Being an MSP means that you can provide services to your customers where you retain far more control than if you were an independent software vendor (ISV). ISVs who have on-premise software must provide support for implementations across a wide range of different platforms. An MSP (generally) has a single implementation of each of its software offerings on a known and controllable platform.

While this sounds like a wonderful idea, just because it is possible doesn’t mean that you must take that approach. Indeed, the idea of a broad-service MSP is losing favour as the reality of cloud computing and the hybrid MSP comes to the fore.

The hybrid MSP will still have one or more core offerings — whether this is something like Salesforce automation, accounting, enterprise resource planning, or collaboration software. However, there will be a need to provide other services around these offerings.

The shift in demand

In the old world of on-premise offerings, vendors tried to do this as part of their monolithic applications. Where the analysis of data was required — they would throw it in, at an extra cost. Where reporting was required, add it to the mix — at an extra cost.

Customers ended up with bloated systems with often sub-optimal capabilities around what they really wanted. They had to find third-party offerings and then carefully integrate those into the mix — while still having to pay for useless and resource-hogging systems that the ISV had foisted on them.

MSPs are in a much better position to provide a set of options that better meet their customers’ needs. It is far better for an MSP to focus on where it knows it has strengths: the core offering where it can truly beat the opposition through having the domain expertise that the rest lag in.

Stick to the core

MSPs shouldn’t try to find new skills in the market to cover areas that are non-core. This is costly and, in the long term, will be self-defeating. Why? It is an almost certainty that somewhere out there in ‘cloud land’ is another MSP that will specialise in this capability.

They will also be chasing those individuals who have the skills in this area — and they will need them far more than you do, as this functionality is their core capability, whereas yours is different. So, if you want to become a great accountancy MSP with world-leading analytics and reporting, you might  find yourself trying to cover core competencies across three areas — and it’s not needed.

Instead, look at the market and identify other MSPs that have those functionalities and competencies that you require. Talk to them; find out how they work and whether it would be easy for you to offer them through your self-service portals and to then integrate them into your own services as the customer requires.

Sure, you will need to adjust your charging mechanisms to include the costs for the third-party MSP’s offerings, and you will have to pay them. However, if you have chosen your MSP partner well, you gain access to leading-edge capabilities that will be maintained and improved over time.

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As long as you get the approach right, even where you find that your chosen MSP partner is not as good as you hoped, swapping them out will be so much easier than getting rid of a group of internal developers and maintenance people and replacing them with new staff, who then have to get to grips with what is already there.

Looking from a future-proofing capability

Areas such as machine/deep learning, artificial intelligence, and others are coming through and have a dearth of people with the right skills available on the market. An open approach to being able to plug-in third-party MSP offerings into your own environment means that you can make both long-term strategic plans with MSPs that have been around for some time and are proven in their field, while also enabling customers to try out more tactical offerings in these more leading-edge environments — with a low investment and technical risk to your own platform.

As I have mentioned before in one of my other blogs, MSPs that operate in either a colocation environment or are using a large public platform will often find that they have an advantage. These environments often enable high-speed interconnects between services that are in the same environment or are connected via special systems such as AWS Direct Connect and Azure ExpressRoute.

For an MSP, the options are numerous: trying to be all things to all people just shouldn’t be the way to look at things. Partnering across those who specialise in the areas you and your customers need is the way forward. Just make sure that your own systems are open enough to enable easy integrations with others’ open systems.

Ready Set Managed

Photo: Jon Cartagena / Shutterstock

Clive Longbottom

Posted by Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom is a UK-based independent commentator on the impact of technology on organizations and was a co-founder and service director at Quocirca. He has also been an ITC industry analyst for more than 20 years.

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