Building an MSP, the clue’s in the name

It’s paramount to switch from thinking about the technology product which powers your service offering, to the actual service provided.

Your journey from VAR to MSP needs to be carefully controlled. For many, the traditional product business still pays the bills whilst the MSP division could be just getting started. In having to balance these two models, business owners face a challenge in the mental shift required to be successful at both.

I see too many IT channel players act like MPPs (managed product providers) not MSPs (managed service providers). The emphasis needs to switch from thinking about the technology product which powers your service offering, to the actual service provided.

Your customer or prospect can most likely get the “product” from dozens of other suppliers but they can only get your service from you. As a result you should focus on engineering the best service possible.

I’m not saying you don’t need to know the technology, you absolutely do. In fact, its assumed that you know the technology better than your customers, otherwise what’s the point. All I’m saying is it’s not sufficient to win consistently over the long term. A few early wins are easy, the problems come with success and as you start to scale your MSP business.

Service Design

There is a scene in “The Founder”, a film about Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers, when the two brothers shut down their first restaurant even though its making money and literally go back to the drawing board. They go to a tennis court and chalk out a design for a kitchen, then choreograph the process required to deliver food and drink in less than 30 seconds. They knew their system was a lot harder for their competitors to copy then their recipes, or their ingredients. Mainly though, they understood what the customer really wanted.

The other lesson I learnt was the importance of simplicity and standards. The McDonald brothers knew they could not deliver both a broad menu and an excellent customer service. As a VAR it is tempting to take the broad portfolio of products you currently carry and build services for each one. This is possible but it’s a lot of work and how can you guarantee customer service excellence for all of them? Is it not better to design your service around one or two vendors and spend the time fine tuning your process?

Automation In the cloud era, automation is seen as critical. I believe automation is important, it can help drive your process but ultimately good service is about people, not products or processes.