SOLARWINDS EMPOWER MSP CONFERENCE — With MSPs facing increasing competition and pricing pressure, automation presents an opportunity to become more efficient and profitable in their services delivery.
Mike Cullen, SolarWinds MSP’s vice president of sales and customer retention, said MSPs are gravitating to automation for a number of reasons. The vendor’s Remote Monitoring & Management offering includes automation capabilities.
“No. 1 is, they to lower their cost of service,” he said. “They’re under huge pricing pressure. As soon as we got into the concept of fixed-fee managed services, commoditization started to creep in because there was no longer a statement of work; it was just, ‘I’m going to do everything for you.’ So you’ll see a split in the market where already people are in it at half the price that … the top-end service providers are. The only way they can absorb that pricing pressure is by automating the services that they do.”
Automation also takes out the human factor and ensures that “you are providing consistent services that will align with the service levels that you promised your customers in your programs,” Cullen said.
Greg Lissy, SolarWinds MSP’s vice president of product management, said automation in the long run will include higher capabilities, including predictive analytics.
“We have 20,000 MSPs and IT pros that use our software and then they cover 200,000-300,000 SMBs who then have over 4 million devices under management,” he said. “So … there’s the collective intelligence of all those endpoints that we can bring to bear, being predictive analytics, self-healing capabilities — and build that into our platform. Thereby the platform becomes something that the customers can use to gain greater efficiencies, do more with less, or focus on other activities that essentially help them be more profitable.”
NetCertPro, an MSP that has been working with SolarWinds MSP since 2014, uses automation to improve efficiency with its monitoring, camera systems, billing, mail systems and other tasks.
“Automation makes it so you can standardize things across the board,” said Jeremy Sonntag, its vice president of network operation. “It’s difficult to implement, it takes a lot of time … but after you’ve tested it, it’s smooth sailing from there, and then it’s one process at a time.”
Ian Thornton-Trump, chief technology officer at Octopi Managed Services, said for the larger MSP, the immediate value automation can provide includes efficiency and consistency in the work.
“I think it’s a big and important aspect to being an MSP today,” he said. “On the lower end of the scale for MSPs, the challenge comes in standardizing the environment so that you can automate. That requires a lot of discipline and a lot of work, and a separate skill set from just being the IT guy. Where I think the biggest payoff comes is when you scale your business. When you go from five customers to 50, if you put in the effort to automate as much as you can those five, you get an instant return on your investment every time you add a new customer.”