Changes in the ecosystem - is it time for a new breed of MSPs?

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The IT ecosystem is more complex than ever. Navigating the evolution of the latest technologies and their interdependence on each other can be an impossible task. Companies find themselves in a climate of change – think cloud, edge computing, artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of Things, to name a few; while being threatened by cyber-attacks, pressure from compliance and regulatory frameworks, and budgetary issues. 

Technology is also now viewed by most organisations as a business enabler. No longer seen as a way just to save time and money, it is enabling organisations to understand their customers better and to deliver truly innovative products and services, both now and into the future. But how can companies manage a constantly changing technological landscape?

Can your MSP adapt?

Fortunately, there are service providers to help. Indeed, Barracuda Network reports in its The Evolving Landscape of the MSP Business Report that 83% of UK small and medium enterprises are using some form of IT managed service. However, it also says that 83% of SMEs who won’t touch managed services do not trust MSPs to handle their data, and often the services provided by MSPs are not the ones they want. So why is this? 

In the 1990s it became common practice for businesses to employ a colocation strategy and they would often use Value Added Resellers (VARs) to assist in implementing this. Many of these VARs developed into an MSP but their service offerings were focused on low-cost commodity style services such as backup, storage and email. 

The landscape has changed. We have already stated that many SMEs do not trust MSPs with their data. As independent IT analyst Clive Longbottom advises: “Moving forward, it will be the more integrated, business-focused offerings pulling together more services from around the public cloud while combining the discrete and demonstrable skills of the MSP itself around domain and technical expertise that will raise the bar.” 

These are the types of MSPs that you should be working with.

The MSP Ecosystem

The relationship with your service provider needs to be a close one; we can think of this working environment as an ecosystem.

An ecosystem describes an area containing living and non-living things, co-existing and interacting with each other and the environment. The people, technology and services within a customer-MSP relationship can be thought of as an ecosystem; all these factors interact with each other and affect the end solution. However, the benefits for customers may be limited unless the ecosystem is allowed to grow and adapt to technological changes. We can look at this in two ways; the traditional MSP ecosystem and the Managed Application Access Partner (MAAP) ecosystem which involves a new breed of MSP:

1. The traditional MSP/customer ecosystem

  • Cost saving is the most important part of the relationship
  • The customer outsources technology and skills to the MSP as needed
  • There is little vendor choice for the customer
  • Contracts are renewed automatically 
  • The latest technology is not always on offer
  • Little attention is given to adapting the solutions on offer to a changing environment

2. The (MAAP)/customer ecosystem

  • Focuses on service and expertise
  • Keeps security and compliance front of mind
  • Technologies are chosen to meet customer needs and are fully integrated into the ecosystem
  • Focused on business enablement
  • Places the customer at the heart of the ecosystem    
  • Delivers innovative solutions

Which ecosystem is most suitable for your business?

An outsourcing relationship, reminiscent of the traditional ecosystem, may still be an important part of your MSP approach. If you lack skills in-house this can be an effective way of providing them. You may be using them to provide IaaS, and SaaS solutions. However, you also need to consider if you are getting value for money. Are you a priority client for your partner or do other larger organisations demand their focus?

Although the traditional service provider ecosystem relationship may be providing tangible cost savings, is this at the expense of your business growth and enablement? Outsourcing can limit growth and innovation if your ecosystem partner is not adapting and evolving with you in a changing technological landscape. 

Contrast this to the MAAP ecosystem which delivers best-in-class technologies focused on business enablement. The MAAP is all about being customer-centric by leveraging its vendor relationships, industry expertise and technical know-how to deliver fit for purpose solutions that are deployed and managed using those specific skills. In addition, MAAPs also ensure that the products and solutions are fully integrated into the wider technology ecosystem in the most efficient way. They recognise that a customer relationship should be based on more than cost structure alone. It should be about delivering innovation and enabling growth.

Do you want to just co-exist with your MSP or will you adapt together as the technological landscape changes? When you appraise your service provider relationship, what points should you consider?

Questions to ask when examining your service provider relationship

Is your relationship based primarily on cost?  

Barracuda and Clive Longbottom warn that cost reductions should not be the primary objective for businesses in adopting an MSP partnership. Indeed, IBM also states that the next generation of service providers need to provide thought leadership to their customers. In its Guide to the Next-Generation MSP, IBM states: “MSPs will provide services that are differentiated on the basis of maturity, flexibility, speed of deployment and rock-solid reliability rather than merely cost.”

Does your partner understand your business goals?

The way you operate, your requirements and your long-term objectives must be of paramount importance to your service partner. If this partner understands your objectives it becomes easier for them to suggest products and solutions. If they are aligned with your objectives, then you know what they suggest will be more relevant and right for your business.

How healthy is your relationship?  

More than that, it’s about building relationships – long-term, sustainable relationships – that are based on meeting your growth objectives. MAAPs understand the technology, have the expertise to implement it, the vendor relationships to maintain it, and in-depth knowledge of your business.   

Conclusion

The technological landscape is changing, and businesses must adapt if they are to remain competitive in a crowded ecosystem. Choosing a suitable service provider is vital.  However, getting the most from technology and ensuring that it is a true business enabler can be a challenge for organisations. Not all service providers will have the expertise to find the right mix of infrastructure, service and software to resolve your business problems.  

It is time for a new era for the service provider, the MAAP that is customer-centric, skilled and experienced in delivering solutions from a wide range of vendors that are fit for purpose. It is this relationship between MAAP and your organisation that will shape your technology landscape, and help you meet your objectives, sustain growth and remain competitive. 

To learn more about MAAP, download the full report on our website.

Nick Claxson, CEO of Comtec

Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock