Scaling a small business requires creativity and resourcefulness. For growing Managed Service Providers (MSPs), it is no different. At each level of growth, it is vital to ensure strong cash flow and healthy profitability.
In this blog, we will explore the five ways MSPs can grow even when resources are limited.
Setting standards is central to driving scale in your business and operations. One of the biggest challenges MSPs face is the diversity of technology, hardware, and software in use at each client. Every new client brings with it legacy technology decisions, along with aging hardware and software deployments. This diversity makes scaling and high-quality service very difficult.
The solution for MSPs is to define technology standards and methodically manage clients into conformance with these standards. With technology standards, everything becomes easier. For example, if your techs have only one brand of firewall to master, they will become more effective with deployments, security, and ongoing management. With a single vendor to manage, your training costs will be lower, buying power higher, and profit margins richer. Additionally, the creation of dedicated Tech Stacks will go a long way to standardization and mastery of your chosen services.
Unfortunately, getting clients to upgrade legacy technology isn’t free. Therefore, MSPs should create a win-win dynamic where the client sees what’s in it for them. New equipment always performs better, but by complying with your standards, they will also get better configuration, expert ongoing management and support, and a superior technology experience for their employees. By the same token, the MSP will be able to better serve and support its clients, while doing more with less.
2. Automate Processes
The next step after standardization is automation. When the client tech stack is standardized, various forms of automation are now possible. First, MSPs should leverage remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools from the likes of ConnectWise, N-able, Kaseya, or Datto. These software tools automate routine monitoring and management tasks, allowing the MSP to scale their operations. The key to profitability in managed services is managing more users across a stable workforce; that is, doing more with less labor. RMM tools also automate critical patching processes, which can be labor intensive yet important for client cybersecurity.
Integration between software tools opens up additional opportunities for automation. For instance, integration between RMM tools and professional service automation (PSA) allows the MSP to deliver higher levels of service and support to clients with the same number of staff. Vendor software tools such as cybersecurity and backup tools can be integrated with PSA tools to automatically open and close service tickets based upon certain types of activities or incidents. In many cases, trouble states can selfheal or resolve themselves and it saves time and money if tickets can be automatically closed or resolved.
3. Document Everything
The next step is to document all of your client details, company processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Documenting everything makes your techs more productive and efficient, while making it easier to hire and onboard new staff. Ramping up new employees is critical to managing a growing organization.
Tools like IT Glue become the single source of truth for critical IT infrastructure details on each client. A single repository with all the key documented details and configurations makes everyone’s life simpler and more efficient. Documentation of SOPs turns best practices into repeatable tasks, which can be delegated to lower cost staff or in many cases automated. The most efficient and resourceful MSPs, with the best profit margins, will have a large library of SOPs on literally everything they do.
4. Leverage a Master MSP
Partnering with a Master MSP is another great option for resourceful MSPs. A Master MSP supplies various back office and technology service functions on a behalf of the client facing MSP. In nearly all cases, when work is performed by a Master MSP, it is invisible to end user client. A Master MSP takes labor intensive tasks off of the plate of the MSP, such as after-hours support, complex backup or server management, or other routine and labor intensive tasks.
Master MSPs work as an extension of the MSPs team, augmenting your staff and allowing you to do more with less. Network Operations Centers (NOCs) and Security Operations Centers (SOCs) are often core elements of a Master MSP relationship. Master MSPs also help drive technology standards and often take on the burden of vendor interaction, which can be costly and time consuming. ConnectWise’s Continuum division and Collaborance are examples of Master MSPs.
5. Embrace Remote Work
Finally, MSPs can further scale their operations by embracing a remote workforce. Historically, most MSPs would serve a local metro area. And in most cases, the MSP staff would be 100% local as well. A decade ago, local staffing was essential since lots of IT support was delivered locally and on-site.
Now, both client organizations and the MSPs themselves are becoming more distributed. As we have seen throughout this blog, RMM and other software tools enable MSPs to do more and work remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated these trends. In the thick of the pandemic, nearly all MSP staff worked from home offices, providing the same level of service and support they previously supplied from the office. While this situation was born of necessity, it was an eye-opening experience for MSP leaders and their staffs. While everyone had to adapt to the pandemic, the MSP industry’s technical sophistication and remote work capabilities passed with flying colors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also greatly upset labor market conditions. As the pandemic unfolded, people moved, quit their jobs in larger numbers, and re-evaluated their career priorities. Massive governmental stimulus also allowed many to stay on the sidelines. The net result is a massively disturbed labor market, with openings vastly exceeding the supply of workers.
In this environment, just like smart-minded companies across the board, savvy and resourceful MSPs are embracing remote work arrangements like never before. The old model of work from a centralized office is a thing of the past. MSPs are discovering that they can hire the right talent at the right price when they have the entire country as their playing field.