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One of the most subtle and profound changes that has occurred since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is the types of IT projects managed service providers (MSPs) have been engaged in by their end customers, specifically digital business transformation efforts.

Prior to the pandemic, the bulk of projects involving MSPs were focused on making IT operations more efficient with an eye toward reducing costs. In the days and weeks following the pandemic, that conversation shifted dramatically toward improving application experiences for end customers as organizations launched multiple digital business transformation initiatives.

In fact, a survey of more than 1,400 IT and business professionals working at organizations that generated in excess of $300 million in annual revenue published this week by Rackspace finds the top priority for nearly half of respondents (48 percent) is now customer experience, followed by of IT security and compliance (45 percent) and overall IT strategy (41 percent).

The survey also notes 94 percent of organizations have some user experience initiative underway, with more than half (55 percent) crediting applications with enhancing the customer experience. Other benefits cited include more availability to services (48 percent), security (45 percent), engagement with products and services (41 percent), and process improvement (39 percent).

The top challenges organization face when attempting to drive these initiatives are fear of negatively impacting existing customer experiences (28 percent); legacy IT systems (26 percent); limited budget (24 percent); lack of staff with the appropriate skill sets (22 percent), and lack of expertise to lead transformation activities (18 percent).

Executive involvement in digital business transformation projects

The Rackspace survey finds 88 percent of respondents believe that non-technical C-suite executives recognize the bottom-line benefits of applications, with 90 percent reporting that senior management has a better understanding of the benefits of applications in their business than they did five years ago.

Most MSPs, to varying degrees, have already been the beneficiaries of a digital business transformation initiative launched by at least some subset of their customers. At the very least, those initiatives provide MSPs with an opportunity to raise their visibility within those organizations.

The MSPs that rose to occasion during the pandemic are naturally viewed as indispensable for their role in saving the company during a trying time. MSPs that failed to rise to that challenge are perceived to be just another provider of a commodity IT service that could be easily replaced. In fact, savvy MSPs that now have the ear of the senior leadership of the organizations they serve, will soon be rolling up all kinds of IT services that were once either provided by a rival, or an internal IT team.

Of course, the biggest challenge MSPs will face in the post-COVID-19 era may be holding on to the attention of business executives that tend to move from one crisis to the next. Now more than ever, MSPs need to find a way to continually engage business and IT leaders to make sure they stay relevant. Otherwise, it won’t be too long before the relationship is simply taken for granted.

MSPs simply can’t afford to allow organizations to view digital business transformation as some kind of a “black swan” event that occurs once a decade. Rather, it needs to be seen as a continuous process that the MSP plays a central role in enabling. The truth is, the most critical task MSPs now have before them is to keep a digital business transformation conversation going, that in reality is just getting started.

Photo: voyata / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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