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Doubling down on value-add when the going gets tough

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

By focusing their efforts in four key areas, MSPs will be well positioned to stabilise the business and optimise their operations for efficiency. They will also be able to effectively marshal resources to identify and maximise the opportunities that are before them.

As the aftermath of Covid-19 continues to create uncertainty in markets around the world, managed service providers (MSPs) are evaluating how best to adapt and evolve their business models in the light of what the ‘new normal’ now looks like. Having weathered the day-to-day practicalities of the initial crisis, the focus now is on how to preserve strength while growing the business.

Understanding the financial health of the business will be critical for identifying what the leadership team will need to accomplish in the coming months. But maintaining the strength of the balance sheet goes beyond simply evaluating how factors like customer churn or the potential elongation of payment terms are likely to impact revenue. It also depends on recalibrating the business for today’s realities and prioritising which actions will generate maximum impact.

1. Digital transformation

For MSPs that missed the digital transformation message, the recent pandemic will have served as a major wake-up call. Enabling a remote workforce will be mission critical for ensuring everyone can stay productive in today’s climate, where the agility to cope with any form of crisis is becoming increasingly critical.

As a priority, implementing everything a distributed workforce will need to connect, collaborate, and communicate will be the first order of the day. After which, MSPs should gear up to offer the remote workforce solutions that customers are now clamouring for.

The long term impact of the recent crisis has demonstrated how having the right tools in place to maintain business continuity is becoming a must have. If nothing else, the recent crisis is driving companies of every size to fast-track their digitalisation plans and re-evaluate how their people will work for the long term.

For MSPs this represents a golden opportunity to get applications cloud enabled and present customers with a methodical digital transformation plan tailored to the exact needs of their business.

2. Cybersecurity education

The rapid shift to distributed working models raises the stakes as far as enterprise security and data governance is concerned. Until now, most MSPs have focused on the tools side of the security conversation. However, the realities of the post-coronavirus world of work have created a major opportunity for MSPs to differentiate themselves by helping customers to establish the education and policies they will need to maintain compliant and secure operations.

To continue in the role as a trusted advisor to their clients, MSPs must become more well-versed in cybersecurity—particularly now the secure perimeter is dissolving, and threat actors are increasing their activities.

Cybersecurity is not just about technology alone – it also encompasses people and best practice processes. As customers transition more and more of their people to working remotely on a more permanent footing, improving their security posture is quickly rising up the agenda of priorities. More endpoints equates to more potential vulnerabilities and risks that will need to be mitigated.

To help customers transcend these security challenges, MSPs will need to adopt a holistic solution approach. One that includes informing customers of the potential risks they will need to address as well as advising them of the practices they must establish to stay secure, protect their data, and keep their employees safe from threat actors.

3. Managing cash flow

Few could have predicted the speed or scale of the recent public health crisis and its resultant impact on global markets. For MSPs, the pressure will be on to preserve cash and gain full visibility of the company’s day-to-day financial position. To avoid structural failure, MSPs will need to determine cash flow burn-rates, shed operational expenses, and make it easy to get paid.

Leveraging automation to optimise financial processes will go a long way to delivering an accurate real-time snap-shot of current finances. As will streamlining customer billing processes to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Similarly, incentivising customers to sign up to automatic payment plans will help reduce accounts receivable delays.

Armed with all this information, MSPs will be able to calmly re-focus available resources on converting new revenue streams and identifying where the longer term opportunities lie. As part of this process, it will be important to initiate tools that make it easy to accurately measure resource utilisation and optimise service delivery and sales processes.

Those MSPs that are able to identify where they can eliminate inefficiencies and shed unnecessary operational expenses will be best positioned to redirect the savings they free up to growing the business.

4. Strengthening customer relationships

The reality of today’s environment means that customers will also be looking to cut expenses where they can. So it is imperative that MSPs double-down on building the strong relationships that make them indispensable to the continued operation of their customers’ businesses.

The recent lockdown means many customers will have experienced their first exposure to work-from-home models; many of their users do not know what a secure VPN means, let alone how to use it to access their corporate network. For many MSPs, this represents a golden opportunity to go the extra mile and ensure their customers are set up appropriately.

Offering to audit and evolve the current remote working set up for a more permanent footing will demonstrate a willingness to ensure that customers can maintain peak performance.

Ensuring they have the right tools and equipment in place, however, is just the start. To effectively manage customer infrastructures, MSPs will need to have the right documentation in place – for everything from devices, applications, and web services to passwords – to ensure their support teams can respond quickly and effectively. Similarly, proactively monitoring systems will result in customers experiencing fewer issues and crashes – which in turn will help reduce the number of service tickets that MSPs have to handle.

In these unpredictable times customers will need frequent reassurance that they can rely on their MSP to help them through any crisis. Initiating a programme of frequent communications that ensure customers know how to get in contact, how to submit a ticket, and are kept abreast of any temporary SLA changes will be key to building relationships that last. That may include providing helpful how-to videos and other tips for remote work.

Finally, MSPs must not lose sight of the fact that their own employees are a precious resource. Keeping everyone motivated, engaged, and performing will depend on undertaking regular check-ins to ensure they are confident and have the equipment and skills they will need to navigate unchartered territory. Communicate any change in the operational climate in an open manner – and ensure that everyone is kept abreast of how the future is being redefined for the business.

Gregg Lalle, SVP International Sales and Strategy, ConnectWise