From software installation and set-up to managing networks, MSPs/IT service providers often have never-ending to-do lists. While problem solving for clients, they need to find answers to their own questions to help them run their businesses.
So what are the pitfalls for MSPs/IT service providers and how do you deal with them? In this article, I’ve outlined some of the difficulties they face and how they can be managed:
Finding the right solutions for your clients
If you type ‘MSP/IT service provider’ into Google, you’ll find never ending pages for back-up, security, cloud solutions etc. Before you commit to buying any new services, do some research on the industry. For example, industry trends, current customers’ peak network and server usage times. Think about your clients’ requirements, are their businesses growing? Is there a particular IT issue that’s caused a problem that you can help with? Don’t forget that speaking to your industry peers can also help; the insight you can gather from speaking to others at forums and conferences can keep you informed and ensure you provide solutions that clients want.
Running multiple networks with stretched resources
Running multiple clients networks creates a lot of opportunities but also means an MSP/IT service provider’s time and resources are stretched. Juggling tasks, responding to queries and keeping customers happy can make your days longer than they need to be. MSPs/IT service providers should take a look at where they can use solutions that will make this ‘juggling act’ easier, while providing greater value to any clients.
For example automation tools can reduce the time spent on certain tasks, reduce costs and increase efficiency. Also, with a back-up and disaster recovery solution, MSPs/IT service providers can show customers they are efficient in the way they can pre-empt issues (e.g. being aware of a server running out of space before it affects a client’s business operations).
Following on from my previous point – reducing costs and improving efficiency is key to maintaining a thriving business.
One of the tools available to help MSPs/IT service providers with this are IT systems monitoring & management platforms, which remove time-intensive and repetitive support tasks. These solutions become a necessity as you scale your business and its service delivery model.
Whilst many will provide out-of-the box automation of common IT tasks, in some cases creating an automation policy (script) may be required to address a particular time-hog. It is important that the platform allows for comprehensive scripts to be created, through an interface that exposes the functionality to even the novice users, making it easy for them to build policies that will automate repeatable work.
The scripting engine must be intelligent enough requiring minimal user input, yet working in harmony with the platform’s many facets such as monitoring, ticketing and time entry functionalities. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if the newly created policy is going to run on two machines or 2,000, it must do the exact same thing in the same amount of time in every single occurrence.
Once the repeatable tasks have been automated, a review schedule should be created to periodically assess and improve the service delivery as it evolves and the business will reap the benefits.
It could be summarised that a business can scale only as much as its individual processes do.
I’ve heard this comment from a business owner: “The main component is the consistency of approach not necessarily the back-end technology. The platform must enable you to create repeatable, improvable and scalable, automated processes, which can potentially deliver unlimited value at marginal cost”.
Managing costs and making a profit
Constant changes to technology and customer requirements means MSPs/IT service providers are always trying to manage costs and maintain profits. Many of them are finding a way to do this by joining MSP partner programs.
Joining these programs gives MSPs/IT service providers a business model that fits how they work. When looking for a program some other points to consider – will the program help you to manage billing your clients or which tools are available to help you run your business efficiently? Above all, will joining the program grow your business?
Staying on top of industry information
So, while MSPs/IT service providers are busy running their businesses, where do they find the time to stay up-to-date on the latest products and industry news? To be honest this isn’t always possible. So looking out for vendor materials that cover different industry topics can save you a lot of time and keep you on top of everything. Make use of free e-books, webinars, videos, online demos and white labelled content (that you can brand). This will save you the time and trouble of trying to create your own content, as well as helping to answer clients’ queries.
Let’s not forget about the admin!
A lot of us have never liked doing admin – and this won’t change! But it’s something that MSPs/IT service providers need to manage well to avoid payment delays and ‘slowing’ their businesses down. For example, think about your invoicing – what date do you plan to do this? Will the vendor’s processes align with yours? Dull I know but it has to be done.
As you can see from these examples, with some planning and using available resources, MSPs/IT service providers can manage these pitfalls while building profitable businesses.