By Raymond Vrabel
In my last blog post, I discussed business steps MSPs can take before year-end. In addition, throughout last year, most of my blog posts discussed breaking into managed IT services and the steps to take to be successful.
In last year’s blogs, I first offered tips on how to get started in managed IT services. Now that you’ve hopefully taken my advice, let’s look at what you need to do today.
1. Hiring the Right Talent. Ask yourself, “What does my staff currently look like? Do I need to hire new people, if any? What expertise and experience do I need?” There’s a big difference between hiring someone who only has a few years of experience vs. a senior level tech with several Microsoft and Cisco certifications. Think about what you want to accomplish, the voids you need to fill and how much you are willing to stretch your budget for employee salaries. Or, if you were previously a telco who has added managed services, perhaps reallocate current staff toward higher revenue-generating opportunities, rather than basic phone projects. This way, they feel they have gained your trust because you have selected them for additional responsibilities, which potentially leads to more money in your respective pockets.
Aside from your technical staff, reevaluate your sales staff by preparing them and setting the proper expectations with the new business model. With managed IT services being the future, how will your salespeople continue to perform? Are they accepting both the change and the challenge? They need to be fully trained and aware that they can no longer simply sell projects and phone subscriptions — they need to sell the full services package moving forward.
2. Insourcing vs. Outsourcing. I’ve discussed how you can reevaluate and repurpose staff, but how do you go about actually putting those people and plans into action? The answer might be to either partner with another MSP on some larger projects (I discussed this in a blog last year) or, if you have the resources, to acquire an MSP that’s looking for similar services that your company can offer. For instance, if you are a telco looking to offer managed services or vice versa, it could be a solid fit.
Another idea is to connect with a vendor that already has the infrastructure, talent and expertise in place, and the tools to help get your managed services practice off the ground. I have seen a very small percentage of MSPs move to a managed services model on their own without any outside help. If you can do this successfully, then I commend you. However, there are so many moving parts that it just might be a bit too daunting to take on by yourself. You might make more margins going it alone, but even if you hire a great NOC manager and the best techs available, it probably won’t equal what you can do with help from a trusted vendor — and you would have to spend a lot more money in the long run, negating the better margins. Remember, any vendor that specializes in managed services tools is already aligned with your business model, and their account managers are aligned and invested as well.
3. Reviewing Client Contracts. Be sure to offer a contract assessment to all of your clients and revisit the types of services they currently utilize. Review budgets and revisit their needs. Are they a good candidate for managed IT services, or do they just want someone to upgrade their phone each year? Reaching out to each client personally and finding out what their long- and short-term goals are at the beginning of the year makes perfect sense. Make sure you do it before their current contract expires.
While it’s always great to seek out new business, those who are going to start fresh with a new managed services model also want to take care of current, loyal clients. Don’t be afraid to upsell them. To be honest, if you aren’t doing this, then one of your competitors is. You won’t be doing your clients a disservice by discussing new options.
Remember that just deciding to make the move to managed IT services is a big step for which you should be proud. Don’t feel as though you have to go it alone, however. Remember, first review your current employee talents and figure out what needs to be filled. Think seriously about outsourcing IT services to get your business selling those services faster and more easily. There are many vendors and partners available that can help, and you can start by reaching out to those who you already have relationships with for other technology needs. And throughout the process, keep your clients’ needs and best interests at the forefront – servicing them optimally keeps them as clients, and it’s what your business is all about.
Raymond Vrabel is Continuum‘s director of technical account management and participates in product and service growth initiatives. He manages Continuum’s Technical Account Management team which supports more than 3,500 partners worldwide. Vrabel has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in managed IT services, disaster recovery and cloud solutions.