MSPmentor Blog

How MSPs Can Build, Measure, Learn

Here’s a take on business building that I thought would be worth sharing. As this is our first guest blog on MSPMentor I figured it may be of use in your own efforts and also serves to provide you with an insight into ours. Lean startup methodologies have been around for a few years now and as more supporting evidence is fed back many mature businesses have adopted the approach for new projects.

The underlying assumption is not to make any at all. Whatever IT solution or services you currently offer to your customers can and will be improved upon. You will do it, or your supplier, or your competitor – or even your customers themselves. The ultimate fix, the one that will make the problem disappear forever, does not exist. Once you get that, the notion of providing the perfect solution can safely be discarded and you can start establishing long term business relationships based on build, measure and learn.

Every business or new project starts with an idea, whether that is to solve a problem, change the world or make loads of cash. It is not necessary to know the solution or even the problem at startup, you simply need to start.

BUILD: Flesh out your idea into a minimum viable product or service (MVP). That’s not beta, or half-baked, it’s simply the minimum needed to offer and bill for. Most often it’s a lot less that you think. Now pitch it to potential customers. Bear in mind you may not even know who your real customers will be at this time. The key here is to pitch it to people and organisations with a track record of early adoption. These are the people who consider new concepts and give proper feedback.

MEASURE: Make sure you properly collect and measure the feedback you get. All the feedback in the world serves no purpose if you can’t organise it, analyse it, and learn from it. Does the idea have legs? Is it going to be relevant in the market you operate in? Is there a new market you should be investigating? Answers are always more valuable than questions – regardless of how good or bad the question is. The questions you ask tell others about you, their answers tell you about them.

LEARN: Apply this knowledge to your original idea and ask yourself the key question: Do I need to persevere or pivot? Exclusive and overwhelming positive feedback on the MVP is rare (if you get it then call me – I may have some seed money to invest ;)  A mix of positive and negative is the most likely scenario and this is the bit that separates entrepreneurs from managers – and that is not a slight on either but rather recognition that each have different risk profiles. Do I push on with the original idea, invest more time/effort/money in refactoring the product or market focus, or do I abort project A and have a go with project B?

Neither answer is correct by default. Many great ideas have been shelved because of early negative feedback only later to be revisited and turned into successful businesses because someone was prepared to try a little harder. The opposite is also true of course in that many millions have been poured into trying to make lousy ideas work. The lesson to take away though is that very few good ideas are obvious winners from the start, so investing everything into the MVP before testing it out on potential customers (and that includes billing for it) is not a pre-requisite for success.

Ian van Reenen is CTO CentraStage, which works closely with MSPs. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.

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