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How an MSP Can Stand Out in a World of Standardization

Posted by Jeff Salanco on Jan 31, 2018 12:00:00 PM

The lifeblood of a successful Managed Service Provider (MSP) practice is automation. To deliver automation, an MSP has to arrive at points of standardization across key processes and jobs. Why?

A successful MSP can have an incredible volume of tasks, large and small, across various functional areas to complete every day, including ticket management, services scheduling and pipeline management. If not managed properly, these tasks become gaping holes that lead profit out of the business because of inefficiency. But fear not, there are plenty of tools out there to help an MSP solve for these inefficiencies via standardization around industry best practices and automation platforms.

The Problem 

By building an MSP practice around these standard processes, that MSP becomes eerily similar to every other MSP in the market. Driving standardization of “industry best practices” can stifle differentiation.

The Solution: Find Balance

The key is leveraging the different levels of innovation in the context of standardized processes.

Loosely stated, the three levels of differentiation are optimizing, creating a new solution and the most challenging – designing a new process or technique.

Optimization: For an MSP, optimization is about overlays to standardized and automated processes as a means to creating differentiation.  

You can find examples across an MSP organization, but we’ll use sales to highlight the point. In an MSP sales organization, the identification, quoting, tracking, closing and onboarding of new opportunities happen frequently and are standardized with a Professional Services Automation (PSA) platform.  

The optimization of these daily tasks can be achieved through MSP-specific innovations injected into the process to shorten cycle times. So in this example, the MSP would implement sales skills training for the sales representatives that support the closing of opportunities more efficiently. The process in the PSA tools is the same, but the conversation the MSP salesperson has with the account is unique. The standard process does not change, but an infrequent event, the training of the salesperson, creates a differentiated experience with the end user that drives an optimized cycle time.    

New Solution Development: The library of standardized processes for an MSP can be extremely vast, especially when including those processes related to the delivery of vendor-specific technologies and verticals. This broad set of standardized processes to choose from, even offerings beyond their chosen PSA provider, provides the opportunity to create differentiation through combination. New solution development in the world of standard MSP processes is the identification of unique combinations of standardized processes to create differentiated experiences.  

New Process Design: This one is the most challenging. Instead of consuming standardized processes from other parties or vendors, the MSP creates unique IP related to a process or technique.  

To drive true differentiation through innovation, the MSP creates a proprietary process, documents that process across the organization, and creates the APIs and other points of connection to drive cost efficiencies through automation. These processes can often be very difficult for other MSPs to replicate efficiently and can create a true competitive advantage. In extreme cases, these standardized and automated processes often lead to the creation of ISV solutions that the MSP can repackage for sale to other IT solution providers.  

There are plenty of other examples for each of these levels of innovation. The key for an MSP is finding the right standardization-to-innovation ratio for their organizational needs, assessing true capabilities to execute that innovative strategy, documenting unique processes developed, testing those processes in the market, documenting the results and having a planned process to learn from those measurements. Leveraging this agile mindset can help you fine-tune processes and quickly learn what is working and what is not.   

Who says you can’t be standard and different at the same time?

Tech Data’s cloud team has been building cloud solutions for many years and has a track record of success in creating custom solutions for various industries and organizations. Email tdcloud@techdata.com to learn more about how we can help you accelerate your cloud business.

Tags: MSP, Cloud, Automation