The Master MSP trend -- where managed service providers host systems or NOCs for peer MSPs and VARs -- continues to accelerate. And now, the MSPAlliance is striving to bring some clarity and order to the Master MSP market. Here's how.

First, a little background: Roughly 20 percent of MSPmentor 100 survey participants say they are Master MSPs. Frankly, I think that figure is inflated. Many fledgling MSPs are jumping on the Master MSP bandwagon because it's a hot term in a hot market. In reality, I suspect fewer than 5 percent of truly successful MSPs have launched profitable, reliable Master MSP services.

New Certification/Accreditation

Enter the MSPAlliance. According to a press release, the organization has launched a Master MSP certification in "its latest effort to safeguard the integrity and organic growth of the burgeoning, global Managed Service Provider (MSP) industry." That's a lofty statement, but the accreditation certainly caught my attention.

According to the MSPAlliance:
The Accredited Master MSP designation is for managed service providers that deliver reseller opportunities to other MSPs, Value Added Resellers (VARs), and IT solution providers, including the potential use of Network Operation Centers (NOC).
Lane Smith, president of Do IT Smarter (one of the industry's best-known Master MSPs), has endorsed the MSPAlliance's new certification. (Full disclosure: Smith is on the MSPAlliance's board of advisors.)

To be sure, this is a tricky time for managed service providers that are (A) seeking to stand out from the crowd and (B) weighing a growing list of certification and accreditation options from such organizations as MSPAlliance, MSP Partners and CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association).

In recent weeks:
  • MSPAlliance has launched the Master MSP certification and rebranded its face-to-face conferences as MSPWorld.
  • MSP Partners has launched a Master MSP membership level. But there are clear differences between the MSPAlliance and MSP Partners strategies. The MSPAlliance's Master MSP certification is for MSPs that offer services to peer MSPs and resellers. In stark contrast, MSP Partners' Master MSP membership is for established managed service providers that are seeking in-depth content and training about the MSP market.
  • CompTIA has launched the Managed IT Services initiative, which includes a working group as well as a conference planned for fall 2009.
MSPmentor strives to offer balanced, ongoing editorial coverage of all three organizations. For the sake of full disclosure:
  • MSPmentor is a media partner of MSP Partners
  • MSPmentor's parent company, Nine Lives Media Inc., does consulting work from time to time for CompTIA
  • The bottom line: If you ever think our editorial coverage is out of line please flame me in our comments area

Master MSP Certification: The Bottom Line

I'm not an MSP, so I'm not in a position to endorse any of the accreditation or certification programs discussed above. But I do see a need for some order in the Master MSP market. There are plenty of Master MSP "pretenders" in the market, trying to cash in on the pioneering work of established Master MSPs. I've reached out to a few sources regarding this news and hope to report back later this week with more perspectives.

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