Automate, conversations about the cloud will dominate 2017 RMM discussions, including cloud positioning, cloud security, and customer service. “Technology solutions providers [TSPs] need to think about how they talk about the cloud in 2017,” he says. “The most successful TSPs have changed the discussion focus from a technical pitch to one that is a business- centric approach about the cloud’s risks and rewards. A TSP that ignores business in favor of technology will not win the client.”

Despite the ongoing shift in the managed services market from on-premise servers to cloud infrastructure and services, security concerns persist, says Cheloff. “Clients are concerned about where data resides, who has access to it, and who owns it. This year will see lots of conversations about what can be run in the cloud versus what should be run in the cloud. One way TSPs can deal with security concerns is to adopt a flexible hybrid approach that blends on-premise solutions with cloud services and cloud-based application monitoring, like Office 365.”

Another concern with IT moving to the cloud is that it makes it easier for companies to switch to another TSP that charges less, says Cheloff. “To avoid this, top-notch customer service will be the key to continued success in 2017.”

The Biggest RMM Selection Mistakes MSPs Make (And How To Avoid Them)
On the surface, all RMM tools perform similar functions, and it might not seem like much of a choice, but the experts strongly disagree. “In my years of talking with hundreds of MSPs, I have seen far too many of them jump into a solution they feel will be the quickest and/or easiest to implement, but unfortunately it usually doesn’t scale with their business,” says Shane Swanson, COO, ARRC Technology. “Having been through that myself 10-plus years ago, I encourage solutions providers to consider their three-to-five-year business plan to ensure whatever solution they are looking for will continue to serve their needs long term.”

Swanson says there are three main areas solutions providers need to focus on to have a successful service organization: client satisfaction, department profitability/LLGM (labor loaded gross margin), and team efficiency. “Mature MSPs look for RMM solutions that allow them to automate business functions and provide a deeper level of integration with other solutions, such as backup, security [e.g., antivirus, antimalware, email protection], and advanced network management solutions. Integrating these complementary solutions with RMM allows a single interface to manage the solutions and reduces manual processes.”

“You — not your RMM provider — should be making the decision about which technology vendors to use.”

Brett Cheloff, general manager, ConnectWise Automate, ConnectWise

As an example, he says the integration could provide:

  • A deeper level of alerting of potential issues or threats ensuring that the MSP has all the information necessary to minimize any impact to the end user.
  • The ability to auto remediate some alerts through automation scripting.
  • Specific information in the vendor’s portal that is needed to complete the configuration of the product rather than manually gathering that information.

Another key benefit of choosing an RMM solution that can be integrated with other complementary solutions and can automate business processes is that it can enable an entry-level (i.e., Tier 1) engineer to function as a Tier 2 or even Tier 3 engineer, he says. “For lower tier techs to function at a higher level, they must have an RMM tool that is simple to use,” says Swanson. “Additionally, they must be able to categorize tickets and understand the types of tickets that require escalation. From there they need to understand the reasons for escalation and what steps should be completed prior to escalation.”

Some examples where an integrated RMM tool could enable entry-level techs to perform higher level tasks would be:

  • Network performance troubleshooting
  • Installation and configuration of line-of-business applications
  • Changing network passwords
  • Configuring security products
  • Configuring cloud solutions.

Swanson warns, too, that this is not just a “set it and forget it” situation, and he says there must be checks and balances to minimize any negative impact to clients. Cheloff concurs and adds, “If you’re not careful with your RMM choice, you could end up locked into a vendor that doesn’t meet your specific business needs, or you may be unable to switch to another vendor if needed at some point in the future.”

While standardizing on a single solution for antivirus, antimalware, backup, disaster recovery, file sync, and other actions may seem appealing for technology solutions providers who want to enforce standards, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, says Cheloff. “You — not your RMM provider — should be making the decision about which technology vendors to use. My advice to businesses looking to make this transition is to also look for a PSA that works seamlessly with the RMM. This combination not only makes sure that the work is done but also that you get paid for it.”

To truly differentiate yourself, says Cheloff, you should constantly seek opportunities to monitor new things, automate new repairs, and track time saved. “Even if your RMM solution offers a lot out of the box, keep looking for ways to use it to better serve your clients and solidify your reputation as a business that is always innovating.”