With IT becoming table stakes for business success, and the threat environment growing, MSPs must become more than just a trusted advisor or partner.
With big data, analytics, social, mobility, cloud and IoT driving the move to Digital Transformation--also known as DT, digitalization, DX, DE (Digital Everything) and Industry 4.0--IT is moving from the back office to business enabler. However, all the things that make DT possible also make it more vulnerable. And with small and midsize businesses already facing a growing range of internal and external cybersecurity threats, combined with a shortage of skills and resources, partnering with an MSP becomes increasingly attractive.
That’s good news for MSPs, but how do you ensure you are profiting from this trend? How do you position your business to address the new realities that more than half of SMBs (55%) were victims of a cyber attack within the last 12 months and that 60% go out of business within six months of an attack?
The pundits talk about becoming an SMB’s business partner, strategic partner or trusted advisor, and all three terms make sense, as far as they go. However, I would argue that when you consider the vital importance that secure IT represents, much more is at stake than a partnership, strategy or trust. We’re talking about the success or failure of your client’s business, and that demands a more inclusive approach. This also happens to be good for you: The managed security service market, worth $17.02 billion in 2016, is expected to almost double by 2021 to $33.68 billion, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 14.6%.
The efforts to find, sign and retain a client aren’t easy, but it becomes much easier if you match your capabilities with their needs and desires. You’re looking for customers that will be profitable on an ongoing basis. They’re looking for a vendor who will address their requirements affordably and reliably, and preferably provide more than a monthly invoice. A part of that reliability--and added value--includes transparency, especially when it comes to cybersecurity: what are they paying for and what are they actually getting.
What services are you offering--that is, assessments, remote monitoring and management, antivirus, patching or backup and disaster recovery--and how are they being charged--hourly, weekly or monthly? What are the results of these services--such as attacks detected and prevented, patches and uptime--and how are the results being communicated to the customers. (For example, "We offer more than 100 built-in reports with our managed services platform, along with the ability to easily create custom reports.")
In addition to executive summaries and more detailed reports, you should consider more strategic initiatives, such as quarterly or annual business reviews. These reviews can summarize activities and results to date, and identify areas where changes and/or improvements can be made. With the rapid evolution of IT and cybersecurity, your thought leadership and recommendations can extend a successful relationship and make the partnership more useful to your customers, and more profitable for you.
Understanding and addressing your customers’ needs and desires reliably and affordably will not only keep them happy, it will also open the door for additional revenue opportunities, including network optimization and strategic growth initiatives. Partnering, strategy and trust are all important; combing all three will drive your customers’--and your--success.
The onboarding process sets the foundation for success between MSPs and their clients, and is typically built on discovery, advisory services and deployment. A best-practice approach should be rooted in efficiency and high value for the customer, and should include:
1. Put business goals first: Customers and their business goals take priority. It’s great to have technology tools and processes in place, but understanding business goals--such as customer acquisition and employee efficiency--can ensure the onboarding process is in line with what matters to clients’ bottom lines. For example, customers choosing a proactive service approach require patch testing and auto-approvals, server/workstation maintenance, predictive failure monitoring, and monthly reporting summaries to prevent customer downtime and minimize fire drills. Lead with business goals and your processes should follow naturally.
2. Create a standardized process: No one wants to undergo a 30- or 50-step onboarding process. Yet it’s important to ensure that appropriate security stages--monitoring, patching and maintenance, to name a few--are in place to protect you and your customer alike. Streamlining a multistep onboarding process is key to getting customers configured easily. Regardless, any technician should be able to go to the customer’s deployment and understand what was done--and not find that steps 15 through 20 were skipped.
3. Set expectations with customers: Many MSPs spend time talking with customers; however, a good percentage are not successful in completely understanding business needs, so no wonder they are challenged with delivering a package to fully meet requirements. Placing customers on specific service plans allows them to receive high-quality, high-value services according to a plan, and this also makes it easier for an MSP to communicate. Setting clear expectations and delivering to those expectations is a time-proven key to success.
4. Make security a priority: In today’s threat landscape, the greatest challenge is ensuring that strong detection and protection are put in place. Ransomware, compromised passwords and data loss can cause irreparable damage for businesses. Security begins with questions. Customers should be made aware of security best practices and how adopting a multilayered defense is the strongest approach to protecting their users, devices and data. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to security, but MSPs today have the solutions available and are in the best position to protect their customers from an ever-growing and advanced threat landscape.
5. Put reporting in place from Day 1: Continuing to prove the value of your managed services is critical. Start by showing a regular report of what has been accomplished (what you’ve patched, what malware you’ve caught). This gives your customer peace of mind, shows your effectiveness and can tie back to the business goals.
Learn how AVG Business by Avast can help MSPs – www9.avg.com/BuildTrustedNetwork.
Ryan Vallee is Product Management Lead, AVG.
Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.